How To Do Anything

Think of this as a motivational speech, story, blog post. In order to do something, anything, one must first believe that it can be done. It sounds simple, but can be difficult for some to see themselves accomplishing a goal, especially if it is an intimidating one. Like a sixty-plus year old small boned woman deciding to dig out a dozen barberries, Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’, that had been left to their own devices for ten years and grown much larger than anticipated.

The planting of these pickery shrubs was begun right after we closed on this house, in 1996. We were not living here then, our daughters were going to a nearby college and we found it was cheaper to buy this very modest house rather than pay for two dormitory fees. It also gave them a place to live during the summer, when the dorms were emptied and gave us a place to stay while visiting. I owned a small landscaping company at the time and brought plants to make an easy to care for but attractive front yard. Blue Star junipers and red barberries lined the steep slope between the front porch and the lower lawn area.

When we moved into this house in 2000, after relocating from Texas, it was decided that the lawn would be no more. The barberries were exended down to the triple row of liriope along the street on the western third of the space. A yoshino cherry was planted in the middle, with winterberry hollies under. Evergreen azaleas filled the eastern portion. Junipers were also planted, then moved as everything became larger. One row of the twenty barberries was removed as well for the same reason.

Fast forwarding to the present, the front yard, which has been untouched for several years is not at all pleasing as the first thing seen in the approach to the Fairegarden. We began the renovation by removing several of the azaleas on the left side and replacing them with Queen of the prairie, Filipendula rubra and Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’. The azaleas were easy to dig up, being shallow rooted. Attention was then turned to the barberry side. Bindweed and the aggressive form of Sweet Autumn Clematis are taking over the tops of the red leaved shrubs. Last year I crawled around under the trunks and tried to eradicate those vines. The thorns pierced even the protective pants and jacket from below as we scooted on bended knee and from the above from the lower branches. This year, the vines are back, bigger than ever.

This brings us back to the topic of the title. The task at hand is a daunting one. The area has been studied from every angle as a plan has been formulated. Visualization has occurred, seeing in the mind’s eye the digging of each barberry. There has been thinking of what wonderful plantings might go in the space afterwards. It has been decided that a double row will be left standing, pruned into submission and freed of the aggressive vines. In this, and every endeavor there is a requirement, a belief that it can be accomplished. It is necessary to begin, that belief, for doubt is a terrible jail cell that leads to procrastination and inaction. One has to believe in themself and their abilities.

I was blessed to have had parents that gave me the greatest gift, the belief that I could do anything I set my mind to do. Parents, please bestow the same belief to your own children, and everyone, do whatever you can to help others who might be lacking in self-confidence, no matter their age. Long ago there was a show on tv, an after school special for kids. One program has stuck with me through the years. In it, there was woman who was magic, sort of a witch, that was helping a teenage boy with a problem he had. She whispered in his ear that this magic word would enable him to do whatever it was he was attempting, no matter how difficult the task. The word was NACI. The boy would say the word over and over and lo and behold, he could do the thing he did not believe he could do. At the end, he asked the woman about the magic word, how she had discovered its power. She told him the real answer. NACI is really I CAN, backwards. That is the real magic, isn’t it? I can do it!

And so, back to the barberries. At the very first light, even though it is now the end of June/early July, a rain jacket and ski pants were donned, along with heavy gloves and muck boots. Hood up, glasses strapped firmly in place, shovel, felcos, loppers and the Cobrahead hand hoe were the weapons used to do battle. The knowledge that barberries are shallow rooted was learned from the previous row that was removed from the space several years ago. The shrubs have grown since then, a lot, and they were not to be popped up out of the ground after a circle of shovel prunings was done, as before. A method became apparent after the first large barberry was wrestled out, using the shovel to dig a circle all around the trunks. The Cobrahead hoe was used to dig down between and under the roots, the felcos were used to cut them close to the trunk and again several inches away to allow better access with the tools. Keeping the removed soil in a neat pile makes for easier refilling of the hole once the bush is a goner. Pry up carefully with the shovel once all of the perimeter roots have been severed, and feel underneath for any still attached that are preventing the total removal of the undesirable shrub. Cut and clip and then Voila! Success comes when the whole thing can be rolled down to the curbside for the city to pick up.

On the first day, three bushes were dug in three hours, a good beginning. There were nine more to go, three or four more days work, done in the earliest morning before it gets too hot and after the sun rises enough to illuminate that part of the yard. There are several plants that would be suitable for the soon to be open space, but Hosta ‘Royal Standard’, which was added along the front earlier this year, divided from existing plants, will be continued to the end of the property and up the hill. Yellow evergreen Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ had been underplanted beneath the shrubs and trees of the whole front yard at the time of the lawn removal and has remained in place. This is shaping up nicely, so far.

To end, I would like to share a scene from an old movie that springs to mind when thinking about the power of positive thinking. It is from the Frank Sinatra vehicle, A Hole In The Head, 1959, a duet with Ole Blue Eyes, then young, and Eddie Hodges playing his son. Enjoy!

