January 17, 2012

The Corrections - 1st Installment

In 2012 I must do some corrective gardening. 

First, I must move the blueberries (vaccinium corymbosum 'Northblue').  They were so small when planted, and the three amsonias behind them were tidy things (Amsonia tabernaemontana).

But as nature intended, the amsonias put on serious size in the third year, and the blueberries bulked up and we had a territory dispute.

They are fine in the spring before the amsonias emerge.  They get sunlight, they leaf out and bloom beautifully, but by late spring they are completely overcome.  The blueberries get shaded and crowded, and the amsonias collapse over them in wet weather.

The foliage gets fungal spot diseases.  Blueberries like moist soil but not wet leaves, and certainly not wet leaves from being smothered.  Because they are struggling they defoliate early, and I never see the glorious red color in fall that is their hallmark.  I must move them.
The first fall the spindly blueberries and tidy amsonias got along uneasily, but ok.

The following summer the looming amsonias were plotting a takeover.  

  • The Correction: dig up the blueberry plants in spring and put all four along the sunny, open edge of the new gravel garden. They'll move well, as they are shallow rooted and still small shrubs.
  • Degree of Difficulty: easy
The mid level in there between the amsonias and the geraniums is where the blueberries are struggling.  I'll take them out and this corner will be full and fine with just the geraniums at the foot of the amsonias, don't you think?

Second, I must move the yellowroot groundcover (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) that is being overtaken by huge spruce trees along the berm.  Who knew that Colorado spruces would become such huge trees?  I mean, I knew, but who knew it would happen in my lifetime?

The yellowroot plants have spread from six small plugs in 2007.  They send out runners and cover ground enthusiastically.  The runners are easy to dig and divide, so I have helped them along by digging and re-planting as they spread.  Now they are too close to the hollies and spruces behind.  I must move them.
The yellowroot groundcover shrubs are crowding the lowest branches of the spruces and hollies.
I wish these could just walk themselves forward 3 feet.  I hate digging out sod.
  • The Correction: dig out more lawn in front of the berm, maybe another three feet out from the edge?  Will that be far enough?  Four feet?  Then dig up every last yellowroot shrub and sucker and reposition them further out in front of the berm.
  • Degree of Difficulty: not hard but tedious.  This is a very long line of plants, but they do dig up easily and root easily.  Removing three feet of lawn along the whole edge will be the hard part.  I hate removing sod.

Third, I must move my beloved sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum). It's a really interesting tree, small and narrow and perfect as a focal point near a patio.  But it is very, very, very slow growing, or else mine is just not thriving even though it looks ok.

What I need at this spot near the patio is shade.  This is the west edge of the patio and the sun bakes the entire area with no relief in summer.  Umbrellas and arbors and structures haven't worked there in any way that is satisfactory.

The sourwood is a pretty little thing, almost more of a tall shrub, but it offers no shade at all, and won't for many years.  I think I should move it.
I love this little tree, but it's more decorative than shady.
In fall sourwood is a stunner.
  • The Correction: dig up the sourwood and re-plant it near the new gravel garden.  Then put in a fast growing, shade-producing, big, leafy river birch next to the patio.  I even have one, a four foot tall sapling that needs a home.  In two years I will have plenty of shade on a summer day.
  • Degree of Difficulty: yikes!  Digging up the sourwood has me nervous.  It is a finicky tree, the roots don't like disturbance, and even though it is too small to shade anything, it is as tall as I am and has been in the ground for five years.  Can I do this?  Should I do this?  Why would I think about doing this?
Planting the river birch next to the patio will be easy.

This is just the first installment in a longer list of things that need to be moved, corrected, and altered in my garden in 2012.  I have all winter to plan, and a full season to anticipate how the heck I am going to get all these things done.  I'm exhausted already.

Stay tuned for the second installment of corrections to be made.


  1. This wears me out just reading it. Whew, you have an aggressive list already. I hope the little tree survives. It is so pretty.

  2. Hey, Laurrie, I'm with Lisa: already exhausted. I do admire your planning gene. And, I fully understand moving plants; mine should be on wheels.

    Beautiful sourwood. If you decide you just don't want to deal with it, ahem, I'll gladly take it off your hands.

  3. I laughed so hard at your wish that the yellowroot shrubs would walk themselves out three feet! We should get the scientists on that because removing sod is the worst.

    I'm excited to see how the moving of the sourwood goes.

  4. Ooohh! Projects! I love projects! 1) Hire someone to remove the sod. If you get a sod cutter maybe a local teen in need of $ will do it. Seriously!

    2) The amsonia and geraniums look great together. I'd stick the blueberries elsewhere.

    3) Call an arborist about the little tree. Moving trees makes me nervous, too. They might also be able to explain why it's growing so slowly. It is a beauty, though.

  5. Lisa, Thanks. I hope the little sourwood can make the move.

    Lee, Wouldn't it be great if all our plants were wheeled and could be moved about on a whim. The sourwood stays here, it's one of my favorites (if I don't kill it), but you surely need one in your artistic garden.

    Heather, I'm still holding out hope that the yellowroot plants will move themselves forward. On their own.

    Tammy, You know, your ambitious moves and renewals of your garden spaces were the inspiration for me. After I saw what you planned and executed I knew I could take this (and more) on. I do have an arborist that I am going to consult (maybe hire) on moving the sourwood.

  6. Gardens are never done, this is why gardeners always have something ... or in your case ... a long list of somethings to do. I rarely list all the gardening tasks I want to complete. It's just too overwhelming.

  7. Great job planning out the tasks one by one, it makes it so much easier to take on when it's broken up like that. Glad to read about your experience with blueberries. I have been considering blueberries here for some time (they love our acidic soil) but was not sure where to plant them. Now I know to make sure and give them room when I do plant.

  8. Laurrie,I never dig sod up anymore, way to lazy. I just (try to)plan ahead, cover the sod with a thick layer of cardboard and newsapapers, and then weigh it down. I use top soil, as I like to raise my beds, but you could use just mulch. After a few months, the grass has died enough you could plant through it. If the plants are shallow rooted enough, and you use top soil on the cardboard, you can plant directly on top.

  9. Joene, I couldn't live without my lists!

    Marguerite, I hope you do plant blueberries. You'll have to fight the birds for the fruits though.

    Deborah, I have used that method before and it does work to kill off the sod for new gardens. That's a possibility for dealing with this strip.

  10. Laurrie, Deborah beat me to it - you could do the newspaper(though I prefer cardboard)thing anytime and be ready to plant by midsummer, I'd guess. Life is too short to dig turf!I'll be interested to see the blueberries in their new home.

  11. The idea of moving a sourwood of that size would make me nervous too. I've read they dislike being transplanted.

    I do not envy you moving all of that Yellowroot. lol It looks great and has made a beautiful border.

  12. Cyndy, Life really is too short to dig sod up!

    Sweetbay, Why oh why is the one tree I want to move the tree that dislikes transplanting? I truly hope I can do this without killing it.


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