Everyone has problem areas in their yard. This week, I’m going to show some of ours and some of the solutions we’ve finally come up with. First was an area off the corner of the house. When we first moved in, the landscaper designed the space to have 3 large Austrian Pines in the corner with some yews and junipers in front of the window.
Little did we know that a self-planted maple was growing right next to it in my neighbors yard. It grew extremely rapidly to become one of the biggest trees around the property. It was so dense that it created too much shade for the Austrian Pines to grow properly (and killed off all her shrubs as well). So, last year we finally threw in the towel and had our trees removed to try and fix up this very noticeable part of the garden and house. In the process, we also took out the creeping junipers that were half dead as well from lack of sun.
In the new garden we wanted some type of visual distraction from the neighbors fence since that’s where your eyes would go as you walk up the front walk. But, also wanted to keep it fairly low budget and therefore decided on 3 Arborvitaes. They’re one of the few evergreens that will tolerate shade, although their growth will be very slow. We didn’t want a full privacy hedge, just something to distract your eyes. We happened to have 4 Annabelle hydrangeas on the side of the house that are far too big for the space and by mid season flop over into the main brick walkway to the back of the house. In this new shade garden we created, the hydrangeas would be a perfect plant. They can obviously tolerate the shade and can finally just grow as they want in an appropriate space. Of course, to fill in the rest, I moved some hostas from elsewhere in the yard. We also had some boxwoods added to give the space a more finished, less wild look.
We think this was a great improvement to the front yard. The only problem we had was that everything was planted/transplanted right before the drought hit last summer. I did a lot of watering to keep all the plants alive and they all survived the drought and the winter.
If you’re in some states, or regions, you’ve already experienced the devastation of the Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB. Here in my part of IL, we’ve been trying hard to prevent the infestation from destroying all the ash trees, but in some areas it’s already a lost cause. For example, I was driving my son to piano one night, a drive I’ve done for at least 10 years now, and I turned onto one block in the subdivision and every parkway tree had been cut down. Gone, every one of them thanks to EAB.
On a more personal note, the most important tree in my backyard is a beautiful 18 yr old Autumn Purple Ash. When we moved into the house, we gave a lot of thought to the trees on the property and planted a few new trees to provide beauty and shade. The Ash was the main tree that shades about half our house and the back patio area. We looked for a tree that grew quickly, had few known pests or diseases, could withstand being in a low wet area, and had a nice full shape. The ash was the perfect specimen. Until a few years ago
As soon as we knew the insect was in the area, we started treating the tree. At the time, the standard was to use a soil and foliage treatment twice a year. Then, last year, the infestation landed on the next block over so we knew it was only a matter of time, if not too late for our tree. Our village had a tree plan to deal with infestations in parkway trees and advice for homeowners, so I looked into that instead of just trusting our current tree care company. Sure enough, there were better treatments to use and I feel like I took control just at the right time. The tree still looked great last fall, when many trees in the area were beginning to look half dead. It’s very easy to get complacent and just trust what landscapers tell me. Through the years, I’ve learned to question everyone. Doing the research yourself can often times make a huge difference.
There is a multitude of websites that have details on how to spot infection, treat, etc. The Emerald Ash Borer site is one of the most comprehensive I’ve found.
Examples of some local ash trees infected with EAB: