How to Trim Privet Hedges

Privet is a popular hedge because it grows fast and is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. It is so robust that in many areas common privet (a native of Japan) and Chinese privet are considered invasive. Pruning this vigorous grower is a must and trimming it is an easy garden chore that can be completed from spring through summer, depending on how formally you want to shape your hedge. Even hedges that have become overgrown can be brought back in line by a persistent gardener.

Trim privets back when planting and each spring thereafter to thicken branches and foliage. Remove a few inches each spring; when the privet reaches the height you want for it, trim it back to that height each spring. Trim new growth one or two additional times until mid-summer, to keep shrubs looking neat.

Shape privets so that they are wider at the bottom than the top in a truncated, steep pyramid shape. Making shrubs wider at the bottom than the top allows lower branches to get sun and rain. Shrubs that do not get enough sun or water on lower branches tend to become spindly.

Trim privet growth up to one-third the length of each branch each spring. Since privets can grow more than a foot each year, the shrubs will still increase in size over the years. Clean out dead branches annually in the spring.

Round the tops of your privets to help shed snow and wind more easily. If the row is long, tie a string to stakes or trees on either end and use a carpenter’s level to place it to use as a guide to keep your tops straight from one end to the other.

Renew your privets when they become too large, spindly and their leaf coverage becomes thin. Cut branches down to about 12 inches tall in late winter or early spring during dormancy. The privet will bush out and begin growing again. Trim back by one-third each year thereafter.

Trimming Hawthorn Trees – How And When To Prune Hawthorns

Although serious pruning is not required, you can prune your hawthorn tree to keep it looking neat. Removal of dead, diseased or broken branches will aid in this process while stimulating new growth for flowers and fruit. Read on for hawthorn pruning info.

About Hawthorn Trees

A hawthorn tree is a hardy, fruit bearing, flower growing tree that has been known to live for up to 400 years. The hawthorn flowers twice a year and from the flowers come the fruit. Each flower produces a seed, and from the seed, shiny red berries hang in clusters from the tree.

The best climate for growing hawthorn trees is in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. These trees love full sun and good drainage. The hawthorn is a favorite among homeowners because its size and shape make it easy to prune as a hedge or use as a natural border.

When to Prune Hawthorns

You should never prune a hawthorn tree before it is established. Trimming hawthorn trees before they mature can stunt their growth. Your tree should grow 4 to 6 feet before pruning.

Pruning should be done when the tree is dormant, during the winter months. Pruning during the winter months will encourage new flower production for the following spring.

How to Prune a Hawthorn Tree

Proper pruning of hawthorn trees requires tools that are of good quality and sharp. To protect you from the 3-inch thorns that protrude from the tree trunk and branches, it is important to wear protective clothing such as long pants, long sleeve shirt, heavy work gloves and protective eye gear.

You will want to use a pruning saw for the larger branches and loppers and clippers for the smaller branches. For example, you will need hand clippers for cutting small branches up to a ¼-inch diameter, loppers for cutting branches up to an inch in diameter, and a pruning saw for branches over 1 ¼-inch in diameter. Once again, remember that they need to be sharp in order to make clean cuts.

To begin hawthorn pruning, cut any broken or dead branches close to the branch collar, which is at the base of each branch. Do not cut flush with the trunk of the tree; doing this will increase the chances of decay in the trunk of the tree. Make all cuts just beyond a lateral twig or bud that faces the direction you want the branch to grow.

Removal of any cross branches or sprouts from the base of the tree and also the interior of tree helps prevent diseases because it improves circulation throughout the tree.

If you are trimming your hawthorn as a shrub, trim the top branches and leaves if they are growing too high. If you prefer a tree, the lower limbs need to be cut to create a single trunk.

Hawthorn – Pruning, Winter Care and Fertilizing

These trees should be pruned in early spring, before the sap starts to flow (March). This will remove some spring flowers, but in most cases will not effect the fall fruit. Pruning can also be done in summer, after the leaves are full size.

