Should we cut these down?

PamBrSeptember 14, 2013

This is my first post, so I hope I'm in the right place. I've learned so much from your site! We just moved into a new home, and there are two large holly bushes that have been pruned into tree-shaped obstructions to our porch. The photo is a few months old, so they are even larger now, and the crepe mertyl in front of the garage is also huge and in full bloom. My question is this: don't these holly trees seem unsuited for their location? They're blocking so much of the front of the house. Is there any way to move something that large? Should we cut them down or leave them? I'd hate to hack them down, as they are large and healthy, but I am not a fan of how much they block the front of the house. I'd appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

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Okay. So I did this quick mock-up and may have answered my own question. Does this look better to you?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 9:12PM
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What program did you use to "remodel" the changes. (When I do it in Paint, there's usually "scar tissue.")

The house looks like a happy house, but the existing landscape, sorry to say, looks engulfing, smothering and high maintenance. I'd make some changes.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 4:39AM
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Thank you for your reply. I completely agree with what you've said. I cannot stand the severe, overly manicured look that we're starting with, and I love, love, love the changes you've made. At our former home, I had a beautiful landscape and garden that I dearly miss. It had started as builder-grade, which is pretty much a blank slate, so I was able to put in a lot of natural, flowing choices that softened everything. It seems harder to start with this established set of plants that are far outside my tastes. The small "pouf" shrubs are horrid. My son tried to sit on one yesterday when we were trimming things. It will be a work in progress for a long while, and I really appreciate the validation and ideas you've provided. I think I'm going to start with what seem the biggest eyesore ... those holly "trees".

Thanks so much!

P.S. I did use Paint on my rendering ... some cutting and pasting of windows and railings, and dragging other areas to be larger.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 8:39AM
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I don't hate it as it is now but Yardvark's sample is much improved. Yes get rid of the holly I hope you have a sharp shovel.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 3:50PM
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PamBr, using Paint, you did a meticulous job, since "cleaning up" takes much more time than drawing features. I didn't see any of the tell-tale seams and pattern repeats that would give it away.

I would not say that "manicuring" is the problem with the existing landscape. You latched on to the most glaring error ... holly and crape myrtle placement. Beyond that, having a shorter hedge (in this case perforated) directly in front of a taller hedge is always a mistake in my book. The hedges exceed the length of architectural features and ignore them as well. It's fine for lawn and groundcover to slope, but the plantings that are, in essence, an extension of the building, they should be trimmed level and uniform (in concert with the capabilities of the particular plant and its desired finish. In this case, there is all manner of level, size and angle changes ... which brings about a disheveled look. (I'm saying that something akin to manicuring would be an improvement! There is a look of scruffiness to many of the shrubs and the low-hanging branches of the lawn tree.)

While the house looks much better with badly placed small trees removed, I think it could be improved further yet with small trees that address relatively vacant wall space. (Not to smother the wall, but to use it as white space.) Use trees that are EASILY kept in the 12' ht. range. Many options would come from plants normally thought of as a "shrubs." BTW, since you're not likely to install a large root ball in the places where the hollies are and crape myrtle is, to remove them, it would be easiest to cut them off flush to the ground and "paint" the root stumps with Round-up (or 2,4-d) concentrate. (A ready-mixed, diluted form will not be strong enough. I've had excellent results with the old plants not re-growing.)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 10:12PM
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Yaardvark, thank you again for your thoughtful response. I see what you mean about the existing plantings not being in harmony with the architectural aspects of the home. One of the things I like about your re-rendering of the photo is the softer lines of the plantings. I think buildings, being strong, solid, and geometric need that softening aspect of the growth around them. Too severe an outline on the plants only makes the whole scene seem more sterile.

I like your idea of using small trees to frame the windows on the garage and fill those blank wall spaces. I would like to use trees rather than shrubs to avoid the need to shape them. Some dogwood and Japanese Maple varieties are around 20' when mature and might work well, and perhaps crape mertyles are an option as well, though those only have their full shape for half the year.

I'm attaching photos I took this morning. I think some of the leveling issues were improved when we trimmed the overgrowth on Saturday. There is still a lot to do!

Thank you also for your advice about removing the hollies. They are squeezed into a small place, and you're right, nothing with a big root ball belongs where they are. We can save ourselves some back-breaking work following your advice.

Thank you so much for your feedback. I'm saving your post for future reference as we move forward with improving that front landscape.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 8:13AM
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"I would like to use trees rather than shrubs to avoid the need to shape them." Both need shaping The line between the two is fine.

"...crape myrtles are an option as well, though those only have their full shape for half the year." If cut just before growth, the time without canopy is barely a month. They are good for size control (as the one in your picture illustrates.)

Good Luck with your landscape.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 11:46PM
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