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Is my privet going to grow at the bottom

Had this privet hedging for two years now. We bought them at about 80cm which is hindsight maybe should’ve bought smaller...the idea was to block the neighbouring wall and fencing but as you can see it’s not growing out at the bottom. I’ve pruned it twice as read you can be quite brutal with it but is it possible to get tips to encourage more growth at the bottom or is it A lost cause? The fencing put up by neighbour has prevented as much light getting to the right hand side too.


  • Ferdinand2000Ferdinand2000 Posts: 537
    edited November 2020
    To me that does not look very hopeful, but someone with more experience will be along in a minute.

    You haven't said how tall it is now - I make that 1.8m ish. Is that about right? 
    “Rivers know this ... we will get there in the end.”
  • B3B3 Posts: 26,567
    You're well on your way to having pleached trees there! I'd go with it and shape them to your taste. You can then grow climbers or whatever to hide the trunks or make a feature of them and grow something  underneath
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • To me that does not look very hopeful, but someone with more experience will be along in a minute.

    You haven't said how tall it is now - I make that 1.8m ish. Is that about right? 
    They are currently approx 1.5m 
  • Pruning the tops will encourage growth lower down.  Those in the light appear to have growth spurts lower down but those against the fence may struggle with the lack of light.
    You could try pinching out the tips of the lower shoots but it may be a long job.
    It may be a choice between height or "bushiness".
    An alternative if the ground is suitable would be climbers which would fill in and give you more coverage :)
    Thank you
    when you say pinch out the tips what do you mean please? Is it cutting into them slightly?
    the main purpose was to cover at the bottom so learning is we should’ve bought smaller hedges in first place. The ground is a consideration as we are much higher up than neighbour and don’t want roots affecting the retaining wall or our driveway in terms of pushing out. 
    Could I add climbers do you think based on this and if so what type?
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,169
    edited November 2020
    I know it’s a bit radical but I would cut them down by half in the spring and feed, water and then mulch with composted bark. 

    Then as they grow trim them ‘on a batter’ so the base is wider than the top making it an ‘A’ shape (or a tight angled triangle against the fence). 
    Don’t allow it to grow more than about 8” in height each year until it’s completely thickened up. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Thanks Dovefromabove I will give this a go as although radical they aren’t serving a purpose as they are now! Cut in half even if that means there is no leaf left? Also do you mean cut completely or leave main stem just cutting branches?
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,169
    edited November 2020
    Cut it down by half in height  ... cutting through the main stem ... even if there's no leaves left ,and shorten the branches by half to two thirds ... but in spring not now.  I'd do it at the end of Feb if it's not freezing cold ... if it is very cold leave it until mid March.  If you do it sooner you might trigger new growth that could be damaged by very hard frosts through the winter.  

    I'm not guaranteeing success, but it's what I would do ... what you have at the moment is of no use to you at all.  I think in five years you'll have a lovely hedge 🤞

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • LynLyn Posts: 22,888
    We’ve cut similar down to the ground almost, they shoot out lots of stems and will grow thick from the bottom.
     A lot of people make the mistake of buying hedging already too tall, then don’t want to cut it down.
    If you want it thick t the bottom you’re going to have to cut the losses and cut it back.

    Cut back as Dove says, not now. 
    Dont worry about them being in the shade, our best one faces NE and is behind a fence from the other side so never sees the sun. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,023
    Privet also need a lot of moisture to do well, so make sure it has plenty after cutting down. A good mulch too. It doesn't look like it has a very hospitable piece of ground to grow in, so the water is very important, especially if you aren't in an area that gets lots of it. 
    It will grow much better if cut right back as described. It's pretty indestructible.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • I would also cut them right down to about 30cm in spring and would recommend you mulch the ground beneath them with well-rotted manure - about 4 x 50l bags from a garden centre looks to be about the right amount.  Keep them well watered once they start growing again and you will see new buds form and grow directly from the bark on the old trunks.  Cutting back hard promotes vigorous new growth, so you shouldn't have to wait too long before you see lots of greenery again.  Doing this will be quicker than removing them and planting new shorter specimens as they will have a pretty well established root system by now.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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