The time to make a long lasting effect on the form and structure of the plant is when the tree is young. Crossing or crowded branches, suckers and water sprouts should be removed. Low branches should also be removed, if desired, when the tree is young. This is best done by removing one or two branches a year, over a period of a few years, until the needed clearance is obtained. As the tree gets older, pruning every three to five years will keep the tree in good general shape. Water sprouts and suckers, however, should be removed each year. Newly planted trees respond very well to fertilization. Either granular, liquid or stake type fertilizers can be used. Granular fertilizers can be worked into the soil around the plant at a rate of 2 lbs or 2 pints per 100 square feet of planting bed. An alternative way to apply granular fertilizers starts with drilling or punching 6” deep holes at the drip line of the tree. Poured into these holes should be a total of 2 pounds of fertilizer per 1″ of trunk diameter (divided up and poured evenly between all of the holes). These holes should not be filled with more than 1/3 of the fertilizer and then they should be top filled with soil. This method of fertilization should only be done once a year, and is best done in late fall after leaf drop, or in early spring before the buds break open. Multi Purpose 10-10-10 Fertilizer works well.

Liquid fertilizers (such as Miracle Gro) are mixed with water and applied the same as you would water the plant (see product for specific details). This should be done three or four times per year starting in late April and ending in mid July. Stake type fertilizers can be used following the directions on the package. With any of the above techniques, a higher nitrogen mix should be used; 20-20-20 or similar mix. Organic fertilizers, like manure, can also be used with good results. The material should be worked into open soil at a rate of one bushel per 1″ of trunk caliper or 100 square feet of bed area. As a tree matures, less fertilizing or lower nitrogen mixes should be used.

These trees are susceptible to rabbit and mouse damage. Specifically, these rodents eat the bark off of the trunk injuring, and in many cases killing the plant. Surrounding the trunk of the tree with hardware cloth up to 30″ high will protect it from these animals. This should be done each winter until the bark of the trunk becomes rough. Young trees will also need protection from the winter sun. The trunks should be wrapped with a commercial grade tree wrap for the first two or three years. This wrap can be removed in the summer and then re-applied in fall.

The trees I love most have been pruned by wild things. Like the wrinkles on my favourite faces, they are moulded by experience. The wind is one of my favourite pruners; it whips its subjects, forcing them to lean into its fury. Rabbits and deer can be interesting formative pruners, too. Any multi-stemmed tree in the wild is that way because someone had a nibble. And poor soil, rocky spaces and water can do a sort of bonsai root pruning, stunting a tree into a fascinating shape.

Pruning a tree into a lollypop may be practical for streetscapes and amenities, but it’s not very imaginative. And although I’d be lying if I said I haven’t admired a well-clipped specimen, manipulating a tree into a fan, goblet or umbrella is mostly a testimony to control and order.

Style aside, what is the point of winter pruning of deciduous trees? It’s all about solid practicalities: the sap is not flowing, so energy is not lost. With no leaves on the tree, it’s easy to prune, because you can see the bare bones for structure. A tree’s shape can have a huge influence on how a garden feels. In the worst case, it dominates the space, its presence just too jarring or heavy.

To prune efficiently, you will need sharp tools. You can cut an awful lot with a good wood saw, though a curved pruning saw makes getting between limbs much easier. Sturdy secateurs will save your wrists if you’ve got a lot to do, and loppers will extend your reach. A ladder, too, may be necessary. If it’s not a solid A-frame, you’ll need someone at the bottom to hold it steady and remind you that standing on tiptoes on the platform that says “do not stand” is not ideal.

