Cutting Back and Taking Back

After ten years of tending my gardens at my current house, I'm taking back some beds that have gotten a bit out of control or just didn't turn out how I thought they would.

Here's the non-blooming forsythia that I've posted about before.

And here's that bed after I worked on it yesterday morning. I cut all the forsythia down to the ground and bagged up the cuttings to save for another day of happy chipping and shredding.
(Yes, the grass looks terrible after a very dry summer).

Then, I went around to the side of my house, by the garage, and started in on this bed of ivy and shrub stumps. The stumps are from two Hypericum shrubs that succumbed to a nasty attack of bagworms last summer. There are also three half-dead Deutzia shrubs buried under all that English ivy (Hedera helix).

Here's that bed after I dug out the stumps and cut back the ivy and Deutzia.I know you are looking at that retaining wall and wondering why I bought the pre-cast concrete blocks to build that. I don't like those blocks, either, but at the time, it was what I could afford and there is a pretty good slope along that side of the house, so I needed something to make that bed. Now it's all askew and leaning and needs to be redone.

All the ivy, by the way, is being tossed with the trash tomorrow, all six bags of it. I don't want to try to compost it 'whole', and I think it would clog up the shredder because of the waxy coating on the leaves. (At this point my youngest sister is getting ready to click on the comment button and tell me she wants all that ivy to plant at her house. She has a lot of shade and would love a lush bed of ivy. I'll have to tell her again that she has deep shade and even the ivy isn't going to grow that well in all that shade. She should know that by now because she hasn't had much success with any of the ivy she has tried to grow there.)

I worked on those beds all day yesterday, with frequent breaks because it was hot like summer out there. (Labor day is the end of "people summer" but it is still summer, don't forget.)

I've cut these plants back, but I haven't taken the beds back yet. There is still some work to do.

The forsythia send suckers up all around them and the ivy spreads roots wherever it seems to touch the ground, so both beds are filled with roots, roots that will try to resprout just as soon as I turn my back. I need to get those roots out of those beds, as much as I can. Then I will have taken back those beds.

How to get rid of those roots? I think the best option is to dig them out and replace the dirt. Any other ideas?

And if that is the best option, and I think it is, then that is a lot of work, A LOT OF WORK. And that work would take a lot of time for me to do, time I'd rather spend planting something.

So I've called a landscaper to come and give me a quote for removing the dirt and roots in the "former ivy bed", straightening out the retaining wall (perhaps replacing it with real stones), and adding back good top soil. Ditto the fosythia bed, but without the retaining wall. And while they are here, I might as well have them dig the big bed I've wanted to dig up next to my fence in the back yard and cover it with mulch for me to plant later.

Are you now thinking what I'm thinking? Duh! If I have a landscaper do all that, then why did I spend time (all day) cutting those forsythia and ivy back like that? They could have done it as part of the job! I'll answer that another day...


  1. Looks like a good day's work. And I think you're smart to hire someone to dig out those roots and replace the dirt. Then you can get back to the fun stuff. I look forward to seeing what you do with all that wonderful, new space.

  2. What a LOT of work, Carol! You know what's really entertaining about your ivy abundance? I can't get it to take here at all; I've tried half a dozen times and it just won't cooperate with growing here. Go figure!

    Won't you have fun planning wat all to put in the new cleared areas. Any strong inclinations about what's going there?

  3. Your tear out will make it seem like there is less to do and will hopefully make the quote cheaper!

    We lived at a house where ivy grew in the afternoon shade of a terrible 20+ year old fruitless mulberry. One day, the tree fell, and the all day sun combined with the dog traipsing through it all the time killed it -- roots and all! I wish you luck with getting all those root dead!

  4. My lawn isn't looking so hot either. You done a lot of the work so the landscaper won't cost as much. Can't wait too see what you do with the extra space.

  5. I think a lot of us (me too) have those concrete blocks...because they are cheaper although not cheap. You certainly had a busy day and have a lot of decisions to make with all that space becoming available!

  6. I bet he doesn't charge you much less, Carol, but on the other hand all that toiling on Labor Day gave you plenty of time to mull over whether you should hire out the rest of the job. I think you should have it done and you can use your extra time for blogging!

  7. The ivy most common in my area absolutely will grow in deepest shade. And grow and grow and grow.

    All that space you have... sigh. Makes me want to move.

  8. Good work! And that veggie pic is scrumptious. I can sympathize with your sister, as my friend is now doing her landscape "tear outs" and cut backs at her hotel, to prepare the garden for the winter season, and I was there to gather up a trunk full of plants and cuttings LOL.

  9. How exciting! I need to get out in my yard and do some work, too, but it has been, as you say, very warm indeed.

    I can't wait to see what you plant in these new beds!

  10. I had to laugh at the remarks you directed towards your sister!!

    It looks like you've got big plans. Plans are fun - especially when you can execute them.

  11. hey carol - you are such an inspiration! we actually called a landscaper this week for the first time this summer. after the unfortunate rabbit/lawn mower incident, our back yard has remained un-mowed. We were planning to just have him mow in the back but then he said "i could get rid of all those weeds in your flower beds for you" and my ears really perked up. somehow mowing the backyard turned to weeding all front and back beds, trimming out of countrol shrubs in the front and cutting down that big ugly juniper (or was it a yew, i forget) on the corner of the front of the house per yours and carolyn's suggestions. grand total $180, cha ching!

    after talking to him i started thinking I bet he could have dug out all that sod in one day and it took me a month. ugh.

  12. You've done so much of the grunt work yourself I think you'd probably be better off to just spray the ivy bed with some horticultural vinegar which is sure to kill those roots immediately in this heat. Instead of removing the soil, I'd just add some compost and manure to the existing bed and dig it in.

    Don't be surprised if you get a high price quote because most landscapers are reluctant to take small jobs.

    You've certainly acheived a lot on your Labor Day weekend!

  13. Emptying that bed will give you the chance to experiment without digging up another part of the yard, Carol- it will be fun!

    From how terrible the root and soil situation looks in the photos, if you were one of the Divas of the Dirt we'd all be very grateful that you hired someone for that part and didn't make it your 2007 project!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  14. Well done Carol, you've done a lot of work already and good thinking too: let the big strapping guys take out all those pesky roots and stuff! It will give you more time to think of how to plant those empty beds up. Such fun, don't you think?

    BTW there's a new post up at Bliss, one that you, of all people, have got to see. ;-)

  15. Whew!! That must feel better! For sure hire someone to do the rest of the grunt work. You done enough. Save the rest of your energy for the creative side.

  16. Carol: That's a lot of work and now you have the 'blank slate' to play with! How much fun will that be!

  17. Thanks all for the kind and encouraging comments. It was hard work, but enjoyable in an odd way. It will be nice when I have a renovated bed or two ready for planting.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens


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