Outdoor Updates, Be They Ever So Slight

Perhaps this screenshot of our old header will give you a hint as to what we tackled in this outdoor update (which is most likely number 7 of 582, since we like to tackle outdoor stuff in bite-sized stages so we don’t get too sore/overwhelmed or blow the budget)…

Yup, that’s the Camellia tree that we first mentioned back in March (you guys actually helped us identify it). It’s a beautiful tree, but we’ve always bemoaned the fact that it was growing just inches (maybe even just one inch?) from our foundation… which made us tres nervous about permanent damage if we allowed it to stay.

After showing it to a few plant expert friends of ours, they all recommended removing it asap so the root systems didn’t cause any issues. And we had to admit it was kinda like a bushy, overgrown sideburn on our home’s pretty little face anyway. You know, the tree equivalent to a mutton chop? Or maybe one of those weird extra long “feeler” eyebrow hairs? Whatever the face-hair analogy you prefer, it wasn’t good.

Unless you enjoy the whole tree-tickling-the-gutters look.

Long story short, we finally decided to serve Miss Camellia an eviction notice.

Our first instinct was of course to transplant it. We generally liked the look of it and figured there was no reason not to at least try to save this gal. So I got out my shovel and went to town on her for about 30 minutes. This is as far as I got:

It may look like progress, but certainly didn’t feel like it. The roots were so tight that it was hard to maneuver around them… and I was in constant fear of knocking out a brick or two from the house as I dug into the earth with some pretty serious force (we have very dense hard soil here). So after about another hour of digging (where we discovered just how close some of the roots and the foundation really were) and some thoughtful discussion, we knew what we had to do. We apologized, told her we had done our best and that it was just the wrong time and (more importantly) the wrong place… and I got the saw. It was sad, but it was necessary. And we made a promise to plant another camellia somewhere in the backyard in memory of our gutter-tickling friend.

When it came to the removal process, first I took off the big limbs and then I spent the bulk of my time sawing through the trunk right at ground level. About another 30 minutes later, I was left with this little stump that (after snapping this pic) would be low enough to bury with level dirt so it wouldn’t be seen. I contemplated further cutting it out, but was still waaay too nervous to upset the ground more around the foundation, so I decided just to leave it be and cover it up with dirt so everything was nice and level.

I generally don’t like cutting down perfectly healthy trees. At all. So this bummed me and Sherry out more than we should probably admit. But we consoled ourselves with the fact that we had already planted six new trees since moving in (remember these) and reminded ourselves that removing this one poorly placed camellia meant that we were making room for new better-fitting plantings in that spot, that would, among other things, not lean on our house or threaten our home’s foundation.

The replacement plantings will definitely be smaller and more low-profile. It’s our general theory that short stout houses like ours need lower, airier landscaping to help them look taller (aka: not so darned squat). Our last house was so weighed down with a a heavy row of azalea bushes when we moved in that it practically made the thing seem half as high (see how we remedied that in this old post). So taking out this taller-than-the-house tree helped us earn back some much needed visual height (thanks to the fact that a tiny tree no longer towered over our house, making it appear even shorter).

Though when I stepped back I realized that one very overgrown bush was undoing all of my hard work. Sheesh. You know you’re in trouble when a bush is taller than your house.

So I gave him a little haircut with the ol’ clippers.

Not amazing at all. But better. That whole swarm of bushes is something that we’d love to transplant in order to open things up as we go. We’re actually really looking forward to revamping our front yard because the house still feels very closed off to us. Pretty much the only thing not blocked by greenery is the carport, which (though it has grown on me) is not exactly the part of our home that I want to highlight (we still very much look forward to turning that into a proper garage down the line).

Maybe now that it has cooled off a bit we’ll finally gain some momentum outside. Heck, late last week was so beautiful that Sherry did some weeding in the driveway to keep me company (and Clara and Burger “helped” – which means they pranced/toddled around and played with sticks/leaves). And yes, I did just say that Sherry did some driveway weeding. As much as we love our double-wide paver driveway, the fact that we’re one of the few folks who have to weed our driveway doesn’t escape us (as opposed to all the blissfully weed-free paved ones out there).

See, the driveway is very long. And, thanks to the weed-friendly paver-ness of all those cracks, it’s proving to be pretty impossible to keep free of super annoying green sprouts. We’re not down with those chemical spray-on weed killers since we have a bean and a pup who play outside (they’re not supposed to be great for the planet either), but we’ve done our fair share of research when it comes to more natural weed killing alternatives like these:

Sadly after a bit more research (like calling the paver manufacturer directly) we’ve learned that using salt or vinegar on our pavers can permanently damage them (leading to erosion, cracking, etc). So we’ve only tried the first method (using gallons of scalding water from the stove repeatedly dumped over various sections of the driveway). The result? Cue the sad trombone sound effect. It didn’t do nada. Even after waiting a few days (holding out hope that it might take a while to burn down to the root or something) those weeds were still sitting there smiling up at us. Grr.

So we decided to give up on the boiling-pots-and-pots-of-water technique and resort to good old fashioned hand-pulling every so often. Which isn’t exactly every day (yup, we’re those neighbors with the weedy driveway). So if you ever come over, forgive us if the front of our driveway looks like this (here’s hoping it’s at least partially weeded, which seems to be our pattern). And maybe someday we’ll get around to using polymeric sand which is supposed to cut down on weeds…

Okay, now someone make me feel better about having to take out the camellia. Has anyone else has had to move/remove a tree or other planting that wasn’t working for them? And if you’ve ever had success moving a tree with dense tight roots right near the foundation, what are your tips? I just couldn’t keep digging away without crippling don’t-break-the-house anxiety. We’d also love any and all driveway weeding tips. Especially the all natural ones that might be more paver-friendly than salt and vinegar.

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