Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Trees; Or What the Dickens Happened to My Privacy Screen?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

No, on second thought, it was just the worst of times. (Caution: Ugliness ahead. Don't complain now, you've been warned!)

A few weeks ago, my neighbor knocked on my door. She wanted to replace the railroad ties that were holding up the raised bed on the edge of my front garden. It was right on the border between us, and according to her, they were infested with carpenter ants.

I don't have a picture of the railroad ties, but this was how that bed looked when we moved in three years ago. There's a two to three foot drop-off on the other side of it into my neighbor's driveway. The cherry tree on the right looks healthy. Don't let it fool ya!

To build the new wall, the workers were going to have to dig up some of my low-growing perennials that I had planted right on the edge, to drape prettily over the railroad ties and hide them. Yes, dig them up and replant them. In the middle of summer. They promised to be careful and get lots of roots, and replant them wherever I wanted them.

So I said OK, in the interests of neighborliness. But you know, in the height of summer (admittedly here in the PNW, not really hot at the time), but they hadn't been watered in weeks, so it's not the best of times to be digging up plants.

Ah well...several of them were Lithodoras. Have you ever tried to transplant Lithodora? It really resents being moved. So much so, that it just throws its hands up (much like me) and dies.

Crunchy dead Lithodora

Anyway, I spent a couple of days worrying, and then just went with a zen approach. Otherwise known as not caring any more.

The new wall, which is made out of those concrete blocks from Home Depot, looks much nicer than the old railroad ties.

But the bed ended up looking like crap. All the replanted plants got well watered, but they still sulked and drooped, and turned crunchy.

Droopy, crunchy, dying Rosemary (Hey, rosemary for cooking that is already dried, what a concept!)

Crunchy Lavender (with a floppy beebalm stalk right in the middle of it)

Seed-grown droopy, crunchy Dahlia

So. I decided to go with a Scorched Earth Policy. I pulled up the ailing replanted plants and tossed them in my yard waste bin. I even pulled out healthy plants that I didn't like. Like droopy shastas. And then I called a tree service, and had them take out two trees in that bed.

New wall. Two trees gone. My house.

One of them was a cherry that has never borne fruit. Every year, it would ooze gallons of sap, and drop immature fruit and leaves all over, until by the time fall came, it no longer had any leaves to fall. The other was a pear (I think, it too has never borne fruit), and it lost its top half in the ice storm back in January.

The pear tree that topped itself

I had been planning to take the trees out eventually, just not right then. I was surprised how quick and easy the tree felling was. It happened before I could say boo.

In order to accommodate the stump grinder, I had to remove several more plants. So when it was done, the bed looked even more like crap.

He has a stump to grind. Unlike me, all I have is an axe.

It's still the height of summer. So I won't be planting anything there any time soon.

Privacy? What privacy? (I'm sure my neighbor is saying the same thing)

But that means I have plenty of time to plan the now very sunny bed. Do I want drifts of flowers? Mixed shrubs and perennials?  OR OR OR Should I continue the gravel garden over here? Maybe I'll get it planted right this time, and will never have to fuss with it again.



  1. I'm a privacy fanatic....I'd be putting up something very TALL and very FAST growing.
    But yea, big drifts of flowers would be gorgeous!
    Sorry about your plants. Always hard to lose em.

  2. Oh no, privacy is important. You have got to meet Hedge. He's a big ugly behemoth forsythia hedge with which I have a love-hate relationship. he takes up way more space than I wish, but it's a marvelous sound barrier. Btw, you already know this, but, there's never an end to working on the garden!

  3. I lost two great comments, going back and looking one more time and really getting a feel for this. It looks to me that you are not really the one who lost privacy, just a view that it sounds as if you were not exactly pleased with. I love those second story windows looking down on that wasteland of a driveway next door.

    Now that you have pretty much a blank slate, take time to make a permenent plan. Fall of 2013 will give you plenty of time to consider and reject all kinds of notions while the neighbor waits and wonders what you plan to do, and when. I'm sorry you lost some good plants and a lot of work, but you've handled it well.

  4. It is always sad to lose plant material...large and small. All this started with the railroad ties...ugh! Hope you find some good replacements.

  5. You know me...I'm all about Grasses and Perennials ;-) Plus, with all that will be so glorious! I would maybe plant one or 2 SMALL Witch Hazel, perhaps (Ok...I just really want a Witch Hazel and don't have want to live vicariously through you)!

  6. Sorry about your plant loss but what a great excuse to go nursery shopping! Sounds like the trees were destined to go. "White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities" Dogwood? Contained bamboo? Have fun!

  7. Your home is so pretty...even the 'bald'spots. I think you have a very good attitude about all of this, but it will be fun to have a new project. We will look forward to seeing what you decide on. xo

  8. You could go with NW native hybrid large shrubs, like manzanitas and maybe even a madrone (tree) or one of the hardier eucalyptus! They would like the drainage there. Gravel garden sounds wonderful to me, too. Sun, sun, sun!

  9. When we moved to the country, we found not a single neighbor without some sort of property line dispute. Few handled them with the grace you display (though I do seem to detect a whiff of retribution in letting your neighbors stew about what you might do next).


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