Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hard-hearted Gardener

I'm thinking about taking out this tree:

...just because I don't like the way it's lookin' at me.

Actually, I don't think it fits into the landscape I have going for me now in the front yard. When I planted this Spartan juniper several years ago, I was still fairly new to the game and hadn't really developed a sense of my particular garden style. I would just stroll through nurseries and pick out things that looked pretty to me, take them home, and stick them in the ground. You can imagine my survival rate...oy.

Over the years, though, as my interest in the natural landscape around me has grown, so too has my sense of place, and the garden I have now has evolved to reflect that. It looks very much like a windswept prairie-plains/hardscrabble homestead/Texas cottage/grubby child-wandering-through-an-arroyo-on-a-Saturday-morning kind of garden. Not surprisingly, as I've planted things more suited to that aesthetic, my plant survival rate has risen accordingly. And it feels like it just fits, you know?

I don't guess it looks much like the typical suburban yard, being a little too wild and sprawly for that designation, but that's okay.

So this morning I was sitting out on the front patio trying to do some writing when--as it is too often its wont to do--my mind began to drift. Mostly I found myself taking stock in the landscape: That live oak ought to be limbed up to open the space below; I should extend those feather grasses in the hell strip; a stand of rosemary would look good over there...

..and that Spartan juniper has really got to go.

Taking it out would open up the space, and what a hardscrabble homesteader's prairie-plains garden should reflect, most of all, is space, wide-open and plenty of it. So out it will come, and a desert willow will most likely be planted in its place. And I'll feel not one whit of sorrow for that juniper when it's gone.

This set me to thinking: Do you think that hard-core gardeners are less likely to feel sentimental about plants that are in the wrong place? I know a lot of people who will not cut down an otherwise healthy tree for any reason at all, believing trees to be extra-special kinds of beings. But it is my hypothesis that most true gardeners would only hesitate a little, if at all, if they felt a tree was a wrong fit for a spot. So here is my question: would you cut down a tree purely for aesthetic reasons? Visit the poll on the sidebar and let me know what you're thinking.


  1. I think there will be plenty of hardcore gardeners who will say to take it down. I tend to be more the kind of person to prefer to take down invasive exotics and leave the rest. But the truth is, if it's an eyesore and you aren't enjoying it, then your decision should likely be to either remove it completely or move it. You could plant a tree somewhere else to replace the one you cut, and then you might not feel so bad about it. You could also use the cut limbs in other ways in your yard. I don't know what the root system is like, but perhaps you could wait until it's colder and try to give it to someone. Lots of options other than just keeping it.

  2. All excellent points, Meredith. You'll be happy to know that I've already got designs on the trunk for an arbor, so I guess you could even say that I am harvesting it. Plus, a desert willow--much more suitable--is going in its place...

  3. No hesitation. Take it out if it's not the right tree for the space.

  4. If it's wrong it'll annoy you every single day, so yes, take it down!

  5. Sounds like you've thought of the perfect substitute already go for it.

    Congratulations on your Blotanical nominations :)

  6. Personally I hate to cut down trees. But sometimes one just has to is obvious from the photo that the one in question is not a good fit for your natural prairie style garden. If you can make use of the trunk and chip the rest then it has served you hard feelings.
    Just my humble opinion.
    Jackie (we own an 86 acre managed believe me I really hate to see a good tree go)

  7. Well, I actually fall on the No side, though I wouldn't quite say "Absolutely not. Trees are holy" because they're not.

    Still, when I did the front garden remodel, I very seriously considered having the Liquidambar taken out. A California oak would be much nicer, and no messy leaves (well, at least fewer).

    But I just didn't have it in me to cut down a mature healthy tree. Instead, I stopped watering (the city arborist said the tree would be fine with no summer water, but I had my doubts). Amazingly, the tree's just fine! And I still like the fall color, and enjoy how the finches hang on the seeds.

    I also had a queen palm, which wouldn't have made it, and managed to get it taken by a Tree Moving service (they get the tree for free and move it for free).

    Regardless, I agree it's a conundrum. I'll be curious to see what you do.

  8. It would have to come down. Imagine years of staring at a plant you don't want - all that irritation boiling under the surface - so not good for the gentle gardener :-)

  9. Hi y'all! Thanks for weighing in--it's fun to see what gardener have to say on the subject.

    And rest assured--I'll make good use of the tree, and I've plans to plant a more appropriate one in its place.

  10. What's a dessert willow?

    Okay, I just looked it up - and I love it! What a great tree for a hardscrabble homestead! (love that description by the way - couldn't you use a sign saying such?).

    It's quite interesting reading all of this out of order!


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