Pangs of guilt

There’s something about cutting down – deliberately lopping and sawing to death – a healthy living plant, that doesn’t sit well with me.  I’m sure every gardener on the planet understands the torment that’s born of killing a plant that someone somewhere might value.  But I’m also sure that every gardener on the planet understands the euphoria that comes with making a significant change involving new planting opportunities.

Before.  The Noodle surveys streetside.Yesterday I continued what I started two years ago and took out more of the foundation plantings that were here when we bought the place.  It’s quite likely that they’ve been here since the house was built in the late 50’s. These venerable shrubberies include(d) several of some kind of chamaecyparis that had formerly been bubble shape sheared, 2 hollies, a male and female – also formerly sheared, and some token hydrangeas – which are, incidentally, very popular amongst the Azorean population of Bristol.  I kind of love them for that.  Z hates them for bad associations involving digging and saving some for persnickity clients. – Being a carpenter, not gardener, this was regarded as a ridonculous request.  In any case, they are all outie and I, so far, have not tried to dig any up to passalong to someone else.  Part of the reason for that is that the roots of each are now miles beneath a thick layer of rock mulch, shredded landscape cloth and disintegrated bark mulch.  No mulch of which has had the muscle in near years to thwart the bittersweet (and chickweed) which would inevitably be donated along with any good deed.After. But to be continued.

I object to the foundation plantings on the grounds of … they’re not Me.  When I drive up to the house I want to see my own stuff and make way for changes even if we can’t get to them yet.  We see a porch with a generous stoop on that side of the house and imagine watching the sunset from out there, drinking tea or martinis with our feet up on a bit of rail.  With the shrubberies gone, we’ll have more bare-naked incentive to get a move on.  And meanwhile, there are plenty of giant temporary tender perennials I could plunk in that I’d rather look at than cringe inducing shrubbery.  And it will feel more like Me even if (or maybe especially if) it’s kind of a mess.

I’m trying to justify the wanton killing.  I tried to remember to thank the shubberies for their valiant attempts to hide the concrete and anchor the house to the yard but by the time I got to the first holly I just hacked with abandon.  I’ve still got a ways to go but it already feels so much better – even though it looks like sh*#.  I’m all for making my own mistakes now.

Have you deliberately killed any healthy plants just because they weren’t You? Do the guilty feelings linger?

8 thoughts on “Pangs of guilt

  1. Get rid of the guilt! Those plants needed to die! Your home deserves better! Have I helped at all? I ‘kill’ those plants which self seed in areas where they are neither wanted nor appreciated. They hit the compost heap with barely a whimper. My garden, my rules.

  2. Well, I agree that it feels hard-hearted to kill a healthy plant, but your garden needs to reflect your taste in plants, and eventually it will transform into something that really feels yours. I am in the same boat – came here to established landscaping that does not feel comfortable and also doesn’t work well for my family. But transformation has been slow. I tend to kill more by attrition, except for the 150+ sq. ft. of St. John’s wort in the parking strip, which I happily murdered with abandon (but which is still coming back to haunt me almost 4 years later). Good for you. Any ideas on what you’re going go put in? A wish list at least?

  3. I’ve killed plenty of healthy plants that were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I sleep very well at night, thank you. No guilt, Kris. Make it yours!

  4. You guys are the best – thanks! No more guilt. I’m over it! GW, I think before the porch gets made I’ll probably fill that rocky little bed with as many orphans from work as I can snarf – tall ones though like Salvia uliganosa and of course the obligatory nicotianas… -kris

  5. Horray for making it yours. Can’t wait to see the changes that you make. We didn’t, um, have any foundation plantings. My honey did some improving of the yard when he bought the place, including trimming the lower limbs of the two 80-feet Norway Spruce trees, and then laying down black plastic and rocks all around the house to keep water out of the basement. Very handy. In the front, he made a kinda flower bed, about a foot wide. The two small Echinaceas and Lupines jammed in that space were the beginning of the front perennial/flower bed, where they now thrive. Couldn’t afford to plant something with real bones, but Helianthus helianthoides worked wonders for height, breadth, and loads of color. When in doubt, plant annuals 🙂

    Definitely annuals! – I might (might) actually spend $$ on some this year. And most of my “bones” plants so far have been either donations or bought at the tail end of season sales – they’re a rag tag crew. I’m jealous that you can get lupines to grow! -kris

  6. dare I count the seedlings for which there were no rooms at the inn. I had a flowering Cherry tree die on me… I think it knew I wanted it gone from our tiny front yard.

    Wayne, how nice that the cherry so obligingly succumbed! It seems to me most things flourish when they know they’re on my hit list… -kris

  7. Kris, Cutting a living thing out of the ground…may be the only thing I allow myself to feel useless guilt over! Editing is tough for me; thus I need hard hearted pals to say…”Get over it and rip them out!” Although I gleefully pull honeysuckle and vinca and toss it!

    Kris…I do think we have a similar garden philosophy this sentence so resonated with me~~And it will feel more like Me even if (or maybe especially if) it’s kind of a mess.~~Who needs to waste valuable real estate on a foundation planting…do that right before you sell the house for those buyers who need it! gail

    Gail, I’m glad I’m not the only one who needs a little push towards shrubicide now and again – and I’m with you, totally guilt-free over wanton destruction of the invasive stuff. And I knew we were kindred spirits when I first read about your Garden of Benign Neglect. -kris

  8. Ditto! If you need to rip it out, do so but replant something someplace so the planet doesn’t suffer. Go for it!

    Ay-yi – That’s a lot of pressure to make sure the planet doesn’t suffer! But I’m pretty sure I’m likely to plant gobs more than I ever took out even if we do ever porch over that spot. -kris

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