Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
September, 2006
Regional Report

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Removing foundation yews brought welcome change to the front of my home.

Garden Renovation: Good for the Soul

Don't be afraid, renovating the garden can be exhilarating. Even doing a few small things to the landscape in the cool of fall will make you feel almost as if you have a new landscape. Our house came with a "skirt" of pruned yews that I left to become somewhat feathery (another way of saying that I didn't prune them), and they looked okay. Not great, just okay. I never gave them a second thought since the more important plantings were in front of them or in other parts of the yard.

The front of our house has a beautiful rock wall as a focal point, and over the years this wall was completely subdued by the mass of green sitting on top, while I concentrated on other plantings. The other day my husband made the simple suggestion of taking out the remaining yews. My first reaction was to ask why we would even bother. But as I got used to the idea, I began to realize what a lift it would give the front landscape.

We started removing them one evening and could hardly squelch our enthusiasm as the area opened up. Suddenly the focus of the entire front of the house was this rock wall and the single magnificent pagoda dogwood that sat on top of it. An unexpected bonus was that the house looked taller -- a good thing for a very low, prairie-style ranch.

We moved in some large granite rocks from elsewhere in the landscape and placed them in a couple of clusters. Then we accented the boulders with a few low evergreens called Russian cypress. They will stay fairly ground-hugging, emphasizing the rocks and rock wall instead of overwhelming it. Now when I stand back and look at the bed, I'm soothed and refreshed by the spare, clean look. It was a great decision to empty the bed.

Questions to Ponder
Renovating doesn't always mean you have to remove all the plants. Instead, look at each plant in your yard with a new eye. Then, ask yourself these questions:
1. Does this plant have a purpose or is it just filling space?
2. Is the plant in good shape and healthy or is it scraggly and sad-looking?
3. Could the plant look better with a little or a lot of pruning?
4. Is there something else that I've always wanted that could fill that space more attractively?
5. Does the plant or planting take too much of my time to maintain, time that could be better spent on something else?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you may find that you have a lot of plants that are serving no purpose. Plants that are just filling space tend to detract from the other plants that do have a purpose.

Removing plants is not always easy to do, either emotionally or physically. But especially if you have a plant that is unhealthy, you'll feel much better if you either fix the problem or remove the plant. It hurts like pulling off a bandage -- quick is usually best!

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