Friday, July 5, 2013

Privet: the final frontier…

This year we've torn out the hydrangea, some lawn, a pair of Pieris japonica and a large rhododendron. You might think those projects along with ones from previous years means we’ve worked just about every square foot of soil on our small city lot.

Nope.

There’s an 11ft x 25ft chunk that we haven’t touched. It’s the land of the privet, ivy and vinca. See that large looming mass at the far edge of the garden? That's what I'm talking about...

For comparison the size of our lawn, before removing some of it earlier this spring, was 18.5 x 20.5. So that 11 x 25 is not an unsubstantial piece of garden soil. Why has it lasted this long? Because we’ve grown attached to the enclosure the wall of green (and white, this time of year) provides.

Of course I also have a long list of things I don't like about the privet...starting with the bloom litter which piles up everywhere this time of year.

It collects on every leaf...

And in every container nearby...

Looking west into the no-man's-land under the privet...

The plan is to pull it all out so things planted under it in the upper garden (which I planted when the backyard Rhody came out last year) can get more sun and grow up (the Loquat for example), and we can put in a real fence between us and the neighbors to the north. That will leave a huge area available for planting!

All that successfully grows under the mass of privet now is ivy and vinca, and I have to fight that back every spring to keep it from taking over the patio.

U.G.L.Y.

Looking out towards the patio...

And down at more bloom litter...

It's hard to imagine not having this huge mass of green, but it's overgrown and getting bigger and bigger every day. In case you can't tell I have mixed emotions about it all. Imagine a new 11 ft x 25 ft of soil in your garden where you could plant tall big things (trees!)...and imagine not seeing that wall-o-green but a fence and bare soil. Ugh.

Next spring, early in the spring...will it all be gone?

And to update you on another possible removal which was reversed this is how the Sasa Bamboo is looking these days. As you may recall I wanted to tear it out but after seeing all the new growth decided to give it a second chance. I'm glad I did. It's still not as full as I would like but it's coming along.

So I'm curious...would you have the guts to remove the privet? Or just leave it?

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

64 comments:

  1. Remove all privets! You'll have space for anything else. I have been fighting ours (and our neighbors) for years, and I dream of a time when I have light and sanity for the nice mid-size attractive trees I could plant.

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    1. My new war cry "remove all privets!"...thank you!

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  2. AnonymousJuly 05, 2013

    Loree, I have been exactly where you are. We had a 15 foot tall privet hedge separating our house and our neighbors unsightly paint job (mottled yellow and half gray, with the siding falling off). But privet is very invasive here in NorCal (and boring everywhere), and I hated it because of the stinky flowers. It just wasn't working with me, and I wasn't happy with it. So I cut it out. Now I can see the neighbors house, but I am satisfied knowing that what I have there now will make a much more lovely barrier given time. If it doesn't please you, just rip it out!
    Max P.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Max, it sounds like you had more to loose (visually) than I do by ripping out the privet and yet you still did it and feel like you made the right decision. A friend made a similar argument noting that it's gonna have to come out eventually so why not get started on growing what I want there...

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  3. List out the pros and cons, right?

    Pros: wall of green, wonderful backdrop for the garden.
    Cons: space hog, messy, is last inherited garden element, space could be used to grow bamboo

    (I added the last one)

    I'd have to go with "rip it out", as long as you'll be putting something relatively tall back there.

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    1. Tall for sure, at least a couple of (well behaved) trees...sorry tho, no bamboo...

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  4. Replies
    1. Assuming that you're "yessing" on the rip it out side of the argument?

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  5. Oh, I would definitely remove the privet. The loquat needs you to do it so it can thrive. It is a daunting project, though, and I can understand your hesitation at knowing that you will then probably have several years of looking at something ugly. But it's ugly now, right? That spot is an ugly duckling that is just waiting for you, its fairy godmother, to turn it into a beautiful swan.

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    1. You're right about the loquat of course. In fact I was supposed to remove that part this spring but instead we just thinned a lot of it out (in other words, I wimped out).

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  6. Good bye privet, ivy, and vinca; hello whole new huge planting space! Where will you hang your circle pot?

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    1. Ha! I hadn't even thought of that issue. The "plan" was always to hag it from Cliffords branches but I've been waiting for them to bulk up a bit, don't want to harm the guy.

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    2. Get a shepard's crook and you'll be all set until your Clifford can play.

