A Privet Education

Today we are going to learn all about Privet Hedges.

But Miiss,  privet hedges are so booooring.

That is correct. They are the most boring type of hedge on the planet.

Can’t we learn about something cool, Miss, like frog-spawn or venus fly traps?

Why are those leaves that funny colour?

Not today. Now, here we have a very big privet hedge that has expansionist ambitions, and we know what that means. Treaties will be no good. This hedge will not negotiate. It will be bought into line only with some sort of Blitzkrieg.

Miss, why are those leaves that funny colour?

An excellent question. Although this hedge is acting too big for its boots, inside it is feeling tired and old. Look at all the litter and dead leaves that have piled up behind the netting over the years, stifling air flow and fermenting disease. The hedge cannot breathe. And what else have we learned about discoloured foliage?

Discoloured foliage means that the plant is hungry.

Exactly. And do privet hedges get hungry?

Yes Miss, very hungry. Starving, Miss.

Quite. Not only are privet hedges boring and bullying, they are also greedy. They extract nutrients out of the soil like there’s no tomorrow.

So are we going to kill it Miss! Bish bash bosh! Whack bam! The hedge is dead!

Settle down! My word. We are not in Lord of the Flies. No, we are not going to kill the privet hedge. Besides, you cannot kill a privet hedge. It is impossible. They are invincible. Furthermore, we do not have the time or inclination to go to the trouble of digging it up and replacing it with something more attractive, such as a copper beech, hawthorn or holly, nice though that would be. [Sighs, and looks into the distance.] Now, here are our tools. We have a pruning saw, wire cutter, secateurs, loppers, hedge trimmer (which I alone will handle) and gloves. Let’s get cracking.




Growing through the netting in a horrible way.
… pulling the whole wall towards it.

Miss, the branches have grown through this wire netting in a horrible way. Look Miss, it’s like the hedge has been grabbing the netting and pulling the whole wall towards it.

Good grief. So it has. We must act fast before the wall falls down. Now, we’ll clip out these branches from the netting and cut the netting out, rolling it up as we go along.


Rolling it up as we go along.

Miss, this is knackering.

No grumbling please. We’ve barely started. Tidy up as you go please.


Living history

Wow, look at all this trapped litter. Miss, look what I’ve found.

What is it?

Old crisp packets Miss, that were stuck down between the netting and the hedge.

Well, you’d better throw them away then.

But Miss, they’re really old. Look, this one says best before October ’91.

Good heavens! That is very old indeed. In fact, I myself was still at primary school when that blew into the hedge.

Wow Miss, you are like living history.

Enough of that. Now stand back, boys and girls. I am going to level the top with this hedge trimmer.








There, that is done. The hedge is looking much better now. Light can get into the garden more easily, and the hedge will grow back into a nice, neat shape if we clip it regularly, just like the beautiful Morningside hedges one passes on the way to school. [Sighs again, dreaming of tightly clipped Morningside hedges.]

…tightly clipped Morningside hedges
Dreaming of…

We will need to pay attention to feeding it every year so that it grows back healthily. Are you paying attention? What are you doing? What is that sinister-looking dense white thing you are pulling out of that inner corner of the wall and hedge, made of what appears to be an old shredded carrier bag and some strange fibrous substance…

I think it’s a large spider’s nest, Miss. More of a citadel in fact.




11 thoughts on “A Privet Education

  1. But Miiss, that was a really intresting hedge. Is it still hungry? Can we feed it? Would it like spiders’ eggs….

  2. Great post – very funny. At least privet will grow back, unlike the terrible leylandii we have been saddled with both by the previous owner of our house and by two of our neighbours!

  3. Hi,

    I know privet are horrible and growing up I hated ours at the back of the garden. However since also inheriting one – luckily only small when we moved in – I’ve discovered that Bees and butterflies love its flowers so I always leave mine to bloom in summer. Definitely worth it. Of course this didn’t stop me planting some Hawthorns amongst it back when I first moved in (almost 10 years ago).
    I always have Gatekeeper butterflies fluttering along the privet hedge – on a typical year, around 30.

  4. Very entertaining. Privets are considered invasive in this region. I have actually killed a small privet hedge that used to be in our back garden. Cut it to the ground and then dug out the roots. Afterwards I was, to use your word, knackered.

    1. I bet you were! When I was searching the internet for clues as to whether I was in danger of killing the privet by hard pruning it during a frost, I found a forum post from someone who’s entire privet hedge had been set fire to with petrol by a local gang of ne’er-do-wells, and despite this it sprang back from it’s charred remnants with gusto. I decided a bit of frost was not going to hurt mine!

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