Shrubs On the Chopping Block

I’m thinking about getting rid of some shrubs. For starters, there’s the 3 Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) that I planted along the west side of the Back Garden.

2016-08-21 16.22.02
Cranberrybush Viburnum fruit, aka Squirrel Chow.

The west boundary already had a hedge when I planted these Viburnum three years ago as a sort of partial hedge-thickener.

The main reason that I now want to get rid of them is that the berries are always, always, ALWAYS eaten by the damn squirrels before the end of August. This despite the fact that Cranberrybush Viburnum’s bright red berries (drupes, actually) are supposed to last into winter. It’s not the plant’s fault, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less maddening. I want my winter interest!

Cranberrybush Viburnum fall foliage on a better year.

In fact, I’ve soured on fruiting plants generally because I think most of their bounty goes down the gullets of the fuzzy-tailed rats, who also manage to break more than a few branches in the process.

Maybe I should just adopt a scorched earth policy and cut down every single fruit-bearing plant in the garden. That’ll show them.

A second problem with the Cranberrybush Viburnum is that its fall color was a complete bust this year. Other years have been pretty good, I’ll admit. But don’t you think they would try extra hard for foliage color this year given the total failure on the drupe front? It would at least show that they’re trying.

Squirrels: more evil than rabbits?Nah, about the same.

Lastly, and this may be the most rational reason – these are big shrubs when fully grown. Too big, I fear, to avoid shading out the perennials in the remainder of the bed. I’ve attempted to avoid this by careful pruning, but I fear it is a hopeless task.

What holds me back is that removing these shrubs amounts to giving up on an investment of time and money. Though it’s not so much money, because I bought them when they were fairly small and planted them myself. Plus, why stick with plants that aren’t working out?

I’m definitely leaning more toward removal. Generally, I try to be ruthless when it comes to eliminating poor performers in the garden – it’s harder, though, with larger woody plants than with herbaceous perennials. Anyhow, I’d still have several older specimens of this Cranberrybush Viburnum along the alley fence.

The other shrub I’m thinking about getting rid of is Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), but I need to calm down before I can talk about that. Damn squirrels.

That’s all for now.


58 Comments on “Shrubs On the Chopping Block”

  1. I can understand the issue with the red elderberry. They are awkward anyway, and they look rather tired through the winter. Is yours the one from California? Blue elderberries grow wild here, and I moved a few to my garden space just so I do not need to find them out in the forest (and so I can prune them). The red ones grow higher up, and no one plants them because they are not as good (and supposedly more toxic). Is is unfortunate about the viburnum though. I have seen it only in catalogues, but know nothing about it.

  2. When I read about squirrels & rats I think maybe cockatoos lopping off my favourite flowers isn’t quite so bad after all. However many Canberrans have trouble with possums & I think they would be just as bad as squirrels. Good luck with your decision on getting rid of plants… A painful process.

  3. Squirrels are more evil than rabbits. Would rabbits make a habit of stealing almost ripe tomatoes, take one or two bites, and then leave them prominently on top of fences or railings or grills? I think not.

  4. Be ruthless. Keeping something that isn’t working because of past investment of time and money is a terrible shackle and prevents people from going in new directions and making positive changes. Begone Viburnums and na-na-na-na-na-na to the bushy-tailed rats.

  5. I don’t envy you your decision. Once babied through the settling in years it is difficult to get rid of a plant just because it is disappointing in some respect. I am still unnerved about having the invasive plants ripped out of my garden even though it was the right decision.

  6. Saw a great program on Canadian TV last night about how trees protect themselves from squirrels and rabbits. For squirrels, they somehow ,manage to not produce seed cones for a few years to starve them out. For rabbits, they have a stomach poison in their bark that slows the rabbits and allows them to be easier prey for lynx. It was nice to know I am not the only thing in the universe that detests these creatures. And I loved that the narrator referred to the squirrels as rodents – which they are. I’ve never noticed the squirrels eating my berries. Maybe they are too busy eating my seed cones, lol.

  7. Looks like the cranberry viburnum needs a booster! I was just cleaning up my email and found some of your unread posts, and found this beautiful summer viburnum photo, if the paste works:

    If not the photo is in your Virtue Rewarded and a Grass Divided post from June 6 of this year.

  8. I can understand your frustration with the squirrels, given my own ongoing battles with raccoons. But I do feel the need to point out that the old-fashioned axiom that refers to your scorched-earth policy would be “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” Some of the shrubs you are considering getting rid of do have other seasonal interest — the Viburnum, for example, I think has great fall foliage color. At least the squirrels aren’t killing the plants (like rabbits might, with tender new foliage on veggies, for example).

  9. Oh, I hear you – dang squirrels. And rabbits. And anything else that considers the shrubs and perennials an all-you-can-eat buffet. Now you have me worried about the Black Lace Elderberry I just planted – I’m hoping that I’m not in for trouble from the squirrels/rabbits on that one as it’s one of my favourite new additions.

  10. Take a deep breath.
    Give it two more weeks and if you still feel neither here nor there about them grab the shovel (assuming it’s not covered in snow by then) and be done with it! I got rid of a few shrubs this spring and don’t miss them a bit. Some of them were real nice plants in themselves but I just couldn’t warm up to them.

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