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Making my garden privet hedge more wildlife friendly

I’ve recently moved to a new home with a lovely sized garden that I want to make more wildlife friendly. I have a long lists of ideas for a meadow, borders and a pond but I’m stuck with what I can do with an existing garden privet hedge.

it’s a well established garden privet hedge which acts as a shared boundary with the neighbours garden (so I cannot take it out). It’s about 15 meters long. It’s clearly been heavily clipped over the years and is looking thin and bare on my side in places.

I want to try and increase its appeal to wildlife and wanted to understand what my options could be.

Could I plant new native hedging plants into the places where it’s thin to transform into a mixed hedge? 

 Can I get away with clipping it less frequently to create a thicker hedge with better opportunities for flowering, berries and shelter or does garden privet need regular hard pruning?

many thanks 



  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,932
    Leave it to grow wider, and let it flower. How well it performs will also depend on your climate. They do best with lots of rain  :)
    It needs regular trimming if you want it to be tidy and narrow, but it isn't necessary.
    You could let a few small areas, or individual 'trunks', grow, and they'll become tree-like in proportion ,but you'll have to bear in mind the overall height of hedges. 2 metres in most areas if you have neighbours, which you seem to have  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • PlantmindedPlantminded Wirral (free draining sandy soil)Posts: 1,733
    I agree with @Fairygirl, I’d let it grow wider/deeper, this will encourage it to produce fresh green foliage.  Your hedge looks almost exactly like one I had in a previous property.  You could also let it grow a little higher if your neighbour agrees.  You’ll find that is already wildlife friendly, many birds enjoy privet for shelter and nesting and there’s lots of habitat for insects and other creatures.  I wouldn’t add anything to the hedge but you could plant some pollinator friendly perennials nearby if you want to introduce some colour and different foliage.
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 7,658
    If left alone they will eventually become a row of small trees - part of ours was like that when we moved here). The neighbours might not like them being left to get bigger/wider and might continue to trim their side and what they can reach of the top. You could make a wider border in front of it to grow whatever you like, and keep the hedge as a clipped background.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,102
    edited December 2022
    An alternative option is to keep it clipped  tight to try to attract House sparrows to your garden.  They’re a Red List species and endangered. 
    They need to spend a lot of time in social groups in close clipped hedges where they’re safer from Sparrowhawks. They need a dusty patch to dust bathe and like to nest in communities of nest boxes close to each other. Popping a little hay in the nestbox hole attracts them to use a new nestbox. 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 7,658
    If you do let it grow out and then change your mind, it responds well to hard renovation pruning.
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Wirral (free draining sandy soil)Posts: 1,733
    I was just thinking that your hedge may look a little sparse to you at the moment because it probably had a close trim in autumn.  Once Spring arrives with rain, it will grow vigorously.  I had 60 meters of privet and used to trim it twice a year.  Just letting it widen by as little as 6 inches will make it more attractive from your side.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,932
      Once Spring arrives with rain, it will grow vigorously.  
    Assuming it's an area that gets lots of rain in spring  ;)
    Kidding, but yes, it's probably been kept tight to make it tidy for the new owner - ie @darren.m.willis0MO9c7oA. It'll spring back to life next year, but I also wonder if the previous owner kept it narrow so that it didn't encroach on the space too much? 
    If you also trim it so that you have what's called a batter, that will help it green up. That just means having the base wider than the top, and it allows more light onto the lower parts of the hedge.
    I meant to ask - is that 'monstrosity' next door a permanent feature? I'd hate to see that every time I looked out a window  :/
    I'm also intrigued by the little Hobbit house at the back. That looks lovely  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • PlantmindedPlantminded Wirral (free draining sandy soil)Posts: 1,733
    I wondered about that feature next door too @Fairygirl, I hope it's not a cinema, games or drinking den!  
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,932
    The mind boggles!  :D

    Perhaps for a wedding/party or similar. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • RedwingRedwing SussexPosts: 1,300
    Privet Hawkmoth feeds exclusively on on privet so let it flower! It's not very common so encourage it. Don't prune it until well into early spring.  Blackbirds love the berries.
    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
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