Do you think they're still alive and if so do I trim them and by how much? I have a friend who does Topiary on privet hedge and is very proud of his work, unfortunately it looks like he has some form of blight in it. Beech is a very slow growing hedge but if you start with established saplings you will soon reach the height you require. It is going to be very difficult Frank to transplant a ten foot Conifer which is well established but, if you do have to remove the tree this can be carried out in the autumn time when the soil is still warm but, you will need to dig out an extremely large rootball. I would like to make it only 2' wide. Even though quite a number of the leaves have turned brown I think that you will find that when the weather improves new leaves and shoots will appear. As to how far apart you plant your Privet Hedge will in some respect depend on the size of your plant which can vary from one to two feet but, if you work to approximately from one foot to eighteen inches apart you will not go far wrong. What I would do is contact your local authority or country parks office who will be able to put you in touch with your nearest local contact and you never know they may use your hedge as a demonstration!
Can I do anything to save them? Privet Hedges are susceptible to Honey Dew Fungi which will cause die back, and the fungal disease does have a tendency to spread along the hedge killing the roots. Cutting out dead wood and hard pruning has resulted in some shooting low down. I'm considering digging along the fence and putting in 18 inch soffits. My Escallonia Apple blossom hedge planted last May has lost a lot of leaves over the winter. I would also apply a liberal dressing of a balanced base fertiliser. The other alternative would be to plant a natural hedge such as Hawthorn. He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter! Hawthorns make a lovely hedge Gordon and now is a good time of year to plant providing that the soil is not too wet and frosty January. If so, when and how should I proceed? The roots look pretty badly damaged - might be difficult to tell without seeing the damage, but is there any chance I could salvage it? Again I will stress that it is going to be very difficult and no matter how hard you try quite a lot of the roots will be damaged and you will probably need to cut back the stems on the five foot section to approximately eighteen inches to two feet to give your hedge when transplanting more chance to recover. Unfortunately there is not much that you can do to control the disease but your infected hedge plants will need to be dug out and burnt. I am worried that this could spread further - an apple tree is next in line. I would dearly love to move a 5 foot section of it to reshape the perimeter of the garden and thus open up an area at the side of the house that has become forgotten. Am I not watering enough or do you think they might have a disease? The best time to cut Privet hard back into the old wood is early Spring - this will enable your plant to have all Spring and throughout the Summer months to produce new shoots. My neighbours pruned their side back hard last spring but it didn't seem to recover too well it gets much less sun on that side but this still worries me! Will it grow again if I cut down to the bark? You ask if the Privet is poisonous and yes they are to certain farm animals such as sheep and cattle but, no harm can be done when the shoots and leaves are placed on the compost heap. Two years ago I lost one of the trees, last year another one died, this year another one is showing the same symptoms, the foliage goes paler and appears drier before dying. The trees have been badly cut along the bridle path side but are still green our side, although some need to be removed. We are just about to plant a Laurel hedge Prunus Laurocerasus and it is intended that it will grow to about 7 ft for complete privacy. It was very wet in November when I planted them. Laurels prefer to grow in a slightly shady area. My final diagnosis is that your privet hedge could be showing signs of being attacked by the honey dew fungi disease - commonly known as 'boot lace fungi'.
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