The secret to a happy garden is to keep the basic structural elements – hedges, screens, backgrounds shrubs – low-maintenance and trouble-free, and to use more demanding plants in key areas and focal points, where you can enjoy their outstanding features without taking on too much work. Follow this general approach and you will not find yourself overwhelmed by your garden. The only problem doing this is that if you are not careful you can create a dull, plain green garden, with very little color or interest. A great way to avoid that is to use plants like the Jack Frost Privet, which is incredibly easy to care for, and very tough, but that sparkles with bright color, and brings light and focus to your background planting.
If right now you are thinking, “Privet? I thought there were problems with that plant getting really big and invading natural areas. . .” then you can put those concerns to rest. Yes, there are ‘bad’ privet bushes, but the Jack Frost Privet is not one of them. It grows no more than 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide, and often less. It can have attractive clusters of white flowers in the spring, sometimes followed by a few black berries, but these are not of interest to birds, and they don’t spread around. Bushes that are trimmed a couple of times a year usually don’t flower at all, but simply remain lush and thick, and bring beauty, not problems. In fact, the Jack Frost Privet, which is a type of Japanese privet, comes highly recommended by every gardening expert, so you can relax, and use this great plant freely in your garden.
Growing Jack Frost Privet Shrubs
The Jack Frost Privet is a fast-growing evergreen shrub, with glossy oval leaves that are light-green, with an irregular ivory margin around them. The leaves are between 1½ and 2 inches long, and about 1 inch wide. Look closely and you will see several shades of green on each leaf, in irregular patterns, and that broad margin of ivory will be different on every leaf too. This makes the plant much more visually interesting and adds to its beauty. The overall effect is of sparking green and white, catching the light and reflecting brightness around the garden. Although bright, it is neutral, so it looks wonderful with any other flowering plants, or all shrubs with colored foliage.
Uses on Your Property
The Jack Frost Privet is just the right size to make screens or hedges, or to grow with other taller shrubs in the background of your garden. It can be clipped just as much as you want, and made into all sorts of topiary shapes, from cubes to cones and spirals, of almost any size. Trimming a couple of times a year keeps it very dense, with many branches covered in leaves, so you have a solid hedge in very little time. You don’t have to worry if you only clip once a year, because although this plant grows rapidly, it is well-behaved, adding only 6 to 10 inches a year, not the 2 or 3 feet some plants grow, meaning they need lots and lots of clipping. For a hedge, plant in a row, spacing the plants evenly between 2½ or 3 feet apart for a shorter hedge, up to 4 or 5 feet tall, and 4 feet apart for a taller hedge.
Planting and Initial Care
The really good news about the Jack Frost Privet is how easy it is to grow. It will grow the quickest, and be very dense, in full sun, but it will also thrive in light shade, or spots with sun for just part of the day. It will grow in almost any kind of soil, including heavier clay soils, just so long as they are not always soaking wet. It even tolerates salt-drift, so plant it in coastal areas too.
For the first season or two, water regularly, to develop a strong, extensive root system. This means watering deeply, and over a wide area, not just putting a little water right where the roots are. Do this once a week during the first summer, and every week or two in the second season. After that your plants will be so well established that only major drought will bother them. Of course, if you do water regularly, and use a fertilizer for evergreen shrubs, then you will get the fastest and lushest growth possible, but it certainly isn’t essential. This plant is normally pest and disease free, and it needs almost nothing from you to thrive – even clipping is optional. It is also almost never touched by deer.
History and Origins of the Jack Frost Privet
Japanese Privet (Ligustrum japonicum) is native to southern and central Japan, as well as Korea. The evergreen leaves are a rich, glossy, dark-green, and much larger – up to 4 inches long – than in the variety called ‘Jack Frost’. The small, white flowers grow in cone-shaped clusters up to 8 inches long and 8 inches wide at their base. They are sweetly-scented and attract insects, but the Jack Frost Privet has very few flowers compared to the wild forms. After the petals drop the flowers may turn into clusters of small, purple-black berries, which stay on the tree all winter. We know that different varieties of this plant were grown in Japan for centuries, and brought to America and Europe in the 19th century, but we don’t know much about the variety ‘Jack Frost’, except that it is one of the best variegated shrubs available.
The demand for easy background plants, that also brighten the garden, is enormous. We know that these plants will not be with us long, so take the opportunity to simplify your gardening, and beautify it at the same time – order now.