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!
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