With their thick masses of branches and tiny leaves, privet bushes would make great additions to any landscape along with being terrific privacy hedges. This is especially true of varieties with golden coloration. Clusters of diminutive flowers add to their attractiveness. Privet hedges really shine, though, when applied to topiary. Presenting a solid, leafy cover combined with a naturally compact size makes them perfect for sculpting with a pair of hedge trimmers.
A Gift From the Romans
While many privets, like golden privet, are hybrids, it was the European privet, ligustrum vulgare, that was employed along with several other types of shrubbery by the Romans over 2,000 years ago to create the very first topiary displays. The art form is commonly credited to Linnaeus Marius Calvin’s, an associate of Julius Caesar. Never before had plants been used to produce everything from geometric shapes to elaborate carvings of animals and other objects. Ironically, the Chinese never pursued this approach to pruning, yet the vast majority of present-day plants are derived from various Chinese species.
These shrubs have a few things going for them as topiary material or even ordinary shrubbery. They not only possess a thick mat of leaves, they’re rapid growing too. New leaves swiftly develop over fresh pruning. While they’re deciduous, some privets can handle severely cold northern weather. They’re also tolerant of salt and air pollution, so they’re fantastic privacy hedges along roads. Some species, the California privet as an example, generate panicles of delicate white flowers that are decorative in themselves. Also, these flowers go on to produce berries that provide nourishment for birds.
The Right Shrub
The act of pruning these shrubs stimulates twig and leaf growth, so frequent clippings of at least four or five times makes them that much denser. Getting the best results, though, depends on the particular type. California plants, originating in Japan, got its name because it adapts nicely to the state’s climate by becoming somewhat evergreen. They’re not well-suited to especially harsh winters, though. For true winter toughness, the Amur privet is a great choice. A native of the Amur river region of China, it’s sometimes referred to as the northern privet, and it has the extra asset of being fairly drought-tolerant. Another cold-resistant variety hailing from Japan is the regal border privet. Like nearly all privets, the regal border privet can handle some shade.
Tammy at Tennessee Wholesale Nursery in Tennessee, a leading privet supplier says privet plants are best sellers for many reasons: They make excellent border evergreens, privacy barrier plants and require very little care.