Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Toby Did It, Again

Toby has been at it again. We have more honeysuckle carnage in the backyard. It looks as if four or five of the shrubby trees have been lopped and sawed down. The remaining stumps were leveled with an axe and one was even ripped from the ground, roots and all.

Toby must have overheard me declaring war on the honeysuckle. The invasive trees have a lovely name, but an ugly habit. Commonly used as screens, they grow to 30 feet high and, from the outside, have a graceful, arching shape. Beneath the trees, though, a wasteland is created. The dense shade is uninhabitable except for ivy (English and poison), Virginia creeper, and vinca (all undesirable). Looking up beneath the trees, one is confronted with a thicket of dead, naked branches, shaded out by those above. My neighbor, Mary, has a habit of snapping the brittle branches off as we chat across the fence. Even uglier, is the sight of a row of honeysuckles are pruned into ungainly hedges. (They are usually, incorrectly, pruned in a “V”, revealing their naked legs to the world.) Legend has it that a woman in Hyde Park brought the bush honeysuckle to her yard from China. Whether or not that is true, the tree has spread across the Midwest and is listed as an invasive species in many states. The bright red berries are eaten by birds and the seed is spread. In the wild, the exotic honeysuckle outcompetes native plant species and contributes to increased predation of birds’ nests. (See Roy Rich’s article on invasive honeysuckle in the Midwest. Of particular interest, are his suggestions for site level control and eradication.)

Both for ethical and aesthetic reasons, I would like to rid my yard of the honeysuckle. The entire SW border of our property is lined with a double row of the trees. I am reducing them to a single row. (I cannot remove both rows because the parallel row resides on or on the border of my neighbors’ properties.) Along the NE border of the backyard, I initially planned on removing every other bush this year, and the remaining honeysuckle next year. However, it looks like Toby decided to, instead, remove all but one. I can’t blame him; it’s easy to get carried away when pruning. Hopefully the goatsbeard I planted along the fence will quickly obscure our view of one neighbor’s trashy yard.

To replace the honeysuckle, I am planting redbud (Cercis canadensis), Carolina spice bush (Calycanthus floridus), Carolina silver-bells (Halesia carolina), Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), spice bush (Lindera benzoin), hydrangeas, azaleas, and camellias. I’m underplanting the trees and shrubs with goatsbeard, ferns, heuchera, hosta, and spring ephemerals. The result should be much more interesting than the honeysuckle monoculture.

In the end, I don’t mind Toby’s work, but I wish he wouldn’t leave me with the shrubby mess to clean up. It takes many times longer to chop the limbs into manageable sizes and stuff them into yard waste bags than it does to whack the trees down. Where is Toby when you really need him?


Anonymous Amy said...

God, I loathe those damn things. We have been fighting them for the almost five years we've been in our house.

I vaguely remember having them back home in Toledo, but we liked them back them. All the kids in the neighborhood would hide in the open space at ground level. I spent a lot of summer days with my friends under them.

Good times, good times. But I still hate them now.

6:20 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

You need a chipper shredder. Yes, that's what you need.

Good luck, I like your replacement choises. I've been wanting a Carolina silverbell for a long time, but can't find it any of the garden centers around here.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Kasmira said...

Carol - If you make a trip out east to Cincinnati, check out Marvin's Organic Gardens in Lebanon, OH. I purchased the Carolina silverbells, Carolina spicebush, and cornus mas there.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I am nursing up two small red buckeyes to replace my honeysuckle hedge.

The reason I'm reluctant to remove these bushes (which I've pruned to 'v's because I like the artistic look of the bare trunks - an aesthetic decision on my part) is because they provide early flowers for the hummingbirds and also host a huge colony of ladybug larvae each year.

I don't know if the buckeye will host the ladybugs, but I've already had to remove caterpillars that the poor plants couldn't support at the twig size they are at... so I look forward to spring flowers and summer butterflies!

8:48 AM  
Blogger DWPittelli said...

It's a healthy shrub that feeds wildlife with nectar and berries. I wouldn't want a whole area of them shading everything out, but I like the plant. Like most large weeds, it's pretty easy to keep on top of. It's not like some insidious tiny creeping thing such as Aegopodium that you can never keep up with.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like most large weeds, it's pretty easy to keep on top of?? Forgive me, but you are being extremely narrow-visioned. Yes, this plant feeds birds and butterflies, but so do many natives, which don't shade out native plants and destroy habitat. Where do you think the thousands of berries that "feed birds" go? Certainly not in your yard? This is how honeysuckle is invading swaths of natural woodland, completely unmitigated. As long as you hold on to your "easy to control" plant, you're hastening the degradation of your state's natural woodlands. Don't be so stupid.

8:54 PM  

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