Breaking up is hard to do. Yeah, kinda. Sorta. But it can be a bit of a relief too, right? My relationship with two columnar yews in my front garden came to an end today—as they say, we'd outgrown each other and it was time to move on.
I'd had them since the beginning and remember clearly when they came home. They were a big purchase for me—I spent more on them than was typical at the time. Even with an employee discount from the nursery where I worked, it was a stretch.
They were faithful and steady, serving their original purpose for many years—strongly vertical, evergreen, structure-making anchors. But over the last several years they've gotten blobby, and last winter during the ice storm, they splayed open practically to the ground and have never really gotten their figures back.
We had some good times to be sure. But I want and need something different now, and they just can't provide it.
As I see it, I had three choices:
- Defer—This was clearly no emergency and only practiced eyes or someone really thinking about it would have seen them as a problem. So I could easily have put it off. After all, I'd already been dragging my feet on it for a number of years. What was the harm in waiting longer still? Besides, waiting was cheap.
- Rehab—Restorative pruning might have worked, but it would take a number of years to get them back in shape and in-scale with
the garden again, and they'd look pretty yucky for a while after I made the big cuts required. Plus, I wouldn't get a chance to try something new,
and that's always exciting.
- Remove—And then move on. Having them gone would allow me a chance to reimagine the space and make a fresh start.
After some more time spent deferring, I went with removal.
BEFORE REMOVAL One of the two I took out. This was a columnar yew (Taxus x media 'Sentinel') that had lost its column. Shapeless, dark and overgrown, it wasn't doing its job of providing a strongly vertical accent.
AFTER REMOVAL I don't miss it a whit. All I see is opportunity—an open spot and a chance to plant something new.
I get that a more sentimental gardener might make a different call, or a first time garden-maker might see removing something so prominent as a step back—but for me, my garden is small, small, small! So I really try to make every foot count. When I decide to make big cuts like this, I find that I typically feel like, "Geez! Why'd I wait so long to do that?"
After all, there's still a lotta good stuff going on—this photo is of my front garden, taken from the street this morning.