The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Subtraction in a Maturing Garden

Over a decade ago, I planted a pair of small Juniperus scopulorum 'Skyrocket' trees to add a vertical accent on the slope connecting the Upper garden with Lower Garden. Later, I added granite steps and planted it with boxwoods which gave the impression of balls rolling down the hill. The junipers flourished and became quite handsome but in the last several years they have grown out of scale for the space and suffered snow damage. In the mean time, the yew hedge that encloses the area has finally become a wall and the Cornus officinialis in the center of the space is large enough to become a focal point in the space.

After our snow this Thanksgiving, it became clear that the junipers were more of a detriment than a virtue in the garden. I removed them today and I don't regret my decision.

The pair of Juniperus scopulorum 'Skyrocket' trees in the Hall with Balls.

Now that the junipers are gone, the granite retaining wall can be seen once more.

The "before view" from the Upper Garden

and the "after view" with Cornus officinialis to the left.

A pleasant surprise was the view from the Master Bedroom. The boxwoods that seem to be rolling down the hill are exposed as well as the Cornus officinialis in the center of the Hall with Balls. The round boxwoods have been used as a unifying element in the garden. I like the idea that the boxwoods give the impression that they have rolled from the Upper Garden down through the Hall with Balls into the Lower gardena and down into the Woodland Garden below. I did a series of posts earlier this year experimenting with ideas about how to place boxwoods in the rest of garden; its time to think about it once more.


  1. Snow! Much better without the junipers...this recalls my helping my late father in Colorado plant skyrocket junipers, and every few years a wet snow dump would ruin them...then they were tied...a pain!

  2. I enjoyed the junipers, especially the first few years. It is interesting to hear about snow being the problem with your father's "Skyrocket' junipers.The snow damage here made the decision to remove them easier. If they were in excellent shape, I would have probably kept them which would have not been the right decision in terms of the garden as a whole.

  3. I know you're right but just getting rid of things or people who are a pain or outgrown their space is so drastic and final!

  4. Final, for sure, but never without a lot of thought and consideration. I having been thinking about this subtraction for over a year. I believe in being ruthless,in order to keep the design intention, when necessary. In the end, plants have a life span that is ultimately out of my control if they stay in the garden any way.
    People, now that is another story! I don't generally get rid of them if they are a pain or get too big; my sons, when they were teenagers, are prime examples!!

  5. Michael, your before and after photos show better than any words can tell the wisdom of your decision to remove the junipers. Clearing away the too-much that can grow up gives a wonderful feeling, doesn't it? I get a little thrill each time I enter our drive and see how much better one area looks with the undergrowth and low branches of the trees removed.

    1. Thanks, Pat. It is such a permanent decision. I am never fully convinced it was the right thing until sometimes several days later. So far, no regrets on the big decisions in the past. I agree, limbing up can do wonders.



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