“Regrets, I’ve had a few…” Frank Sinatra ‘My Way.’ We all share your pain Frank, because we’ve all had regrets in the garden. I’m set to deal with two of my biggest regrets in the next week and I’m not looking forward to it.
News flash – even gardening columnists make mistakes! Even those of us who, armed with knowledge about plant behavior, install plants in our landscape knowing that somewhere in the future there may be unintended consequences.
When we bought our present home 23 years ago one of my first projects was to plant evergreens at the northwest edge of the property. I love dwarf conifers and thought that this location was ideal to showcase a few of my favourites.
Well, the dwarf conifers aren’t so dwarf anymore, specifically a Pinus leucodermis, Bosnian Pine. Technically still a dwarf because it hasn’t grown any taller or wider than the tag said it would this beautiful pine has become a victim of my poor sense of spacing. Why did I think it would fit into this location?
Instead of enjoying its lustrous rich-green foliage and its attractive layered branches I find myself plotting its demise. The fact that it’s growing into the driveway was not an issue when we were a one car family. Now we have two cars, and a small truck. Son’s car has to be parked as far over as it can go so Mom’s car can back out of the garage. Son’s car effectively becomes a one-door model because you can’t squeeze past the lustrous green, attractively layer branches of the Bosnian pine.
When it snows 25 cm. as it did back in January things really get complicated. Frank’s song comes into my head each time I’m outside trying to shovel snow around the pine. Son’s car moves further out into the driveway and family conflict erupts. That poor tree has got to go.
Shuffling vehicles and near misses in the driveway pale in comparison to the looming disaster that’s occurring in the back garden. I’ve always admired Rhus glabra, Smooth Sumac for its drought tolerance and vibrant fall foliage colours. Years ago I thought it would be a perfect plant for the steep, gravelly bank that flanks the east side of our property. I planted one two gallon pot and patted myself on the back for having the gardening acumen to solve this problem.
Fast forward to present day and I should have been kicking myself in the butt instead! The sumac has transformed itself into a multi-stem, multi-plant monster without the benefit of any water or fertilizer.
Shoots starting appearing in the vegetable garden some 15 feet away a few years ago. I could deal with that but the crisis level was raised to extreme last summer when our daughter texted us while we were in Italy along with an attached picture. “What’s this growing in the lawn Dad?” it read. I instantly recognized it as, you guessed it, sumac.
The pine will be a relatively easy job; cut it down, cut off the branches and throw them into the truck, parked fifteen feet away. The sumac job will be ugly. Cut the stems, drag the branches through the garden to the other end of the property, paint the stems with herbicide and hope it goes away quietly. I’m not optimistic. Perhaps I’ll listen to ‘My Way’ while I’m working. “Regrets, I’ve had a few…”

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