Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Shrub of Doom

Originally emailed 8/15/06. With updates!

As many of you know, we "lovingly" referred to the beastly shrub that squatted on the corner of our property as The Shrub of Doom. It was huge and evil. It gave me raised welts if I tried to prune it back and it never looked like anything other than a giant green hulking beast of a shrub. It was planted by the original owners as a way to keep the folks headed for the bus stop from crossing the corner of their property and killing their lawn. Well, I've gotta tell you, it worked. There's no WAY anyone would have tried to walk on that thing once it was established.

We've left it alone since we had lots of other things to occupy our time with, gardening-wise. Especially since flowers are way more interesting than dealing with evil shrubs. Last year, someone from the city code enforcement came by and asked me to cut it down to 18" so that folks would have better visibility going around the corner. Given this directive, I WHACKED the living heck outta that thing. A little anger management, you might say. Scalped, the shrub looked nastier than ever.

This year, after the giant planting was over in May, I started thinking about how nice things would be with the Shrub of Doom (hereafter known as SOD) removed. During one of Caitlin's gymnastics classes I even drew up a plan for what I would replace it with. Lovely little bits: caryopteris, sage, lavender, yarrow, goldenrod, shasta daisies, columbine, clematis and more. I convinced Eric to help me and starting on July 11th, I started trimming the beast back. I was only able to take a small amount off and stuff it into our trash container.

Look at the SIZE of that thing! Eight feet wide, 13 feet long.

As big as a car.

Scalped look was niiiiice! This, by the way, was AFTER I had trimmed the very front section where it met the sidewalk. There was so MUCH of it that my tiny trimming made nary a dent.

A car with a bald spot.

A few weeks later, K & J graciously offered to take some of the limbs off to the recycling center in their town, where it would be turned into mulch. I eagerly took them up on their offer and Eric and I went a-choppin'. I didn't take a picture of that state, sorry! It looked pretty bad when we were done with that first cut. Then on August 5th, I convinced Eric to wake up REALLY early and whack more off the shrub and then tote it off to our town's shrub recycling center. In case you were wondering why we didn't do this before, our center is only open the first weekend of the month, and we kept missing it. We stuffed his car full of shrub bits. It took him two trips, but all of the major branches were GONE!

And his car had that lovely pine scent. No tiny cardboard tree required!

The Shrub of Doom was DOOMED!

On 8/12, we went out early in the morning with mattock, shovel and loppers in hand and cut the stumps down a bit. Turns out there were TWO of that shrub! Oh, and the neighbors, watching all of this going on would slow down and stare. Lots of folks gave us the thumbs up sign. Many stopped and cheered us on and expressed their utter hatred of that shrub. We weren't certain how to take that at first - were they mad we took so long to get rid of it or did they just hate the damned shrub? Anyway, lots of positive reinforcement from random neighbors that we don't know by name. BTW, you wouldn't BELIEVE the sheer amount of trash, broken bricks, concrete and asphalt we found while digging! It was horrible! Bags and bags of trash that collected under the shrub for years. There was trash from when they built the HOUSE, in 1988. Bleah!

The beginning of the real work.

On 8/13, after feeling frustrated with pure manual labor using the mattock, Eric went out and bought a chainsaw. Unfortunately, the chainsaw was too wimpy to handle the SOD. On the box it came in, it was referred to as the "Log Master". Clearly they were mistaken. It became know to us as the "Twig Master"! Not tough enough for the job at hand. Eric returned it in disgust. When asked if he had used it, he replied in disgust, "Of course. That's how I know it doesn't work!"

They took it back.

The Twig Master in Use

Notice the Mantis (red mini rototiller) in the corner of the picture? That little bugger was worth every cent I spent on it way back when. I used it to dig way down around the stumps, exposing and lopping off roots as I went. It's great! Every gardener should have one! They are kinda rough on in-ground sprinklers, though, so be warned (Why yes I HAVE chopped up several sprinkler lines, why do you ask?)!

So...Eric switched back to the mattock. A bit of anger management later and pa-pa-pa-POW! The first stump was history!

Eric Triumphant

Then, it was time to take on the second stump. Feeling confident, Eric set to with a will. Ka-CHOP! And the second one bit the dust.

The End of the Shrub of Doom

On 8/14, Eric put in the sprinkler system and I spread the soil back out again.

I immediately ripped a hole in the brand new sprinkler system with the Mantis.

Eric fixed it right away. Chastened, I went back to moving soil with a metal rake. Waah!

Today, I tossed down 5 bags of compost (No, I didn't have enough in my compost bin to cover it - sniffle!) and raked it in. Then I collected my plants, some of which have been waiting since May to go into the ground, getting bigger and leggier by the day. Those 2" peat pots were outgrown months ago! I put in one caryopteris, 6 goldenrod, 3 lavender, 3 salvia nemorosa, 3 shasta daisies, 7 yarrow, and 12 blue columbine. After 3 hours of this, I was pretty toasted. Later in the afternoon I tossed down 5 bags of mulch, seeds for red butterfly weed, yellow-orange coreopsis and red Danebrog poppy and then watered it all in.

I have plans to add yet more plants, some scrounged from my pots like Russian stonecrop, and lots from the garden: winecups, phlox subulata, clematis (spring, summer and fall blooming), blue fescue grasses and whatever else strikes my fancy in September or October. It's too hot to try to transplant too many things right now. I don't want to have to water 3 times a day or to lose anything tough to replace. So there it is: the Shrub of Doom replaced by a nifty new insta-garden! I had lots more people stop by and cheer me on today, too. I lost count after about 8 people. Heh! I warned them that I was putting plants in, but that they wouldn't reach the gargantuan size of the SOD.

Oh, you know that sign? The one that says Saddleback? I am SO tempted to remove it and put our last name on it with a cat silhouette in its place. So tempted....

She of the green thumb and red back is now dreaming of more gardening....

Update: Neighbors continue to drop by while I'm out gardening and thank me for tearing out the shrub. Never was there a plant more vilified than this one. Just today one man told me that we had really improved the look of the neighborhood by taking it out and thanked us for our hard work. Hah! The shrub - from it's grave it has introduced me to my neighbors.

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