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  7. I understand what you are talking about. A wall of green is a calming wonderful thing. But then theres the fact that it litters, it's overgrown and you know you want to reclaim the planting space. I think in the spirit of danger gardening I would remove it. Planting trees could be really fun! One thing that comes to mind is southern magnolia. But how would you even choose? Eucalyptus, olives, arbutus, groves of trachycarpus, yuzu citrus ... think how much fun you could have! And when you get thinking in the land of possibilities I say go for it!

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    1. Eucalyptus is forbidden here (the husband) but an olive would be fun! I'm also currently obsessed with Argyrocytisus battandieri (Pineapple Broom)...
      http://plantlust.com/plants/argyrocytisus-battandieri/

      So many possibilities!

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    2. oh yes, pineapple broom is super cool! they are hard to find for me. It has been an object of plant lust for some time. I get super excited at the idea of trees.

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  8. AnonymousJuly 05, 2013

    You removed that rhody, lose the privet. (how can you stand that bloom-stink? Yuck!)

    - Jenn

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    1. You're right, it is pretty disgusting! Plus all that yellow pollen is nasty too...

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  9. I know where you'll end up with this. Added to all your "pro" arguments is the fact that it's on the north side of your back garden, enabling you to plant big, tall plants and trees without compromising your existing garden denizens. Go for it!

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    1. I neglected to mention that fact but you're right, north end so I won't cast any shade on my patio with my choices...

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  10. I was thoroughly prepared to hate your privet when you described the area but, seeing it pictured, I understand your quandary. Still, I'm inclined to say you should yank it (before it gets bigger yet). It's an unexciting plant, even in flower, and an allergen producer to boot. It's main advantage is the height and privacy it provides and I'm sure that, with some patience, you can replace it with something you like better. But I don't recommend Albizia (no matter how pretty the foliage and flowers are)! I spent nearly an hour trying to clean up our patio prior to a party yesterday - if you think your privet litter clean-up is a pain, you can't even imagine how difficult a mimosa is all year long...

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    1. You make a good point Kris, I do need to be sure I don't add a new headache in place of an old one. And of course you've got me thinking about the one I've already planted in the upper garden!

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  11. DO IT! I'll help. I love ripping stuff out.

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    1. Don't you think I won't take you up on that!

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  12. My initial impulse is to recommend the privet be removed. If it were my garden, though, I'd need to carefully access the impact that amount of biomass has on the microclimate of the rest of the garden. Does it shield you from drying winds in the winter? On the other hand, I would hate that bloom litter. A lot.

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    1. The only real benefit it has in that way is providing some overhead protection to a few things which are only borderline hardy here (a banksia and callistemon primarily). But I planted them intending it would allow them to become established and then they'd eventually have to make it (or not) on their own...

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  13. I concur with the consensus, remove the privet... I've found out over the years that when any shrub/vine/perennial becomes a space hog and requires constant monitoring and pruning to keep it in check it's time for it to go and plant something new.

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    1. A consensus indeed! I figured someone would council me to prune it back and keep it, nope!

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  14. Privet ugh! Do it, I ripped out all my exotic plants a few months ago and replanted with natives and I did it with glee.

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    1. If only privet were exotic around here it might earn a reprieve!

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  15. out with the privet -- and I agree with anon about the bloom stink too...

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    1. It is a pretty nasty odor. Was it in high bloom when you were here last summer?

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  16. Sometimes the presence of second thoughts is already enough of an indication that it has to go. Imagine all the space you'll gain for more new plants on the ground. Fences and bare earth are only temporary and short term drawbacks that will soon go as soon as you plant up the area.

    We just exposed bits of our garden that were previously hidden by potted bamboos so we know the feeling. Time for a change, you know you want to ;)

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    1. Oh yes, you guys are definitely experiencing your garden in a different way now aren't you? Thanks for the support.

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  17. AnonymousJuly 05, 2013

    Magnolia delavayi and Eucalyptus! :) -Branden

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    1. Oh I do love me a Magnolia...excellent! (no Eucalyptus though, it's one the husband is not a fan of)

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  18. See ya later Mr Privet. I know you'll think of something clever to use as a temporary screen until your replacement plants fill in to size..

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    1. Maybe big graphic panels like in Shirley Watts garden?

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  19. Replies
    1. What no offer of help like Heather?

