When I was young, our family would visit our Great Grandma who lived in Kennydale, WA. A gnarly barked plum tree lived in her backyard and produced an abundance of the sweetest plums I have ever tasted. We would come home with a paper grocery sack full of them. Since then I’ve always wanted one of my own.
In my not so vast experience, plum trees are proven to thrive here in Western Washington so why not plant one in our yard? Well a plum tree would get too big for our front yard, which seems to hog all of our sun. Our back yard is too small, and our lower yard is too shaded. That is until our not-so-tree-hugging neighbors cut down my favorite purple leafed maple of theirs. It was their last remaining tree in their backyard. Now we get a nosy-neighbor view straight into their living room. If only I had better eye sight, I could save money on cable and watch their TV. I was quite upset over this loss of privacy, not to mention the beautiful branches that cascaded over our fence and into our yard, until I saw the light. This now allows the sun’s rays to reach our lower yard and form a triangle patch of sunlight large enough to grow a plum sized tree!
Just one problem though. Part of that real estate is currently occupied by a slow creeping English Laurel. Also called a Cherry Laurel. Not to be confused with a cherry tree though. It’s an evergreen bush with glossy leaves and blackish berries that are not for eating. I’m not sure if it started with one bush and spread or if others grew together to make one long, evergreen barrier. Regardless, that barrier is currently partially blocking my plum-filled dreams.
So. Should it Stay or Should it Go Now? Should it go or should it grow?
I spent several weeks pondering the fate of this particular Cherry Laurel(s). Selfishly, I want it gone. I want juicy plums and hopefully pretty flower petals preceding them. However, the Laurel was there first, growing, sort of minding its own business, and providing greenery even in the coldest of months. It even gives us oxygen. Is it right to kill a healthy plant? I feel guilty wanting to. Who am I to play Garden God? There are a few reasons to keep it. Lots of reasons to get rid of it. I do realize my wanting to replace it with a plum tree has skewed my view, but I tried to come up with a list of objective pros and cons.
Con. It’s not nice to kill things. However, it’s not genocide after all. We have two other English Laurels on our property. One alongside the fence that must be beat back at least once or twice a year to allow enough clearance between its spider-infested self and the side of our house for me to access the garbage and recycling cans without incident. It’s about 10 feet high and I’m not sure it’s full grown. I named it Caesar. It helps protect us from our neighbor’s not-s0-friendly dog. Another one is located on our hill, which serves the purpose of helping to hold our hill in place. Erosion control is a particular interest of mine of late and I appreciate all the help I can get from it. I have named this one Augustus. It likes to invade our path to the lower yard so it gets a haircut ever so often as well. They can stay. They have purpose.
Pro. Maybe I can even move some of it. If it’s as resilient as I’ve been reading, then I should be able to dig up the roots and plant it elsewhere. And who doesn’t like a good challenge? I could use some tall, green foliage to help fill in the gaps below the tree line against the fence that faces the road. It really needs to prove its worth. I may just give this a try.
Pro. Another reason to be rid of it or relocate it is that it seems to be a habitat for our squirrel population. Maybe not their home, but a place they frequents as I have spotted those bushy, gray-tailed rodents galloping under and out of them. Those who know me well know that I have a justified fear of those four legged fiends ever since I was chased by one on a college campus. Perhaps I shouldn’t judge all squirrels by that one event, but I also have a very healthy fear of rabies and don’t want to test my luck. I’m sure I’ve done enough bad things in my life to warrant Karma to literally bite me in the butt. So I’d like to practice avoidance. The squirrels can go frolic in someone else’s yard.
Con. It’s been here longer than I have. As a middle child, I have always been concerned with what is fair. And as something that “got here first,” I feel that it sort of has a right to keep being here. Right where it’s at. It’s not fair that the new kid on the block is trying to push it out. I also feel somewhat responsible for the trees and bushes that inhabit our property. Like I need to nurture them and protect them. Not kill them. Not be a plant murderer. Especially when they didn’t ask for me to move in and take things over. Then again…it’s not like it’s chipping in on the mortgage…
Also, it’s considered a noxious weed. PRO. The Internet says so. See here: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/english-laurel.aspx . It’s a “Weed of Concern” and its “Poisonous parts include wilted leaves, stems, and seeds (may be fatal if eaten)” I’m not even making this stuff up. Hence the quotes. FATAL if eaten! The damn plant is trying to kill me!
Well there you have it. It’s really just self-defense. It must GO!
So this past weekend, I donned my cammo Uggs, cinched my hoodie around my face, pulled my gardening gloves over a pair of knit gloves for warmth, and fetched my badass loppers and pruning saw. I extended the handles of the loppers fully, slung them over my shoulder and headed down our stair-less slope to face my new arch nemesis. That poisonous beast.
It’s the middle of winter. Rain beat down on me. I couldn’t wait too long to start though. Nope. In about a month or two, all the spiders will wake up. I must do my landscaping business now while the threat is low. Plus, I’ll need to plant the plum tree I have yet to purchase before spring is in full swing.
(My Pruning saw. “Blade”)
So I stuck my loppers into that monster and began clipping. Some branches were so thick I worked up a sweat repeatedly pushing and pulling my pruning saw over them. After three trips up the hill, hauling departed branches in my leaf collector tarp thing (pretty sure that’s close enough to its real name), I had filled my whole yard waste container. Only about one sixth of the job was completed. CON. Yeah. There is a lot more to do. I haven’t even begun digging out the roots either. Might have bitten off more than I can chew. I’ll be busy for a while.