Shrub Wars: the director’s cut

I have been feeling a bit oppressed by our garden of late. It is filled with mature shrubs, planted by someone else and then left to grow into huge megaliths. The result is not so much Sleeping Beauty’s castle as elephants’ graveyard. So with autumn here and nesting time over, I decided it was the perfect time to do something about it.

Our garden is north facing, which is not as bad as it sounds as it is also on a slope, so the upper levels actually get quite a bit of sun from the east and south. But the terrace to the back of our house is always in shade. In the height of summer, this is a good thing, but for the rest of the year, it feels a bit dank. In a bid to let in some more light, I have taken out two big shrubs and a struggling Hebe in our raised herbaceous bed. One of these was a laurel, the other I have been calling a Robinia, but looking at images online, I don’t think it is, so any idents welcome. Much to the bemusement of the Littlest Weed I set to work with a small handsaw like a woman possessed, screaming at him to get out of the way of the falling TIMBER.

Prunus laurocerasus and unidentified small tree preparing for the chop
Now what do I do with it?
Now you can see the trampoline and the washing line… wait a minute, is that the effect I wanted?

I think I am pleased with the result. There is something addictive about cutting things down, so I hope I am not going to live to regret my decisions. Next on the list is the Buxus in front of the washing line, and possibly the Choisya ternata next to it. Of course the immediate impact will be to give a clearer view of the washing line. But if I use my imagination I can look ahead to next summer when I have new borders filled with wafting herbaceous perennials. (Or if Mr Carrot and Littlest Weed get their way more lawn and a set of goalposts).

Our front garden is even more crowded with shrubs. Mr Carrot says he is sick of having to push through the bushes to get to the front door. It is definitely time to act. Almost the entirety of the south facing border underneath our sitting room window is taken up by a mammoth Pittosporum. I think I have been a bit in awe of the Pittosporum, but no more. Now it is coming out, along with another laurel to make way for some raised beds as it has dawned on me this is the best place in our garden to grow vegetables.

Can’t see the wood for the trees.
The mammoth Pittosporum.

Now, I was thinking I would have to get someone in to take out this monster. And then I turned up to volunteer in the garden at Charleston yesterday and discovered the head gardener Fiona and I were going to remove a Buxus of a similar size.

First of all we used loppers to cut away some of the smaller branches and give us room to manoeuvre. Then we got in there and cut away the main stems with a bow saw. It was a bit of an effort, but eventually we succeeded, then cleared away the debris so that after a couple of hours you would never have known the box was there in the first place. We even managed to rescue half a dozen offshoots which will make a nice little box hedge.

Now you see it…
…now you don’t

What did I learn? I discovered there is no easy way to take out a large shrub, just hard graft. But I also discovered that it is perfectly possible to do it by myself with the right tools. Watch out shrubs, here I come.

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