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Fence versus privet hedge

We have a dilapidated and neglected-for-years by the previous house owner privet hedge running the length of our garden to one side.  Having just had two huge silver birch trees cut down close by, the hedge now has exposure to plenty of sun (south facing garden) and the tree surgeon said cut back hard and it will regrow.  Problem is, we can only cut it back hard on our side, the neighbour leaves his part to grow high and gangly. It looks very "woody" in the mid-section on our side, is being strangled by masses of ivy creeping through from next door and I can't face waiting months and months - if not years - for it to regenerate and get to a decent, screening height.  My question is, would it be possible to put a strong, concrete based fence in front of it?  I don't mind losing part of the boundary line at all as the border is huge where the hedge is anyway.  Taking it out completely and fencing could cause issues with irritating neighbour next door!  Some people have said the hedge could potentially push the fence down?  Any advice to a novice gardener from all you green-fingered ones out there would be much appreciated !


  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,101

    Hello topcat.  Here are a few questions to answer for you.

    1. How much do you see or want to see of your neighbour? Would a tall, heavy fence be upsetting to them as much as you taking down what sounds to be your own hedge?

    2. Does the ivy etc run up the hedge and would it be easy to extricate if you were to cut through the centre of the hedge's thickness?

    3. Are you prepared to spend quite a bit of money - fences are not cheap?

    I think that there is no doubt that the neighbour's ivy, once it got to see the sun, would take off like a rocket. Your privet would too but I think that the ivy would have the edge. I think you would be doing battle with it until you were old and grey

    Yes, I suppose the privet and ivy combo, coming over from next door, would eventually push the fence over. But I don't think you would need to worry about that for 20 years or so, if the fence was a good one.

    Be prepared to get the cold shoulder if you do put up a solid fence. It does give onethe message  that communication is no longer on the cards!

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Topcat66Topcat66 Posts: 5

    Hello Pansyface,

    Thanks for your reply to my cry for help!  To answer your questions:-

    1.  Unlike our neighbours to the other side with whom we have a great relationship, we are happy to see as little as possible of those on the privet side - and vice versa probably!  Pretty sure the hedge is ours so entitled to remove it I suppose, but if we did we'd certainly consult the neighbours anyway as to their thoughts, as a matter of courtesy.  They could even be happier with just a fence as they probably have to do battle with their own side of the privet.

    2.  The ivy is slowly creeping up the privet in parts.  It would be possible to cut it back if we act now but as you said, an ongoing battle could ensue with that one.

    3.  A fence won't be cheap I know but the thought of waiting months to coerce the privet into action isn't tempting...

    I agree with you that whilst not ideal to stick a fence in front of an established, albeit lacklustre privet hedge, it would take some time to push it over. Husband is less convinced though!

    If we do stick with the hedge, any advice on how hard to cut it back - there isn't much in the way of foliage in the middle part of it at the moment as we cut it back a bit a few weeks ago and it looks dreadful now?!  How long to grow back do you think? Am fearful of just looking at a pile of twigs for months on end!  We could always plant a few additional young privets in front to fill in the gaps, possibly.

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,101

    I'm not sure how old or big your hedge is. We inherited one that was about 20 feet high and very thin and straggly. We got someone who knew what they were doing to layer it. They put stakes into the ground, half cut through the largest stems and bent them over then trimmed back the smaller bits. I can't say that it is at all thick, even after five years, but it did re grow well and the birds like it now. Not beautiful reallyand needing  constant care, but wildlife friendly.

    It depends on how tidy you want your look to be. A fence would give you a neat form on which to grow other things but would be very "flat". Keeping the old hedge would make the boundary less obvious and make your garden look bigger.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Topcat66Topcat66 Posts: 5

    Hard to say how old the hedge is...could be as old as the house which was built in 1901!!  It's only about 6 feet high at it's highest point but does dip down, where the silver birches used to be.  I'm starting to think the best answer is to cut back hard and live with it for while.  Trouble is, we can only take the height down on our side so it may have to look a bit "steppy" for a time.  Will also grow some additional, younger privet in front to perhaps freshen it up, AFTER attempting to remove the rogue ivy!

    Thanks for all your advice!

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 63,400

    I think that if it's your hedge you can take the whole of the top down - although I'd let the neighbours know what you're doing and why.  You could say you've been advised to hard prune it in order to rejuvenate it and thicken it up, and say that you'd be happy for them to do the same on their side, or that you'd be happy to come over and do it for them if they preferred.  

    Cutting it back hard is what it needs -  it may look bare now, but it'll soon look like a new hedge. 

    Just pull that ivy out and keep the base of the hedge clear of other plants - give it a top dressing of Fish Blood & Bone - it'll be great. 

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

  • Topcat66Topcat66 Posts: 5

    How low do you think it needs to be? As I said, it's about 6 foot in some places, around 4.5 feet, give or take, in others.  Also, with the border currently being quite wide I'd like to plant some sort of spreading bedding plants in front of the hedge, will they thrive or is it best to just narrow the border with returfing so the hedge is simply adjacent to the lawn?

    Thanks so much for your help.

  • When we moved in we had a massive overgrown and unloved privet hedge as well Topcat. We gave it a really, really hard prune, it did look very brown and sticky for that winter, but it soon started growing in the spring. This year it looks even better. I think you wouldn't have to wait long for it to fill out, they are fast growing. I am sure as Dove says if you explain to your neighbour why you want to trim the top they wouldn't mind. Give it a go! image

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  • Topcat66Topcat66 Posts: 5

    Yes, I'm actually longing for a fence in many ways but it's the expense and trying to get hubby's agreement to such an outlay (with just over a hundred foot garden it won't come cheap!)  It could also cause a debate with the neighbour, if they prefer a hedge to a fence.  Hence why I did wonder if we couldn't stick a fence in front of the hedge on our side and keep us all happy.

    Gardens - who'd have 'em?!!

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