things and places for homes and gardens


Thursday 13 November 2008 - Filed under Plants

Box elder with sideways growth

Rosa rubrifolia with sideways growth

Snowball viburnum with sideways growth

Last year, I had an apple tree removed. It had been planted too close to my house and the neighbors’ place, and it dropped apples all over my patio and their new deck. It’s the first tree I’ve ever had removed, and while it was the right thing to do, it left a shocking void and misshapen trees and shrubs in its wake.

The gold leafed box elder (acer negundo) stretched out over the patio, and gave me some welcome shade. Unfortunately, its extremely fast growth produces weak wood that’s likely to break in ice storms, and it has grown to the point where falling branches might take out some of the sango kaku branches on the way down, and that is not cool. I’m also not impressed with the constant leaf drop I’ve been sweeping up and picking out of other plants all year round. It was such a relief when its branches were finally naked this year.

Box Elder (acer negundo) branches

I’ve read that Acer negundo can be hard-pruned every year, and the leaves will be extra large and color can be even better. It’s a little late to try that now, but it’s how I’m going to trick myself into cutting it down. I’m going to take it down to the ground, and if it suckers and happens to end up looking like a full, golden, pretty shrub, I’ll let it stay like that. If it just looks like a suckering tree stump (which it probably will), I’ll put the final nail in the coffin and kill the stump.

Fall color on Acer Negundo

The only rose I’ve let stay in the yard, my glaucous reddish leafed rosa rubrifolia with beautiful burgundy hips has also become all light deprived and sideways growing. I’m going to try cutting it back hard early next year. Roses can usually take that just fine, but this is one I usually don’t prune at all, so I’m worried. I have backups, though, since it has produced a couple seedlings. One I’ll try to move into a more appropriately sunny spot, if I can find one. The other I’ll try to find a good home in someone else’s garden. I’m not usually a rose pusher, but this is my exception.

Rosa glauca rubrifolia hips

I’ve had issues with the snowball viburnum since I moved in. It’s not a special plant, but I’ve tried to keep it going, since it was mature and helped establish a sense of age in the garden. It has some good features. It gets okay fall color, and I do love the way the flower emerge greenish in the early spring. It’s also a connection to a gardener who came before me. Between the viburnum, the apple tree, the cherry trees, a weigelia I also removed, those damn white flowering weedy bulbs that are everywhere, plus some little snowdrops, it’s pretty clear that my garden’s original keeper was a purist about a white garden. I hate to be removing all traces of her, but this one is going to have to survive a sink-or-swim rejuvenating pruning. When I moved in, the viburnum was tied to the chain link fence with a section of a hose. The fence has been replaced, and the shrub leans over a little further all the time. When I cut down the apple tree, a severely misshapen shrub was revealed, and then I had to further damage the structure by cutting it back from crowding the sango kaku. I’ve been selectively pruning enough that I can walk under it to weed and plant, but it’s a constant and losing battle. When it’s dormant, I’m going to try to cut 1/3 of the main stems to the ground, and see if some fresh new growth can come back and make it look natural. If it can’t ever grow back in a convincing shape, and always looks a little wonky, it’s going to have to go.

Snowball viburnum

2008-11-13  »  megan

Talkback x 3

  1. philip
    14 November 2008 @ 12:39 pm

    “those damn white flowering weedy bulbs”…yes those are a terror!

  2. Karen
    12 June 2009 @ 8:57 pm

    Looking back at your previous acer negundo posts here, glad Jane (and you) saved me from this menace! Why must it be so pretty, yet so poorly behaved?! Now I am going to look for stewartia photos too.

  3. megan
    14 June 2009 @ 5:39 pm

    Karen – Yes, it is a menace. Today I noticed something new wrong with it. Maybe powdery mildew, or maybe some other kind of pest. Not a good selection.