Answer: Based on your description I hope the original plants were truly variegated privet and not something else altogether such as a variegated form of Abelia. In the long run, I think you could cut them off very short (nearly at the ground) annually in late winter or early spring. The shade should keep them a bit lax and floppy as they regrow and they should hit about three feet or so by the end of the season. The repeated cutting down will help them get denser from the base from year to year. Do not trim them repeatedly during the season though as that will cause them to be branched and "bushy" like a trimmed hedge rather than loosely arching or cascading. You probably would not need to fertilize them, as this would just make them get bigger faster. As for what to do right now, I would be concerned about trimming them back hard just now because they do need to become rooted and the foliage helps fuel them to do that. On the other hand, these are very tough plants and they are in the shade so they will not be quite so heat stressed this summer. If they look so terrible (compared to what you had in mind), and they were mine, I would probably cut them down now regardless but being aware it is a risky thing to do so late in the season. Try to keep the soil evenly moist (not sopping wet) this first season to help them become established. Good luck with your experiment!
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