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  20. Unless you have the wherewithal to transform into a perfect elephant topiary, I say give it the ax!

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    1. Nope topiary sounds like to much work...ax it is! Just this afternoon I realized I could add another stock tank pond over there which would be in the sun!!!! You know what that means? Tadpoles and water lilies...OMG!

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  21. Also, I'd be happy to sip wine and cheer you and Heather on...

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  22. Good luck with that giant project! Trying to dig out persistant ivy will be a headache. I mean a backache. Ugh. But I loved seeing wide views of your beautiful garden!

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    1. Giant indeed. As of the wall-o-privet wasn't taunting enough you're right about ivy (and the vinca too)...I think we'll seek paid assistance for this one. Afterall that's more material than I can work out in out weekly yard waste pick-up and we don't have a truck.

      I usually try and take some over all pics of the garden in late July, hopefully I'll remember this year...

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  23. As if you really needed all this encouragement...but OK, I will add my voice to the cheering squad egging you on.

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    1. Thanks ricki...I really do need all the encouragement I can get!

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  24. As an advocate for bee plant, I am always interested in gardeners who shun blossoms along with pollen and nectar that support the bees. I see that honeybees seem to love privet but beekeepers don't like the aroma it lends to their honey, so they choose to feed that privet honey back to the bees. On the other hand, a quick search shows me privet is invasive in NA, especially in the Southeastern states and there are articles that argue removing privet can help support native bees. This is if you plant native species in their place, I imagine. So I think that is a good argument to lose it and plant something that supports bees that you is to your liking.

    I am a big fan of your blog because it has such a different POV from mine and your garden is beautiful.

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    1. Thank you for the comment Beespeaker. I can verify that the privet is very very popular with the bees, it hums LOUDLY when in bloom and is a place of much activity. I would like to think all the other blooming things in my garden provide for the bees as well, combined with the fact I don't use chemicals. Also, hopefully, what I plant in it's place will also provide pollen and nectar to their liking.

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  25. AnonymousJuly 06, 2013

    I'll help, I'll help! Have a privet party, I'll bring my loppers.
    -Bridget

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    1. Truthfully I think we might hire this one out. Perhaps I'll be contacting you for the number of "your guy"...

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  26. sandy lawrenceJuly 07, 2013

    I have ripped out all three of those, and would do it again! Rewards outweigh the hard work and transition phase. Warning: Remember Bishop's Weed from hell? Well, get ready for similar agony with Vinca. I vote with everyone else - Out, damned Privet! Out, I say!—Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. (w/apologies to Lady Macbeth.)

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    1. Actually I've already done a vinca removal and know what you're talking about. There was a thick wedge of it in the front garden that came out within about a month of our moving here. Not fun but I never regretted the time I spend taking it out!

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  27. Your back garden is looking AMAZING! I see your dilemma on the privet...It does look nice and serves an important purpose ...but I have a feeling you will pick something WAY cooler :)

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    1. Most things would be cooler eh?

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  28. You've already considered limbing it up and lacing it out, to be grown as airy, multi-trunked tree(s)? It could be something to try--you could still take it all out if not satisfactory (and it would be less of a job at that point). Privet here (are we talking Ligustrum?) limbed up as a small tree is quite nice.

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    1. Ligustrum indeed...and no, I actually hadn't thought about going that route. Interesting idea and I really like how it would allow me to keep the height. On the downside limbing it up would really necessitate a fence because currently the low growth blocks *most* of the view of the neighbors back yard, and loosing that would be a negative. However leaving the trunks makes it impossible to build a fence since they are right on the property line. Still something to think about, thanks Hoov!

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  29. What are you waiting for? May I interest you in some 9-foot tall Oregon grape -- I'm removing them from a too-narrow spot. Great for screening until your new planting get tall...

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    1. Okay! Not until late next winter though...projects are OVER for the season (maybe fall?). You do have me curious about the mahonia...

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    2. Really? Well, after all they are spiky (spiny, thorny...whatever) I love them -- they require no care whatsoever. But they are in a narrow passageway spot and we're getting poked too much by these. I have them all over the yard though in other places... Anyway, let me know!

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  30. Ivy, vinca and privet - an invasive axis of evil. You need to go George Bush on them until you can declare "mission accomplished".

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    1. Oh gosh Les...I'm not sure I'm capable of that extreme!

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  31. I can't wait to see what happens when you unleash a whole new part of the garden.

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