Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Muscling out azaleas

I think I may have committed Southern gardening sacrilege yesterday.  I ripped out and tossed out four large azalea bushes.  These bushes have occupied the space in the front of my house from (I'm guessing) the time it was built - that is, 23 years.  I've lived here for 8 years and they were here and large when I came.  I've severely pruned them twice.  But they grow back.  Bigger and healthier than ever.  They are just too large for the space where they're planted.  Honestly, look at this picture.

Do those plants look beautiful?  No, they do not.  For a couple of weeks in the spring they are glorious, but the rest of the year they are scraggly and overgrown and filled with dead, brown oak leaves from last fall.  Not pretty.

I had thought it would be at least a nod to Southern gardening etiquette or something, to dig out and transplant those azaleas in another part of my shady yard.  But, oh my!  Have you ever tried to dig out a very large azalea bush and maintain a decent portion of the spreading roots while getting scratched and poked by outstretching branches?  It is not fun.  At all.

After I muscled the first bush out, I thought a change of pace would help, so I took my shovel to the area where the bushes would be transplanted and tried to start digging a hole.  Anticipating that I would be doing that this week, I had watered that area very well a couple of days ago.  That should have made the soil nice and soft, easy to dig.  Right?  Well, it didn't.  I could barely stick my shovel in two inches.  The thought of digging several large holes to transplant these azaleas was rather disheartening.  Of course, I do have slave child labor here that I could employ to dig the holes, but you know, I just started feeling less and less sure it was really worth the effort to save all those azaleas.  Gasp!

Here's how it looks now.

I left one azalea, very severely pruned and cleaned out.  I don't know if it's going to stay or not.  I'm putting it on probation while I determine exactly what I'm going to do in this space.

And now, I'm hitting the books.  Southern Living GardeningTaylor's Master Guide to LandscapingThe Well Designed Mixed Garden and scads of old copies of Fine Gardening magazine.  I have a very large mug of tea beside me and my garden notebook.  Freed now of those overgrown azaleas, I'm dreaming....


Amber Benton said...


I have also Martha Stewart's gardening book which is really great that I can lone. I think that azalea should be out of there for a brand new start. Good job - and I'm in the dog house with you, I did the same thing here this summer!


Beth said...

That's what I'm thinking as I look at it. I hate getting rid of all of them, but really, I just don't LOVE them there. The one that's left breaks up the line of the front garden and I'm thinking I like a longer distance for the eye to travel before hitting that bush! I'm just not sure what to plant there, but I do have some ideas. It's just soooo shady right in front of the house. Really only later afternoon sun in the middle of the summer.