Friday, April 15, 2005

The Yews Must Die

I’ve got one yew out of the ground and three left to go. The first yew (to the right of the doorway), was 90% dead. It obviously needed to be removed. The other three bushes are healthy, so why would I want to remove a perfectly good plant?

Perhaps it was an overdose of evergreens as I was growing up, but I think the yews are ugly. In fact, I think all of the ubiquitous, evergreen shrubs planted along foundations are unattractive. Whether they are well-kept gumdrops or neglected monsters, I want to rip them out. There has to be a better idea for foundation plantings.

Since moving into our home in October, I’ve been studying the houses I pass on the bus each day, searching for foundation planting ideas. Most of the houses have the hideous evergreen shrubs I despise. I’ve found no inspiration. A few houses had deciduous shrubs planted outside, but, because it was winter, the plants looked pathetic and the houses naked. I delayed decision until spring.

The first thing I needed was confirmation that taking well-established, healthy (except for one) yews out of our front bed was not some sort of landscape crime. I found support from my fellow GardenWeb members for “yanking the evergreens” at the Landscape Design forum. Browsing the internet, I learned that evergreens are traditionally planted to make new houses look “finished” and to provide winter interest. Frankly, though, most people don’t give a hoot about how interesting their yard is in the winter. I certainly didn’t pause at my yews in December and think, “My, how interesting my foundation planting looks!” Instead, I looked at them and thought, “How boring! They look exactly the same all year long.” Then I hurried inside, out of the cold. Clearly, the yews must go.

If I don’t want needled evergreens, then my choices are limited. One option is broad-leaf “evergreens,” such as rhododendrons and holly. We’ve got plenty of both. I’d like a little variety and some FLOWERS (besides rhodie flowers). I'm left with choosing among deciduous shrubs and perennials that die to the ground at the end of each season. Therefore, my garden is going to be bare earth and dead stalks in the winter, but I am willing to sacrifice winter interest for summer blooms.

The current plan for the foundation planting is as follows.
1. Remove the yews! 25% complete.
2. Build semi-circular raised beds around the corners of the porch for climbing hydrangeas. I was unpleasantly surprised to find that the footer extends too far out to plant the hydrangeas in the ground. I’ve got the right bed built, but I’m living with it to see how I like it before duplicating it on the other side. 40% complete.
3. Plant butterfly bush in the center of the left bed, between the windows. 50% complete (I bought the plant!)
4. Plant Carolina Jasmine Margarita (hardy to zone 6!) to grow on trellis at the left side of the left bed. 50% complete (ordered the plant and installed the trellis).
5. Buy and plant a rhododendron to replace the dead yew to the right of the entryway. Although I’m not a rhododendron fan, it will match the other two rhodies planted there. 0% complete.
6. Rip out black horehound that has overtaken the right bed. 5% complete.
7. Plant perennials in the vacant spaces. Shade lovers go to the right and sun lovers to the left. 5% complete (seedlings growing).
8. Mulch! 0% complete.


Blogger Kristin said...

I know how you feel. We don't have yews (in fact, I don't even know what they are), but we have an overabundance of hollies and boxwoods. I want to dig up the boxwoods, which are the only plants in the front beds, and replace them with more interesting shrubs and flowers. We have a really tall crawlspace, so we have room for something a little taller anyway. Hmmm ....

8:00 AM  
Anonymous heather said...

DOWN WITH YEWS! So glad to hear I'm not the only one that hates them. We had a new construction home that we moved into when we were living in Texas (we're in WI now) about 5 years ago and the only thing I ever did in that house was rip out the 3 evergreens from the back yard! Honestly I'd rather have no plants than one of those!

Sounds like you've got a great plan for what to replace the yews with. Maybe I'll pick your brain when it comes time to do my own yard.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

We've got 'em too--yews and boxwoods--and I'm really excited to get rid of them this summer. We're either going to replace with rhodies (we've got several on the perimeters of the property as hedges) to keep things consistent, or evergreen azaleas.


11:04 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Rip ‘em out! Rip ‘em out! Harder! Harder!

I have a scorched earth policy when it comes to big bushes and shrubs up against the foundation. There is the aesthetics aspect, which varies from person to person, but for me it is the fact that they are bad for your house. I left one rhododendron at the back of the house, because it is so beautiful when it blooms. I also left another small bush, that I’m not sure what it is, but it has these small red flowers this time of year that attract humming birds like flies to you-know-what.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Scott in Washington said...

Yews’ve really got it out for those shrubs, huh?

The first summer we moved in I took great pleasure in taking the chainsaw and pickaxe to the F*@#@ing juniper bushes planted around our house. I think everyone (and their dogs too probably) planted juniper and rhododendrons in the PNW in the fifties. I don't have any problem with Rhodies and kept ours in place. But after being required to pull blackberries and weeds out of the junipers at my parents place for so many years and having the prickly little bits get down in my gloves, and knowing the weeds would be right back in another month, it was with no small sense of vindication that I killed and then burned the bushes that became mine to dispose of.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Jenny Wren said...

It was you! I was trying to come up with some good reason to explain why I want to get rid of 4 perfectly fine boxwoods in the front of my house. What I wanted to say was "BECAUSE I HATE THEM!" and that should be good enough but I'm with you. They're boring. They're blah. In my case, they're overgrown. So yews of the world - watchout! Same to you boxwoods! The junipers came out last summer.'re safe.

10:20 AM  
Blogger kwminva said...

I came across this blog by googling "ripping out shrubs"- we have some overgrown and ugly foundation plantings, made up primarily of japanese hollies (I always thought they were boxwood) and I want to get rid of 9 of them (yes 9) that are at least 4' tall and wide to clear my space for planning a new bed; I will transplant the 5 forsythia that were also crammed up against the house. A landscaper wants $2,000 to do this for us- any tips on how to do it ourself and save the $ for new plants? Kim

8:31 AM  

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