A few weekends ago, it was time to take down the Azara microphylla next to the side door. It was a lovely, warm sunny day to do it too.

You forget how much ugliness these larger plants can hide. The concrete foundation, conduit, and such will all become much more visible. It’s going to leave a painful, ugly hole that will take a while to refill.

I am tempted to replace it with a variegated Azara microphylla. In fact, this plant was originally variegated, but it died to the ground one winter and then resprouted as a green reversion the following spring. And, here we are some 10 years later, cutting that sprout down.

I noticed there was a dark sunken area running up the back of the trunk – likely the main reason for all the dieback up above. After cutting off most of the branches with our loppers, I started in at the base of the trunk with a bow saw. Hard work. But, then I remembered we had an electric chainsaw. Zip, zip, and a few seconds later the whole tree was down.

The cross section of the trunk clearly showed that about a quarter of the trunk was discolored – dead, and no longer conducting water. Definitely explained why this it hadn’t been doing well. Everything feels quite bare. I wonder if the stump will resprout like it did years ago, and if it does whether I should leave it. It would make a quick replacement.

There is some other ugliness slowly revealing itself around the yard. I was particularly sad to see that my golden chinkapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla) in the front rock garden had suddenly turned brown. I checked the other ones planted elsewhere and they looked just as bad. I suspect all of our cold weather back in January was the issue. This is about my sixth attempt to grow this tree and might be a sign that I should give up. There is promise though, the stem is still firm and green. I’m going to give it some time and see what comes.

However, I was completely done with this Trachelospermum jasminoides, which has been struggling here for the last 7 years in a protected spot next to the house. Every winter it suffers severe dieback and every spring I cut out significant chunks of dead, ugly branches. Enough. I ripped it out. L always wanted a sweetly-scented vine here, so I’ve replaced it with a deciduous, and (hopefully) much hardier Jasminum officinale.

The last thing to do was to take all of the branches out to the deer garden to the debris pile for chipping. I took a second look at the Eryngium paniculatum, which has amazed me with an astouding number of resprouts after being killed to the ground by the winter cold. I shouldn’t have worried about this plant at all, apparently. Now, I am thinking I should divide it and transplant the divisions elsewhere, but I also have a couple new plants that were purchased as replacements that I will need to find a place for.

Spent the rest of the afternoon chipping the debris pile and putting the mulch directly into the bed that I cleared out a few weeks ago.

It was surprisingly exhausting, feeding branches into a loud chipper for hours on end. I forgot how much flexibility and concentration the whole operation takes to keep the chipper running smoothly while staying safe. I was incredibly sore afterwards, but it was immensely satisfying to see the debris pile turn into useful mulch.

It’s time to really pay attention to the garden. I love how green and lush everything is. There is a mini heatwave today and tomorrow, with temperatures projected to be in the upper 80s, as well as an extended dry spell. After last year, the forecast has me wondering if this will be the last of our rain until next fall. The apples and narcissus are almost done and the iris are gearing up. Mid spring is here.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Tracy

    Wow, good job getting all that done! I love this season, too. So much to do, but so great to get outside each day.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      So much to do indeed. Must get out there. I blinked and the weeds grew a foot!

  2. S.

    It’s so gratifying when you finally eliminate that plant that’s been just kind of hanging on and looking scruffy.
    But, to be honest, I can’t understand why you’d put the same thing there. If there’s a possibility it’s succumbing to some pathogen you don’t want the same thing again anyway.
    To be fair, I guess I’m in the minority that just doesn’t see an appeal to the Azarias at all. They’re just sort of scribbly, fussy things with no presence to me.
    Two questions:
    1) A. Caifornica-drought tolerant or moist soil? I’m shopping for one, Cistus and Far Reaches both offer but Cistus says can be drought tolerant, FR says always moist soil. 😑 What’s your experience-yours looks strong and happy.
    2) Do you have an outside chill and [admire all your cool plants], errr, relax spot?

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Azara – I’m not really worried about the pathogen issue. This just doesn’t have the feeling of an aggressive, recurring issue. I suspect more it was drought/heat injury than anything else. But, I am willing to gamble. As to why I like A. microphylla, I like the tiny evergreen leaves, which don’t leave much of a mess. I find the overall form graceful and we enjoy have the scented flowers next to the door for a couple weeks in early spring to brighten our days when the weather is usually dark and gloomy. And, the tree is fairly small, perfect for the space.

      1. My A. californica has never been irrigated and seems completely fine. I would consider it drought tolerant.
      2. Sadly, I am one of those people who never really spends the time sitting and enjoying. As soon as I sit, I end up seeing something else to do and off I go. Trying to get better at this, but no, I don’t have a chilling spot. I usually just flop myself down on the grass. Some sitting spots sound like a grand idea to encourage this reflective activity.

      1. S.

        Ok, maybe I will have to reconsider the Azara (no “i”-but with Abelia, Akebia, Aralia, Actinidia I’m not that surprised one just sort of slipped on in there 😄).
        Off to Cistus I go!
        I hear you re chill spot. I’m reworking my whole yard to add some. I noticed all I did was work in the garden or walk out and look at plants here and there. It was more like a “plant zoo” than a garden. (I could go on at great length about this, lol. It’s basically my current obsession, so, best not? )
        It’s probably why I wondered if you had an area to relax that I just hadn’t seen. I could see a small patio-ish spot made w/ the free form blocks like your new path, and connects up to it somehow-more path?

        1. Botanica Chaotica

          Some day, I will have to do an overview post. I realize that all the different areas I describe are a bit disjointed and out of context without some sort of post to tie it all together.

  3. Kris P

    Well, that’s not nearly as fun as planting things but, despite the sore muscles, I expect you have a sense of achievement in tackling those chores. It’s frustrating to have a large empty space but it’s also an opportunity to consider alternatives – have fun with that!.

    It sounds like your temperatures are considerably higher than ours at the moment. It’s currently 61F here, courtesy of a lingering marine layer.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It was good! I am not ready for the heat and neither are the plants, but that is what we’ve got. Now starts the part of the gardening season where I strategically flit from shadow to shadow to complete my garden tasks in the relative comfort of the shade. 61F sounds great, have fun gardening!

  4. hb

    Satisfying and productive day. 🙂 I tried an Azara–too hot for too long for them here, maybe. Plus it was during the long drought.

    Even here the Trachelospermum takes time to establish. So one set back every winter would undoubtedly struggle.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      It is nice to be productive, even more satisfying when one can see the results!

  5. It doesn’t look ugly, but I know what you mean–totally different and seeming to need something(s). You were quite busy and accomplished so much. Hope you’re able to take a little break.

  6. Anna K

    That’s a lot achieved in not much time! I spent some of this weekend reconditioning my star jasmine. It completely blew off the west side of the shed (where it enjoys relative protection from the worst east winds) and also had a lot of die back. It’s going to take me a while to snip all that crunchy stuff out. I’m not ready to take it all out yet, but I am at the point where I’m no longer going to recommend it to clients – at least not without an arctic disclaimer.

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Yeah, I see some beautiful specimens up in Portland where it tends to do better than out here in the hinterlands. Even they had quite a bit of winter burn.

  7. danger garden

    Bye bye Azara microphylla! I trimmed both of mine way back (they were winter toasted) hoping for new growth but there’s nothing yet. So many dead trunks, stems and branches out there with me checking on them regularly for signs of life…

    1. Botanica Chaotica

      Several more plants that I thought were safe have decided to croak now that it has warmed up. We need to get some replacements!

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