High Hopes

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23 Responses to How To Do Anything

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Of course you can do it Frances oh but what a tough job. We have 4 barberries sprinkled around the garden. I have moved them all at one time or another. I usually tie them into a bundle before starting to dig them out. It seems to keep those grabby sticks from being so aggressive. Your new planting area will be so nice. I love the weeping blue spruce on your hillside. It looks majestic standing there greeting people.

    Thanks for your supportive confidence, Lisa, that really does help! It was a tough job, one of the toughest ones done here recently. There are pickery bushes here, including roses and pyracantha, the birds do love them, but man, they are lethal to humans, even with gloves. The weeping tree looks odd with the design, another what was I thinking planting, but, oh well!

  2. gittan says:

    Wow! There’s a lot of work to get these shrubsout of the ground! But I also believe that we are abel to do everything if we really want to, that’s my motto. I’m looking forward to se more of this project of yours / Kram gittan

    Thanks dear Gittan. It was a lot of work, but gardening is about work, isn’t it? I know you are a NACI kind of girl, too.

  3. Carol says:

    Naci, of course! Where there is a will there is a way, and now where there were barberries there are new places to plant. Hope you didn’t get too scratched up digging all those out.

    Hi Carol, thanks. Scratches will heal, but the pride of accomplishing a difficult task lasts much longer. Onward!

  4. Randy Emmitt says:


    I cut down a barberry where we put in a fence. Finally after two years of mowing it, it died without needing to dig out. Hope the hostas do well, Meg’s mothers hostas are stems only where the derr got them.

    Hi Randy, thanks for visiting, nice to see you here. Good deal on the death of your barberry without having to dig it. There have been deer spottings in my neighborhood, something entirely new. Let us hope they don’t see these hostas.

  5. Paul Daniels says:

    Lady of Fairegarden, I reckon you can do about anything you set you mind to doing, whether its moving BOULDERS or BARBERRIES…..and that ain’t no joke.

    Gosh Paul, thanks for that vote of confidence! I like that title, too. 🙂

  6. Layanee says:

    It reminds me of ‘the little train that could’ story. I’ll bet you have good muscles about now!

    Oh, Layanee, that is a good story, I should have mentioned it! You would be surprised at how pathetically weak my muscles are, but my will is made of iron!

  7. nellie says:

    Don’t you sometimes wish something had interfered in the starting of an act that gets incredibly harder as you get into it. Congratulations on your digging.

    Thanks Nellie. I wish someone had talked me out of planting those barberries in the first place. Oh, yeah, my neighbor tried to! I should have listened to her!

  8. Cindy, MCOK says:

    You are one determined gardener! Love that last picture … I want to walk up that path and knock on your door!

    Thanks Cindy. Come on up, my door is always open!

  9. Ann Rein says:

    Recently I had to remove a quince from my border, but elected to hire a friend of my son to do it. Lyme disease and arthritis have made my hands pretty weak, plus I knew this quince from previous experience at my mom’s and my sister’s – it does not want to die. It took us four years of steadily pulling shoots to get rid of mom’s. She had purchased it years ago, and one for each of us, because we thought it was pretty, it was, a nice apricot, but it was a thug, invading everywhere, making it impossible to garden in any bed it was in….so it’s gone. I know I’ll be dealing with shoots for years, but Joe had to dig a hole over three feet deep to get rid of it – and there’s a 3″ wide root at the bottom on\f that hole that I really think will resprout…..I’ll take thorns aboveground over tenacious roots below!

    Wow, that was/is a scary plant, Ann! I am glad Joe was able to dig it out, but you will probably have to keep at it, as you say. We were lucky the barberries were shallow rooted, or it would have had to be hired work, possibly with machinery.

    • Ann Rein says:

      Yes, a young, strong back is worth its weight in gold! Right now I’m suffering from ‘cobblestone elbow’, my spring project was ringing eleven 4×8′ (and a few longer) beds with cobblestones, and I’m paying dearly for it! But we have to keep going, she who rests, rusts!

      I’ve enjoyed your blog, I found you via a Google search for Lavender Wand info – my mother and I are herb gardeners from way back, she’s a 16th and 17th century kitchen garden specialist, our roots run deep into herbalism, her grandmother, my great-grandmother, was a German herbalist. When the world wearies and ceases to satisfy, there’s always the garden – my favorite garden quote! Good to ‘meet’ you.

      Oooh, even better, you’re in Texas – which part? I’m very interested, I’m thinking of someday relocating down there, but I can’t without knowing I can continue to garden and beekeep!

      Take care,


      Good to meet you too, Ann. I moved back to Tennessee from Texas, north of Houston, in 2000. I will say this about Texas, or that part, anyway. It is HOT! Herbs were my first foray into serious gardening as well. How precious is the time you get to spend with your mother. I have gardening offspring, too, and it is certainly a topic we can all share happily. Love that you found Fairegarden via the lavender wands!

  10. Rose says:

    What a great motivational speech, Frances! I’ll have to come back and read this everytime I feel a bit overwhelmed and procrastinate on accomplishing some dreaded task. You’ve proven that perseverance–and hard work–can accomplish so much. No wonder your garden is so beautiful!

