Most hedge plants, such as the Japanese barberry and the privet, if allowed to grow as specimen plants unrestrained by severe pruning, will produce a considerable quantity of flowers and also of fruit. This is especially true of the Japanese barberry, which has interesting fruit. If these plants are grown in hedges, which are subject to frequent and severe trimming at least three or four times during the growing season, then all of the flowers are surely removed and if the flowers are not removed, then at the time of the next pruning the fruit is removed, therefore very few of the hedges of this character ever produce any fruit. The only way in which to have a hedge such as a Japanese barberry hedge, with a quantity of fruit upon it, is to prune the hedge during the very late winter months or early spring months and not to prune it again until after the fruiting season is over.
Hedges which are allowed to grow naturally require but little pruning, except the removal of dead and diseased wood and the checking of any portion that becomes too rampant or destroys symmetry. It often becomes desirable in the development of hedge plants to keep the growth within certain well-defined limits of height, after the plants have become a few years old. This requires judicious pruning, consisting of the removal of many of the older branches each year, but never a heavy shearing which cuts the entire top of the plant, regardless of the size or age of the branches, to a fixed height.
Hedges which are trimmed formally should be kept uniform in height and thickness. One late winter and two or three summer prun-ings during the growing season are better than one heavy pruning yearly. Hedges will do best if kept in a flattened ovoid shape with the widest part at the base (Plate V). In this way all the leaf surface will receive a more nearly equal portion of light, and leaves will grow down to the ground. It is preferable to have the top rounded rather than flat. Remember that a portion of the current year's growth must be left on the plants when pruning.
If privet hedges are winter-killed partially or wholly, or girdled by animals, they should be cut back to four or six inches above the ground. A hedge, when newly planted, should be cut back severely, often to within twelve inches of the ground. This is necessary in order to secure thick growth at the base.