I have not had a good run with bushes, as my space is just too small for most of the ones I love. Or, as is usually the case, I have no idea what to do with a particular bush so I plop it into the ground until I can figure out what to do with it. Both of these situations applied to the butterfly bush. I put it in the ground next to a retaining wall that separates my front yard and my neighbors' driveway.
God, the maintenance involved! Cut, cut, cut. Always cutting. But it provided a nice (albeit massive) privacy screen between the neighbors and I. Whenever I thought about cutting it down, I'd see butterflies flocking to it and would feel guilty, and I would leave it alone. And then, because I'm a total wackadoodle, I'd feel doubly guilty because my grandmother used to call my sister "her butterfly" and felt that cutting it down would disrespect both of them (one who has been dead for 15 years, the other who would not give a crap if I had a butterfly bush or not).
You can see the bush in the above photo taking up the entire upper right corner. It extended about 4 feet over my lawn and, when not doing damage control in my neighbors' driveway, 4 feet toward their house and pinstriping their cars. I couldn't even get the lawnmower past it, so there was a section of my front yard that never got mowed. I was one of those people. I might as well have put a car up on cinderblocks in the front yard since I wasn't mowing part of the lawn!
The neighbors finally asked me to trim as it was scratching their cars. The neighbors who, by the way, are totally cool with anything I do and have never complained. It was clearly getting bad.
There's nothing like an impending winter coupled with a 50% off all plants sale (and complaining neighbors) to get one's rear in gear and trying to complete fall garden projects. I found two Nandina domestica at my local big box store for $10 each. Red berries! Winter interest! $10 each! They were going to replace the butterfly bush, but first I had to remove it.
[insert string of expletives here]
It took every single one of these tools and an hour and a half to get that thing out:
Do you know what it's like to try to saw at roots a foot below the ground with your ass pointed at the neighbors across the street for what seems like eons? You manage to saw through one five-inch root after ten minutes only to find that there are others you can't see holding it in place. Just in case you're not too bright - the situation sucks. Here's my tip of the year - do not let bushes that you don't want/don't have the space for languish too long in your garden. By the time you try to dig it out, it'll have giant taproots.
I put my hand shovel there for a size comparison. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you how big that bush had grown both above and below ground.
The only way it all finally came out is because I used my Hulk-like strength to twist and turn it until it broke in several pieces and I could saw at the last taproot. Success!
The story doesn't end there.
I decided that after all of that, in the declining sunlight and after an hour and a half of busting my butt, it was a good time to look up the sun and space requirements for my ten dollar Nandina domesticas, as the tag attached to the branches identified it.
The tag indicated it needed morning sun and would grow seven feet high and seven feet wide.
[insert string of expletives here]
I did not buy those plants on a whim to have to go through this ordeal again! I wanted something easier - something that would not scratch my neighbors' cars, something that I wouldn't have to prune every week! I almost cried as I sat on my front stoop Googling "How to keep Nandina domestica pruned and petite". I certainly cursed under my breath.
In the end, I decided to put them in the ground and worry about their size in the spring.
|Not a whole lot of privacy, but pretty colors|
But wait! There's more!
When I was removing the bushes from their pots, I noticed that both had stickers that said Nandina 'Firepower'. Running back to Google, I found that this cultivar is berry-less but only grows to 3-4 feet. I can deal with that, so I'm hoping the stickers prove to be the correct identifier and not the random tag on the leaves. I guess we'll see in eight years when I get tired of them, too. For now, isn't that foliage fantastic?
One other PSA for this year - Nandina domestica shows up on many invasive species lists, so check your state's list before going out and planting one. Apparently the birds eat the berries, poop them out, new plants grow, yadda yadda. This plant does not appear on Pennsyltucky's list so I was comfortable planting a couple.