Monday, November 2, 2009

Time to Take Back the Gardens

My morning began with a visit to Daphne’s Dandelions for Harvest Mondays to see what people have harvested from their gardens in the past week. I must admit, fall gardening is intriguing me more and more when I see what people are growing.

I am on vacation this week and I hope to accomplish some last minute projects before the snow flies. Now that the vegetable garden is cleaned up and ready for winter, my attention has turned to cleaning the other gardens in my yard.

When sprucing up the house to sell, the previous owners did some landscaping. They planted some shrubs around the yard, some foundation plantings, several crabapple trees, and a created a large flower garden. The yard made a grand impression on me when I first looked at the house.

At first I didn’t even know the difference between a weed and a perennial. It was only until the plant bloomed that I was able to identify it. Unfortunately, because of my ignorance some weeds have multiplied and taken over. Next year, I am hoping to take back my gardens one bed at a time.

One project that I am hoping to complete before winter is clearing this foundation section along the house:

The previous owners planted some Sea Green Juniper (Juniperus chinensis “Sea Green”) in front of these windows. When I purchased this house they did look cute at only a foot high. Now several years later they have quickly overgrown their location. I have since learned that they can grow 6-feet tall and 8-feet wide.

We tried trimming them back, but within one season they were back to the original size. They also have an unpleasant odor that permeates the house from the open windows. Although I hate killing any growing thing, I finally made the decision that these have to go.

I am going to try to turn this into a new flower garden. On the left is a young crabapple tree and in the middle towards the back are some Bearded Iris. The crabapple tree will stay for now. I find it beautiful and the birds love it. However, I fear will have to be removed eventually too as it was planted really close to the house. Here are a few pictures of it from spring:

This is the Bearded Iris:

There are a lot of weeds both from the bird seeds and neglect. We started by removing the Juniper shrubs yesterday. Digging the stumps out will be some hard work. I hope to clean this area out and dig in some amendments to the soil so next year I will have a clean slate to work with.


  1. Those junipers can really be a challenge! Making the decision to remove or just move things can be a smart choice, as you know. Would a winter cover crop help suppress weeds and prepare the soil?

    Our terrible weed season is, ironically, winter. I need to get out there and take care of them quickly.

  2. Wow, it looks so much better without the junipers. It is hard to resist planting things to close together, even though I know better! You made an excellent decision in removing them. Maybe we Maine gardeners should plan a perennial plant swap in the spring, I have lots of perennials to divide....

  3. Great start to a great garden next year. Junipers are such cute little things, giving no clue that they are planning to grow, grow, grow and cannot be successfully pruned. Your blog is a great journal, thank you for sharing.

  4. That is a lot of work to remove large shrubs. When we moved in (decades ago) the front of the house was landscaped mostly with yews. Huge ones taking over. It was a real PITA to get them out. They didn't want to go. Every year I still fight with a rhododendron. I refuse to pull it out because I love them so much. But it does block my window and I have to cut it back often. So it is kind of a sick looking shrub. I should have just bit the bullet and pulled it out and replaced it with another one elsewhere.

  5. Grafix you just hit upon a pet peeve of mine. The absolute worst thing ever invented was the electric hedge shears. You being in graphics will appreciate what a shrub should look like in its natural state. The only way to achieve this is with a pair of hand pruners and removing selective branches. John

  6. What a job! I don't envy you...I'm still considering removal of a large juniper that was decapitated by my husband. And my barberry bushes...those thorny things just have to go, I can't even keep weeds pulled around them. Not a jpb I'm looking forward to, either.

  7. Stefaneener: A winter cover crop is a good idea to try to protect the open soil. Unfortunately, it’s probably too late to grow a winter cover crop here, but maybe in early spring it will grow, then when it get’s warmer I could till it in, plant, and mulch.

    Henbogle: I can’t believe how different it looked with just the junipers gone. I can’t wait to get all the grass and weeds pulled and have the spot completely bare. Only then will I be able to envision what I want to plant.

    A Maine perennial plant swap sounds like a great idea. I don’t really have much to swap at this point, but Jean over at Jean's Garden also has a post about “Sharing Pants.”

    NellJean: Welcome! Yes, I was very surprised to learn how large these cute little plants can grow. A good lesson to read the tag before purchasing a plant.

    Daphne: Oh I also have a Rhododendron planted right up to the house on the west side. It is growing out of control, but I don’t want to pull it either. ::sigh:: I only hope that I can learn from these mistakes and be more careful with my future plantings.

    John: I absolutely agree with the hedge shears issue! I like the look of shrubs in their natural state, not rounded or boxed or muffin shaped. When we tried pruning these junipers we attempted to keep the natural shape of the shrub by trimmed out branches. It still looked awful when we were finished, but filled in within a year.

    Granny: Yes, I thought of our experience with trying to prune our juniper when you posted The Washington Chainsaw Massacre. I am afraid that they never are the same after a pruning even if it was well intended.

  8. I am not a big fan of evergreen shrubberies - junipers in particular. Having said that, I have one big one in the front entry flower beds that I have been letting go because I know my husband will come unglued if I decide to take it out! LOL! That whole front bed needs a redo actually. Perhaps next year I will be suitably inspired by you and tackle it.

  9. Good job on the juniper ! That's one of the first things I pulled out here too. (Two were framing the front entrance, plus a creeping variety at the base of the steps). I fought like hell !

    I LOVE garden revamps, I'll enjoy seeing the progress !

    Beautiful crabapple !

  10. kitsapFG: I really am not a fan of evergreen shrubs either. In fact, there are several more around the property that will need to be removed as they too are have grown too large for their locations.

    Miss M: I felt pretty good once they were gone. I am not looking forward to pulling the creeping juniper in my main perennial garden either.