Do I have to get rid of my mature plants?

It's not always the best moment, but it can happen to anyone who owns a home and has landscaping.


Is it time?

I remember working with a client on a hot summer day a few years ago. We were walking around the front of their home looking at these rather large shrubs. He paused for a few seconds when I ask him if he was wanting to keep any of the current shrubs.

For me as a Landscape Designer, I could tell these shrubs had done their job and were ready to move on. However, I could see clearly, my client's concern with losing their mature shrubs, and planting something smaller.

Despite the hours he would spend cutting back the shrubs on a regular basis, and despite their obvious overgrown nature. My client was faced with a question a lot of clients face when thinking about a new landscape.


My client looked at me and then back at the shrubs, then back at me again. I smiled, realizing the dilemma he was in.


The truth was settling in, and it was a tough moment.


Trying to hang on to them just a little he asked, "Do they all have to be removed?"


This is really the most important question. Obviously the home was his to do whatever he wanted he pleased. However, what he really wanted to know was whether I could design around any of the current plantings.


As a landscape designer, there is nothing more satisfying then using mature plants in a design. It's not always possible. Occasionally there will be a plant in the right place at the right time, with the right height. When this happens, we (landscape designers) love to save those plants.


Sadly, there was nothing I could do to save the shrubs at this particular clients home. They were too large, and too close to the house. The roots had overgrown the sides of the foundation and the branches were exhausting the wood on the overhangs. They simply had to go.


As a Designer, it's important to be honest with your clients about what needs to happen, both good and bad. Some homes just don't get off to a good start, and they need to be redone.


I'd like to give you a few things to help you to identify whether plants need to be removed or not.


1. Is the stump of the shrub closer then two and a half feet to the house?

You can always look down at the base of the stump and check the distance between it and you home. This rule particularly applies to large shrubs (over 5 feet tall).


2. Has the shrub been cut down before?

Quite often a shrub will be shorter (less then 5 feet) but only because it has been cut down before. Shrubs very often will sprout an entire small shrub from a large stump. These shrubs need to come out to make room for something which fits the area.


3. Is the shrub covering a window, or blocking a doorway?

Sometimes shrubs can be cut back a lot and still be saved. However, you should strongly consider removing shrubs or trees which block your windows. The reason is simple; they need to be replaced with something more manageable. The old saying, "Don't live in past mistakes!" seems fitting here. Be careful not to keep something which is only bringing you work and frustration.


In the end, plants are wonderful living things which improve the world we live in. Nobody likes to just destroy plants, but the environment you live in is what creates your quality of life.


Sometimes you just have to let go.


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