The Land Rover Owners Wife

How to avoid monster shrubs ….. do your homework

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The shrub border after initial planting.

The shrub border after initial planting.

When we first moved into the cottage back in 2012, the outside space was dire to say the least, with 6 inches of compacted hardcore from the front gate to the back fence and a dark, foreboding and neglected hedge, edging a small patch of grass at the front of the house. If you listen to the Kirsty Allsopps and Phil Spencers of this world (presenters of a property buying program in the UK for those non-UK readers), then you will know that when it comes to selling house, kerb appeal is everything and this was definitely something our cottage was lacking when we first saw it. Mind you that played into our hands somewhat, as it put off many a prospective buyer who lacked the vision that Mud had.

Over the next couple of years, the front hedge disappeared and was replaced with a lovely new post and rail fence and eventually we decided that the best use for this space was to gravel the front area, creating a two or three car parking area. To break up the monotony of gravel we also chose to create two beds for shrubs and placed some planters full of flowers, under the front window. With our decision made and the gravel in place, the next step was to go to the garden center and choose the shrubs we wanted for the area. Primarily we settled on evergreens, although there were one or two other plants dotted about. Once planted up, a thick layer of bark chippings was applied and the front garden was finally looking beautiful, neat and cared for.

Move on nearly 10 years and things have changed quite dramatically really. Not all of the original shrubs had survived beyond the first couple of years and some had been moved when it became apparent that they weren’t happy in their allocated positions. But one evergreen has thrived, has really appreciated its’ prime location, growing from a tiny shrub barely 12 inches across to a monster of a plant, 5 to 6 foot in all directions, unfortunately to the detriment of all but one of it’s original, near neighbours. Such had been the success of this particular plant, its’ branch span had now encroached so far onto the drive, that it had become quite difficult to park both Annie and Thomas side by side on the front, whilst leaving enough access for family members, visitors and delivery persons to reach the front door without being scratched!

And boy could that plant cause a nasty rash if you were unlucky enough to come into contact with its foliage!

So last year we came to the decision that the shrub had to go and I did make a start at chopping back some of the branches but it soon became apparent that secateurs weren’t going to cut the mustard …. or the branches. With the rain set in for the rest of the year, the removal of the shrub was put on hold, until events of the last few days made it imperative to clear that area and quickly!

Mud has bought another Land Rover! Yep, a little Series 1 which we have decided to name Bonnie. That’s all I will say at the moment, as she isn’t here yet but once she is safely ensconced on the front drive (now you see why we needed to clear the space) I will take pictures and tell you all about her.

10 years later: before and after

10 years later: before and after

With the sun shining down, yesterday afternoon I set too, armed with my secateurs and Muds’ hand saw. An hour and a half later I had removed the smaller yellow shrub and as much of the monster shrub as I could. My hands, arms and shoulders were shaking and aching with the effort of sawing through branches two or three inches in diameter, or snipping the smaller but just as tough ‘twigs’ that were attached to the main branches. At this point, it became apparent that only an electric saw would be able to finish the job and so that’s what was brought out and in a few minutes the last of the massive branches were removed.

I still have to clear the remains of the Rhododendron, the long dead Buddleja/buddleia and cut back some of the trailing ivy, as well as giving the area a general tidy up of fallen pine needles, ground elder etc but Mud and I are stunned by how much space we have regained by removing that plant. We have, however, learned a valuable lesson: next time we decided to plant some shrubs, we’ll do our homework and find out how big they are likely to become and if they hold any nasty surprises, such as rashes caused by contact with foliage!

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