As for what to cut, anything diseased, dying or dead goes first. Branches that are crossing and rubbing are next. Big branches are heavy. Trying to hold one up and saw at the same time doesn’t work. Instead, remove the branch in sections to lessen the weight. When you get near the trunk, make a shallow undercut beneath the limb. This will stop the bark from tearing. Then saw close to the trunk, without cutting so flush that you shave the bark. The swollen section of branch closest to the trunk, known as the collar, will heal neatly given time. Cut too flush, and you remove this healing part; conversely, cutting too far away and leaving a stump is a waste of energy for the tree, and doesn’t look pretty.

Crown lifting is an invaluable way to reduce a tree’s presence without looking too heavy-handed. It involves taking off two or three lower branches to lengthen the trunk. It can dramatically improve a view, allowing a much-needed glimpse beyond. It can also lighten the area beneath the tree by a surprising amount.

You can prune nearly all deciduous trees, but a few resent that being done now. Walnuts and magnolias heal more quickly in summer; birch will bleed considerably, which can be unsightly; and plums are susceptible to silverleaf disease and should be pruned from April to July instead.

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The Ultimate Guide to Trimming & Pruning Bushes, Hedges & Shrubs

  • Bushes, Shrubs & Hedges: What’s the Difference?
  • Trimming and Pruning Deciduous Shrubs >
  • Trimming and Pruning Evergreen Shrubs >
  • Trimming and Pruning Hedges >
  • When to Prune Bushes, Shrubs & Hedges >
  • General Trimming and Pruning Tips >

Bushes, Shrubs & Hedges: What’s the Difference?

While a hedge is easy to identify as a row of bushes, shrubs or trees, there are very few differences between bushes and shrubs. Many horticulturalists consider the only real difference to be regional language. Bushes and shrubs are woody plants which generally remain under 15 feet in size. They usually feature more than one perennial stem and multiple branches of under 3-inches in diameter. There are always exceptions to this rule, but I consider it a good starting place for classifying your landscape plants.

What are Bushes?

While bushes and shrubs are technically the same plants, some people refer to bushes as the wilder versions of shrubs. I define bushes as shrubs that grow without maintenance and ideally require very little pruning.

Types of Bushes

  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons are probably the largest group of bushes left growing unpruned. In fact, the more you prune them, the fewer flowers they produce.
  • Rosemary grows quickly to 3 feet tall and then requires no pruning to maintain shape and size. Often listed as an herb, this woody evergreen is easy to grow and needs little water.
  • Dwarf Japanese Cedar and other compact conifers maintain a low, mounded shape without any maintenance.
  • Shrub Dogwoods are planted for their wild appearance. Often used in naturalized gardens, they give gardens four-season beauty with their brightly colored winter stems.
  • Roses often require pruning, making them an exception to this group. No one refers to “rose shrubs,” – it is normal to refer to roses as bushes.

What are Shrubs?

Although there is no technical difference between bushes and shrubs, shrubs are generally trimmed bushes requiring regular pruning. They may have prominent trunks and stems due to the removal of lower foliage.

Types of Shrubs

  • Hydrangeas are a popular flowering shrub. Some types, such as mophead hydrangeas, stay healthy through the light removal of dead stems and spent blooms. Others can be cut back to the ground every winter.
  • Holly can be pruned to maintain shape and remove any erratic growth. Each variety can require different pruning techniques and timing.
  • Yew is one of the easiest evergreen shrubs to prune. Left to grow unchecked, many varieties will exceed 20 feet in height. If you want to keep your yew shrub from becoming a tree, you must prune it regularly.
  • Burning Bush is a vibrant shrub easily shaped by pruning during the winter months. This versatile shrub can be groomed to look like a small tree or squared off to create an attractive addition to a hedge.
  • Boxwoods are popular evergreen shrubs. They require frequent thinning to remain healthy and can be easily shaped to fit your landscape design.

What are Hedges?

A hedge is a line of natural or trimmed shrubs or trees planted to form a living fence. These all-natural borders can create shade, maintain privacy or simply establish boundaries. There are multiple options for creating a hedge – from low-maintenance, informal bushes to heavily pruned shrubs for a formal hedge in a traditional garden landscape.

