Monday, September 25, 2006



Years ago, when my garden was new, my children were babies and I truly had no money for plants , I felt really lucky to find a type of ligustrum (privet) popping up along my fence line. Fast forward 25 years and I'm not feeling so lucky. I spend several weekends a year cutting back and thinning these rampant growers to keep them out of the overhead phone and electric wires as well as keeping the shade to an acceptable level. I do like the way they look, the way they make the child's bench corner feel cozy and the general feeling of enclosure and privacy but sometimes I wish I had not been blessed with the variety that yearns to be 20 feet tall. For many years I was good about cutting them back severely each fall but as I came to know and enjoy the bird life in my yard I began to hesitate to remove their place of refuge. I have removed some of them over time as they were too crowded but after yesterday I am considering further removal. Did you ever have one of those garden days...nice weather, a few hours to get a job done and one by one things go from bad to worse? I am attempting to change my system... with the intent to cycle the plants yearly...some cut back severely, some just topped. I would have less work each year and the birds would have a place to hang out during winter storms. After a couple of hours of cutting and hauling branches to the street I decided to do one more big branch and leave the rest for next weekend. I have a fairly new really useful Fiskars polepruner which I find really managable. I guess I should say I had a nice polepruner. In the midst of sawing this branch the pruner got caught as the branch began to fall and the saw and blade attachments both snapped off. So now I had a branch hanging 6 feet off the ground connected to the polepruner handle by the cable that is still stretched between the blade and the handle... and the handle is wedged between branches of the privet. Once I realised the pruner was a complete loss I tried to cut the cable with my old, dull pruner. They sure make those cables strong! So I walked to the other side to try again to dislodge the handle and managed to step in the dog poop my dog was nice enough to place there in the midst of my sawing. Ok...try to keep calm and just get the job taken care of...let's check if I can see better from here...what was that? Now I've snapped off the sprinkler connection my dad put in for my soaker hose. Lucky for me, at this point my husband came out to see what in the world I was doing. He knows I love to play in the yard and that I'm a solitary garden type but he also knows that on occasion he needs to save me from myself. So between the two of us we got the pruner out (I recommend hitting it hard with the old pruner...uses up some of the emotions one feels at a moment like this) and he proceeded to haul the remaining branches to the curb...and even reminded me to take my shoes off before I went inside. Now I need to decide...how many more years can I do this? And what would I plant in their place? And is it safe to try to finish the job next weekend?

4 comments:

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Leslie,
Just found you via Amy at Diary of a Garden, and I'm enjoying your writing. Although we're in 3 different states, we all seem to have the same privacy fence!

The only ligustrum I deal with is on my neighbor's side of the fence hanging over our trash can enclosure. I prune it enough to get the cans in and out, and am glad for the shade on the cans. They do fill a need with their foliage, even if they do need hacking back pretty often.

Like Carol said, you're in the bookmarks and I'll be back!

Annie in Austin

Leslie said...

Thanks, Annie...and I did get the job done today with no further mishap!

Carol said...

I feel blessed because here in Indiana we don't have privet that yearns to be 20 feet tall. It might yearn, but it won't make it due to the winters, I think.

I looked at your picture awhile to try to figure which plant it was, and I think it is the tree?? Wow, I've never seen it get much higher than 8 or 9 feet as a hedge here. And people who do grow it, keep it as a hedge that they shear back to chest high or lower each year. You can even cut it down to the ground and it will come back.

Leslie said...

It is the tree, and that photo is after the major pruning. We can keep them lower, too, and I have cut some almost to the ground that have come back, But between trying to block the view from neighboring second story windows and wanting the birds to have a place I've let them get taller than I used to. You're probably right about the winter because here they grow all year although slower in the winter.