Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What Would You Do With This Shrub?

Here is a shrub, photo taken today (4/18/07), on a quiet residential street in the northern Berkshires. Can you identify its species? I can’t. However, I can tell a few things about what has been done to it culturally, and what I would do to it now if I owned it.

Shrub treatment, like most of horticulture, is an evolving science, an art, or even a matter of some controversy, rather than a science of certainties. What do you think? How has the shrub’s owner treated its soil, its woody structure? Which treatment appears to be better than average, which appears to be a mistake, and what changes would you recommend?

On Wednesday June 6, I will be teaching a two-hour course (6:30-8:30 pm) in MCLA’s Continuing Education program: “Garden Design: Making the Most of Your Shrubs.” The class aims first to help homeowners make the most of their landscape’s existing shrubs, on the grounds that, compared to ripping things out and starting over, rejuvenating what you’ve got is free or cheap, more environmentally sound, and quicker than growing or buying new plants. We will look especially at analyzing some locally common shrubs for problems and potential, and the purposes and methods of pruning, especially of woody plants which have never seen the knife. We will also consider choosing shrubs for a given site, or finding the best site for a given shrub that’s not so happy where it is.


naplblog said...

Is it a forscythia that someone is trying to keep under control (topiary forscythia!)? It clearly needs interior pruning, Probably just gets chopped down each year rather than treated with respect for its natural talents.

But I'm not a knowledgeable gardner, so easily could be way off here. Hard to tell from a photo.

Ki said...

Burning bush? Too bad I don't live closer as I need to take a course in pruning. Our shrubs look equally unkempt as the photo. Actually the one in the photo is better as they at least made an attempt at shearing it.

DWPittelli said...

1) The pruning comments are on the mark.

2) I don't know what species or even genus it is. (And wouldn't expect many people could identify a shrub by bare sticks; it's hard enough with just leaves and no flowers!) Still, one can guess:

I suppose I can't rule out Forsythia, but I would expect that any Forsythia would have some more visible budding by now. On the other hand, I haven't examined a Forsythia since moving to this area, since that was last June, after their distinctive (flowering) period.

I'm pretty sure it's not burning bush (Euonymus alatus) because it has no "wings" and its bark appears too light -- although sometimes E. alatus 'Compacta' does not have wings.

Ross said...

We have two of those, much larger ones. Whether or not they actually ARE forsythias, that's what we call them. Yellow flowers, green leaves that turn yellow in the fall, tangled stems.

Our 10-12 footers are in a terrible location (alongside the driveway) and have gone years without serious pruning. Nothing close to buds on either one of them yet. We actually wouldn't mind getting rid of them.

Someone wants to come by with a Bobcat and a load of fill, they're yours. I'm tired of having the things scrape up the sides of my car. And my face.

lisa said...

My guess would be weigela, only because of lack of budding at this point. Will you be posting a followup pic with the answer?

DWPittelli said...

Do some rejuvenative pruning! Hell, maybe I'll do it with you, sometime between now and right after blooming, if you let me take before and after pictures for my class. (You would, however, be responsible for disposal of the perhaps half of the bush we'd be cutting down.)

Sure, I will photograph it in leaf, and perhaps in flower, and hopefully be able to ID it then. I don't know the owner, so I'm not likely to be pruning it.

Southview said...

Ah yes, I recognize the dense light brown woody stalks! Although I would have planted two more bushes, so as to have the light pole in the center, making a triangular presentation and giving a more symmetrical appearance. Also red bark chips would be more enhancing, but it seems that they use the area around the bush for planting flowers.
Lisa.....Living in an area that once was a great lake basin, Called LAKE BASCOM, ( a glacier melt lake ) which deposited nothing but clay for soil upon it's draining, I can with a certain amount of Black Thumb knowledge attest to the only sure fired, tried and true, works every time method of planting here in the Berkshire Mountains.....Ya gotta use lots a dried menure and new top soil. All those fancy and expencive soil preperations are not really needed. Good drainage - healthy soil, that is the key! A couple of bags of cheep Wally Mart soil and a bag of dried menure and you can grow anything. I found that all those soil enhancement chemicals are likin to those additives they want you to buy for your car, don't really need um!

DWPittelli said...

I can't tell if Southview's suggested presentation (triangular bush arrangement, red mulch) is something he would actually do, and if so, whether he would consider it a parody display.

At any rate, one thing I think the owner of this bush got right was that he made extensive use of natural, semi-degraded mulch material, instead of the grass and packed earth which more typically surrounds a shrub in suburban hell strips (i.e., the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street). This enriches the soil, prevents compaction and overheating, and eliminates competition from grass and the risk from string trimmers.

Southview said...

No ridicule intended, just an observation. To have the light pole in the center would make for a more symmetrical display and the red pine bark acts as eye catching element tying the whole display together. There is something about a lone bush stuck in a sea of grass that somehow doesn't look quite right?