Types of Shrub Hedges

  • Emerald Arborvitae is a flexible evergreen hedge option. It naturally grows up to 15-feet tall, but can be pruned to any height.
  • Rose of Sharon is an easy-to-grow flowering bush. This deciduous plant adds softness to your landscaping and is usually not pruned.
  • North Privet is one of the fastest growing options – up to 3 feet each year. Considered only semi-evergreen, this shrub grows thick and compact for the best looking trimmed hedges.Frequent trimming keeps it looking its best.

• Glossy Abelia attracts butterflies to your garden with small trumpet-shaped flowers. You can prune to form a low hedge, but it also forms an attractive arching hedge between 3 and 6 feet tall when left untrimmed.

  • Japanese Euonymus grows quickly to 15-feet tall but can be kept short and neat through regular pruning. It is available in a wide range of foliage colors featuring variegated leaves streaked with white, gold or cream.

Privet Hedge Pruning

When someone thinks of Privet hedges, one of the first things that come to mind is the University of Georgia’s “Between the Hedges” in Sanford Stadium. So what better source to learn how to care for Privet than the world experts? We interviewed UGA’s very own Kellie Baxter, who is in charge of caring for the Privet hedges in the stadium. First, a little background from Kellie about the hedges themselves. In 1929, after the completion of our new stadium, it was decided that hedges would make the field look nice. After deciding that roses would not do well, Privet was agreed upon. Ever since that day our Privet hedges have been the stuff of legends. We here at Georgia consider them quite holy and the games that go on between these hedges even more so.

Here in the South a Privet hedge (or Ligustrum sinense in this specific example) takes a lot of maintenance. During the summer they are trimmed once a week to keep them in shape. With the temperatures here being in the high 90s in the summer and with a sand based field, we water often. That can cause problems without the proper precautions. We put organic matter in the hedges to help with water retention and must fertilize often. We use Harrells Polyon Coated Fertilizer for landscape plants which works well for us. It is a slow release fertilizer that is not activated by water but by heat. We leach out a normal fertilizer very quickly with our heavy watering, but with this releasing in the heat when the plant is growing and needs it most that is not as much of a problem. We help them along twice a year with an organic fertilizer to help build up the soil and the root growth. Our growing season starts really taking off in May. In June, after we have gotten the hedges the height that we want, we will use some growth regulator on them to not only slow them down a little but to make sure they are filling out and getting full.

We don’t usually have many pest problems. We spray once a year for white fly control. Keep in mind that whatever is used on our turf also affects our hedges and vice versa. We really try to use as little chemicals on them as we can to insure that the athletes are safe when the accidental ball or player ends up in our hedges! We use a long gas powered hedge trimmer to trim the hedges and have found that is very important to keep them as sharp as possible to avoid tearing the plants. We have occasionally hand pruned them back to about 12 inches in the early spring to encourage new growth and keep them healthy. (I don’t do that often. It is a JOB!) Overall, caring for Privet is easy. It is a plant that will grow to hedge size quickly and doesn’t have many health issues. It does require frequent pruning but you will be rewarded by a beautiful hedge!

To give you some perspective, our hedges are about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. We do have a fence hidden in between, which has stopped even the most zealous of fans that are intent on rushing the field! We have had players on opposing teams tear out, urinate on and otherwise try to destroy the hedge! They have not been successful! Our own players have landed in or on the hedges and except for a few holes, they thrive. They have been moved twice. They were moved for the 1996 Atlanta olympics when soccer was played on our field and two years ago parts were removed for a Jason Aldean concert. Both times the plants survived and never missed a Bulldog season! Over the years, there have been many different people that were caretakers of the hedges. Currently I take care of them and it has been an honor! I have been a dog fan all of my…well, here in the south a lady never tells her age but it has been a long time!

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