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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Things change

From the time we first saw our house in August 2009, I detested the hedge of Japanese yew lining the driveway on both sides. Why would someone, especially a plant lover, detest two rows of seemingly innocent greenery?

For one thing, Japanese yew is not native and has very little wildlife value. (It did provide cover for a fledgling starling that found its way out of the nest a day or two before it quite figured out the flying thing, so I forgave the hedge that month.) For another, Japanese yew is toxic: tiny amounts of the foliage or bark can kill a dog-not that the neighbors' dogs are prone to nibbling the shrubbery. Most importantly, YEWS WANT TO BE TREES! In the wild, they range anywhere from thirty to sixty feet in height, making them totally unsuitable for a driveway edging. Some of us like to see where we're going when backing out onto the street. Yes, hedges are meant to be trimmed, but any plant whose primary function is to be mowed or trimmed is not a plant that I personally care to live with.

 So--the yews are gone!
(Represses the urge to sing "Ding-dong, the witch is dead.)

Of course, one cannot leave one's front yard in this condition in a civilized setting, so I had been dithering over what to do with the newly-cleared spaces. The part of me that feels guilty about everything fretted over giving the birds evergreen cover to replace the yews, but I'm really not patient enough to wait for dwarf conifers to grow to fill the necessary spaces and not rich enough to buy them already-grown and have someone else plant them. I consulted with my online buddies at the Wildlife Gardeners forum and quizzed the people across the street (who at one point were requesting a row of asparagus) and arrived at a compromise: one dwarf holly to anchor the planting under the mature American holly on one side of the drive and mixed shrubs, some native, near the back of each driveway bed. Then--butterfly gardens!

We have rudbeckia, aster, and liatris volunteering in great numbers, so those species will be well-represented in the mix. Being cheap, I hit plant sales along the route back from visiting grandchildren and scored caryopteris, echinacea, butterfly weed, coreopsis, orange thyme, and lavender. The sedum edging the hell strip got raided for ground cover along the street. Here is the bed at 8:00 AM: 
And the neighbor-side bed at 12:30:
The presence of bumblebees, skippers, and an Eastern tailed blue butterfly before the plants were even in the ground assured me that this was indeed a good morning's work.

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