    Thanks Rose, I do hope it came off as motivational and not bragging, always a worry. Gardening is hard work, there is not doubt about it, and many tasks are not all that fun, either. But the payoff is very great. There is nothing I would rather be doing.

  11. Diana says:

    What a great story, and a lot of work! You have such determination; it’s fun to read about your huge undertakings. And, I had no idea you’d lived in Texas!

    Thanks Diana, so nice to see you here. We lived north of Houston from 1997 to 2000. It was hot!

  12. Leslie says:

    So much work! I have that same “I can do it” belief. I will admit it has gotten me into trouble few times. But I just keep going!

    Thanks Leslie. So true, that can do it-ness can get us in trouble. We would be a great pair, wouldn’t we? HA

  13. Randy says:

    “a belief that it can be accomplished. It is necessary to begin, that belief, for doubt is a terrible jail cell that leads to procrastination and inaction. One has to believe in themself and their abilities.” That’s a powerful statement! May I quote your from time to time?

    Hi Randy, thanks for visiting, nice to see you! I feel strongly about our time on Earth, and making the most of it, life is too short! (My mother’s favorite saying.) Of course you may quote, dear!

  14. Cinj says:

    I think that’s one of the reasons my son won’t learn to ride a bike. It really is too bad too, because there are so many things that they claim are to hard for them to do. I don’t know where they ever got that attitude because I certainly haven’t instilled it in them.

    That is a whole lot of work! I have been reworking the area in front of the shed we built a couple of years ago. Lots of work, but SOOO worth it in the end.

    Hi Cinj, so nice to see you here. I hope your son will eventually make the connection about believing in himself. It is important and never too late to learn. Working in the garden is quite rewarding, if hard, I agree.

  15. Oops, there goes another bar-ber-ry plant! Now I’ll be applying NACI magic to complete all my work, so I can go to Seattle with a clean slate. Not much time for blogging or reading blogs in the meantime, unfortunately (and ironically). But I have Hi-i-igh hopes…

    HA HA Helen, you are such a good singer! Time is crunched here too, and I do look forward to seeing you again in Seattle, with Hi-apple pie in the sky-hopes!

  16. Lola says:

    Wow, that is a daunting job, but with the attitude that a person can do anything it wants too, the job will prevail. Even now with my limitations I seem to get things done that need be done plus what I want to do. I think the key is to have the drive to “want” to do any task. That is what, I think, makes us gardeners unique.
    Way to go Frances. I think that is great. Let us “see” the final results.

    Hi Lola, thanks. I am glad you have the will to accomplish things, too. Gardeners can do most anything! The 7th photo is the *after* shot.

  17. I’m so impressed. Barberries are nasty things, and just pruning them is a daunting task.

    Thanks MMD. Those pickers are awful, one of the reasons the barberries had been allowed to get so large. I just ignored them.

  18. You have got your work cut out for you! High Hopes was one of my favorite movies, going to give my grandson the Naci word, doesn’t always think he can do anything!


    Hi Eileen, thanks. It was a good movie, made an impression upon me as a kid when I saw it, too. I couldn’t remember the name of the movie at first, thought it was Pal Joey, but thanks to our friend Google, discovered the clip from A Hole In The Head. I told my grandson the NACI story, too. He was impressed, (and is 5)!

  19. patientgardener says:

    and of course when you have acheived the thing that seemed huge and daunting you get a really big feel good rush. Well done you for not giving up

    Thanks Helen, so nice to see you here. It does make one feel good to have accomplished such a daunting task. Glad to have it behind me!

  20. commonweeder says:

    I just read that physically doing challenging work, especially if it somehow involves activities that touch major life concerns like food and shelter makes us happy. It is all about the way our brain is wired. You must be really happy these days, feeling the satisfaction of completing this enormous project. I’m ashamed to say I complain about fighting my autumn clematis.

    Thanks for that, Pat. Physically challenging includes just about everything for women of a certain age, anymore. HA The Clematis will not be defeated so easily as the barberries. I will be fighting it for years to come. It is growing in other parts of the garden, never completely eradicated.

  21. Gail says:

    Frances, Thank you , thank you, thank you! You continue to inspire me! I love your can do, I mean Naci attitude! xxoogail

    Dear Gail, thank YOU! Inspiration comes from many places, the will to act upon that inspiration can be more difficult to find.

  22. CurtissAnn says:

    I’m just now, right when I need it, reading this post. You were fortunate to have such parents to teach you to believe in yourself and your abilities. Many, many of us did not, but I discovered that God looked out for me, that He had a plan, and while my road to believing has been rocky, I can see I have been lead. I have had to dig many prickly ‘bushes’ of doubt from my life, dug them, gone over them and around them, and in the doing I have built soul muscle. Today, too, I am grateful that I’ve been able to pass encouragement on to my son and grandchildren. Thank you, dear Frances, for sharing with us all.

    Hi CurtissAnn, thank you for reading and sharing your own experiences. Life can be difficult for us all. I am glad you found strength and have been able to pass it along.

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