Wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare) is a robust, vigorous native shrub that can attain a height of 5m if left unpruned. The species is classed as semi-evergreen due to partial, seasonal defoliation that can be caused by frosts, or, of more relevance in a maritime context, strong, salt-laden winter winds.
Wild privet can be planted and managed as a dense, single-species, formal hedge, providing effective screening and shelter for domestic gardens or amenity areas in coastal areas that allows for the planting of less hardy plants on the leeward side.
Wild privet is also a beneficial and common component of mixed native hedgerows and is well-suited for planting around the margins or as an understorey of woodlands or wildlife areas. When allowed to grow unrestricted, the spreading bushy form and semi-evergreen foliage provides a valuable, protected roosting and nesting site for birds.
Panicles of white flowers are produced in late June to July, often regarded as having an unpleasant smell, they are beneficial for bees and a variety of insects; the small, shiny black berries, which are poisonous to humans, are a useful food-source for birds, especially thrushes. (N.B: Trimming in May will remove the flowers and therefore the fruit, if there are any concerns regarding young children).
The species is tolerant of most soil types providing that they are well drained. Plants are relatively inexpensive to purchase and are fast-growing.
Wild privet is a good all-round native selection with a variety of uses and benefits for the coastal garden and beyond.