Trying to Fix the Front Yard

I had no idea what might be in the garden. There were weeds for sure, with some mystery trees, a straggly lilac bush, a couple of Rose of Sharon and a struggling forsythia.

A couple of scrawny tulips came up in the spring, and that was it for spring flowers.

A succession of Streetview images of the years that preceeded :

  • 2009, with an overgrown thicket growing by the driveway, with the rest of the yard looking like a mess:

Screen Shot 2009.png

– 2012, with the driveway thicket hacked down, with the trees and brush on the opposite side of the lot asserting themselves:

Screen Shot 2012.png

– 2014, with the thicket almost regrown, and a pair of wretched emerald cedars doing fine:

Screen Shot 2014.png

– 2016, look at that thicket grow !

Screen Shot 2016.png

As trees leafed out I discovered what I was dealing with – lots and lots of Manitoba Maple, with some hackberry that planted itself. There was also a super abundance of goldenrod – which spreads with prickly underground rhizomes.

I liked the overgrown haunted look, and the way this shielded me from the used car lot next door. BUT – this was a mess.

Because of the social issues in the area, a leafy area to hide or drink in my yard was a bad idea. I found several used syringes around the perimeter of the yard, too. I thinned out the strip by the driveway in the fall, and was really surprised at how dense the vegetation was. I found a fence section and an abandoned mirror under all the growth in there, invisible.

I was pretty timid when I started digging up the goldenrod, and cutting down the smaller  saplings. One evening around dusk as I was trimming away a woman was sitting drinking in my bush. I couldn’t see her and she didn’t see me until I was a couple of feet away – that’s how dense it was. We were both surprised !

If this had been picturesque ivy, climbing roses or even Virginia Creeper I would have thinned it out then let it ramble away.

I sat on the side of my steps and stared at the patch for days, wondering how to fix this mess. A friend brought me a used Sawzall, which we discovered would easily trim most of the small brush.

The more I trimmed, the more there was to trim. Under the worst area near the driveway I found a sealed bottle of Absolut Vodka. It must have rolled out of someone’s bag, lost forever. It looked like it had been there for a long time, with a partially sun bleached label. I put it on the curb, for anyone to take. It took a few days until someone brave or foolish enough came along.

I wanted to create some privacy. The car lot was on a higher elevation, and there was a short chainlink fence on top of a retaining wall. They parked their inventory very densely, with the bumpers facing my yard. There was only just enough room for a thin person to walk between the rows of cars to have a look. The cars were like another layer of protection. However, it would be nicER to not see them, and attractive plants would be better than aggressive weed trees.

On the way to the grocery store I passed a few mature Smoke Bushes. A couple had been pruned into trees, the others were large and wide bushes. The kind I liked had dark purple almost black leaves. The internet claimed these were hardy plants, that grew fast, that could get to be 15 or more feet tall. I found some photos of a bunch growing together to form a hedge. This seemed like a good solution.

I realized that I needed to cut all that mess down, and that the sooner they could get planted, the sooner they could start to grow. I hated to lose the shade, but I loathed those trees.


It looked like this when I was done. I left the Wedding Wreath Spirea alone, until I could find someone to help me to dig it out to move it elsewhere. I discovered a clematis, that grew modestly up the fence, so I left that,  too. Finally it looked like this:


This was possibly even worse looking !

These little bushes were what I bought to fill all that space:

I planted the smoke bushes and they survived. I sprinkled some Cosmos seeds and hoped for the best. By the end of august it looked like I was trying at least ?

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