So this weekend was spent, as usual, in yardwork. We took out MORE trees. Sweet gum–I’ve been calling it “junk maple” because that’s what it looks like, but it’s really sweet gum–grows every-frickin’-where. It’s a native, animals eat the seeds, I respect it in its place, but its place is not in my flowerbed, mailbox, sidebed, containers, gutters, etc. I am starting to expect that I will find sweet gum sprouting out of my pants. That stuff is CRAZY.

It’s not going to get any better, either–there are several large and well established ones in the backyard, so I’m resigning myself to a neverending battle. I’m glad it’s there–natives that feed the birds should be cherished–but lord, it’s enthusiastic. So we took out a bunch.

And junk oak. And some other generic tree thing I can’t identify yet.

I’ve been dancing on tip-toe around the dogwoods–there’s a native dogwood that’s all over the yard, and I hate, hate, hate to take any of ’em out. There’s tons of ’em, though. There are fewer red bud, and I’m very protective of them–a few have started in the understory of our fern bed, and I’m hoping they establish. The major redbud, however, is a huge, mangled growth, bent double, main trunk skewed and dead by the last major hurricane, and we really need to get a tree surgeon in to either figure out how to save it, or take it out completely. I would hate like hell to lose it, but if we get a major storm, it’s gonna crash down anyway (fortunately, there’s nothing but a small path to the greenway there.)

Pruned the cherry laurel. It’s formed an immense thicket which we’re leaving mostly intact–birds live in it, and we startled a box turtle while pruning, which indicates it’s serving a valuable purpose back there!–but it needed to be hacked back a bit. The holly behind it is growing like a mad thing. We had to take out the lilac, which was near dead, half-uprooted, and growing in the freakish angles of a plant on its last legs. I felt a pang. I love lilac, but I’m forced to admit that they just don’t do well here. It’s too hot. There’s one cultivar–“Miss Kim”–that’s supposed to tolerate our heat, but even it gets pretty ragged by this chunk of summer. I have one in a pot, and I think that’s the best I’ll get. Something else can go there.

Good news–we’re down to the last bed that needs a major clearing. Bad news–it’s chock full of poison ivy. Next weekend, James goes in without backup. I will stand well back and point to things that need to die. I am dithering over whether the white mulberry is one of those–it’s a junk tree, it’s a weed tree, it’s a bird-feeding tree, and it’s pretty damn sizeable. (I could replace it with any number of GOOD trees, though…they have native sourwood down at the nursery…)

James and I went out to the garden center to pick up some shrubs for the spots we’ve taken out. We blew nearly $200 (oy!) but got two each. You can really tell the differences between us–James, son of a landscaper, selected a columnar plum yew that’s a beautiful specimen shrub, and a marina strawberry tree (well-mannered foreigner, related to madrone with the same lovely peeling bark, grows pink flowers and fruit beloved of birds.) Me, eco-crusader that I attempt to be, got a Florida anise, a wonderfully scented native shrub for the deep shade behind the fern bed, and a southern bush honeysuckle, a tough flowering native, for that side bed that won’t grow for beans. His are elegant, twisty, visually striking plants, mine are tough, untidy natives.

But there’s room for both in the yard.

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