The best looking hedge is one that is regularly pruned from the time it is planted. The unsightly gaps in the base of many hedges result from years of improper pruning or no pruning at all. It is better to prune a hedge every month, or even more frequently, than to do it only once or twice a year. This frequent shearing or clipping results in a denser growth habit and a better appearance.
The top of the hedge should be narrower than the base. For example, good proportions for a hedge 5 feet tall would be 2-1/2 feet wide at the base and about 1 foot at the top. If hedges are not pruned this way, the lower branches will lose foliage and eventually die from being shaded out by the upper branches. As the plant matures, you will get sparse growth at ground level and a leggy, nonfunctional hedge that fails to provide the privacy you wanted. In addition, the narrower top sheds snow and ice loads more easily, reducing the risk of broken branches.
Besides regular shearing, you can keep an older deciduous hedge growing vigorously for years by annually thinning out some of the oldest branches with hand pruners or powered hedge trimmers and a pruning saw. To maintain a good cover of foliage, shearing should allow for an inch or so of growth. If the hedge eventually grows out of bounds, prune the hedge frame work back to the desired size in early spring.
Tip: Renovate a privet hedge that is skimpy and has holes around its base by keeping it well pruned. At the same time, add at least 2 inches of mulch every year for a number of years. Fertilize the hedge in the fall and spray its foliage with a seaweed or kelp based plant tonic or some other bioactivator each month during the growing season. Some of the gaps will fill in with new shoots and the hedge’s appearance will improve markedly.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE PRUNING TOOLS NEEDED FOR PRUNING HEDGES GO TO THE YARDENER'S TOOL SHED BY CLICKING HERE.