I have a confession: I’ve killed a lot of plants in my garden career. Some by accident and some in just straight-up, Lady Macbeth-style: out, out, dammed plant. No, I did not yet strike that Viburnum from the garden set, at least not yet, and I do thank several of you for your advice on the Viburnum. The jury seems to lean toward its “excision.” Viburnum aside, I’m typically very selective about plants as to what I feel is worth of my time, attention, resources and is contributing to the aesthetic of the garden as a whole. And who is bringing me joy, as Nancy said. Therefore, I will tell you the truth about why certainly plants just need to go to the recycle bin, the happy garden in the sky, however you would like to call my garden-style murder. GW The First used an axe to take down that cherry tree. I typically use a shovel or a saw as my method of mass or individual destruction.
What will follow is a partial list of what I’ve removed and why. I am sure there are others, but these have stuck in my mind. If you have any of these plants–and I don’t care if old Aunt Millie gave them to you because you may not have liked her much, either once you get right to it. And why be reminded of unpleasantness? Feel no remorse in taking them out. The plants, not Aunt Millie:
1. St. John’s Wort. The big ones, not the ground-cover variety. I thought this might have a charming yellow flower. It did. Sort of. Once in awhile. They honestly looked more like a bad hair day, stringy and twiggy with random shoots here and there and despite frequent hard pruning, the flowers were just less that exciting;
2. Shrub junipers. They were cute when they were little and the sea-green color pleased me then. But the bigger they got the less attractive the color became, while simultaneously developing rust-which most juniper do; it’s just a matter of time. Added to this is the itch factor: every time I brush up against one I will get some degree of a rash. Gardening is hard work enough without your own version of the itchy and scratchy show. They were also out-competing the light with the Inkberry Holly and lastly, they were too hulking for the front of the plant bed. Zero remorse on getting rid of these. I think I cheered when the brush collection took them away;
3. Variegated Liriope. I’m not a big fan of variegated foliages. I didn’t used to feel this way, but a professor in grad school said she didn’t like them and I haven’t either ever since she said that. I didn’t realize I was so easily influenced but I just do agree with her. These green and white striped plants (mostly white, very little green giving the walk a rather anemic look) lined my front walkway, and were in the process of taking over the entire span as Liriope always do, garden thugs they are. Since I like to plant bulbs along the walk, the root mass of the Liriope was nearly impenetrable. When I finally had enough, my neighbor was walking by and expressed interest in them. I was quite frank with her about them and said, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” This was about seven years ago. Last year at the garden tour she took me aside and said, “The liriope has taken over. Yes, you did warn me. I have put up the white flag and it will just be where it is. I quit. It is starting to come up in the lawn.” I did feel bad about it; I should have not let her take them;
4. Prickly Pear Cactus. Spawn of the Devil. Yes, it did have lovely yellow flowers. Yes, the fruit is interesting and last weekend I had a tequila-laced prickly pear slushy. It was quite yummy but even the prospect of another of these is not enough to want the plant which can reside anywhere than in my garden. The reason I dislike it so much is because getting within inches of the plant, somehow it knows you are close and it shoots out these awful, hair-like thorns that will penetrate even a garden glove. You will start to have a stabbing sensation that is super irritating. The only way to remove it is to hold your hand to the light and with tweezers pull out the thorns; they are almost impossible to see without bright light shining on them but you sure can feel them. I wore long pants, long sleeves and two pair of gloves when I removed it–with the long-handled shovel. Double good riddance to that;
5. Red twig dogwood. Boy, did these get just plain ugly in their last few years. I don’t even think they would’ve made good kindling. Throughout their life in my garden, I don’t think they ever really had a nice red color to them, either. I should have removed them much sooner as all I did was sigh and roll my eyes each winter when they failed to perform. They came from that same now-out-of-business nursery.
Sounds like my garden is a rough place to be. Plants at the garden center must tremble when they see me coming, like I’m some kind of Anna Wintour of the garden. Still, there are so many more plants that I have loved, loved, loved over the years to make up for the above listed five and others not listed. My advice is this: there are lots of plants in the kingdom. The thing is to grow delight.