June 20, 2015

The Great Gardenia Purge

We've just returned home from a week in London and are looking forward to sharing a photo recap early next week — before doing so we wanted to pop in with a little front yard update we tackled before heading out. In what we are calling The Great Gardenia Purge of 2015,  you can see we've done quite the bit of "pruning" out front...

Yep, the gardenia hedges are no more.

Here's the backstory. When we first moved into this house 3 1/2 years ago, we loved the look and feel of the hedge-lined brick walk up to our front door. It was perfectly imperfect and somewhat magical:

That first spring in our new home, we were delighted to discover tiny white blooms emerging from the hedges, revealing themselves as gardenias (though I couldn't find a pic to share).

I'd say we got a solid 2 springs of blooming hedges before the bone cold winters set into Richmond over the past couple of seasons (yep, those are Brussels sprouts in the left pot). You may recall how last spring we were concerned about the wellbeing of the gardenias after they'd been frozen to a crunchy brown over the winter:

We tried a few things to save them — pruning back and sprinkling Hollytone around their root branches. This actually seemed to bring a little life back into them, as we began to notice new green growth late into the spring and summer last year.

In the background of this vegetable shot, you'll see the best growth we got back on the hedges before fall/winter set back in. It was promising, but still sparser than the lush bushes we moved in with:

Then, another cold winter set in, freezing them beyond what we think we could salvage:

Given the backstory, you can see how we've been considering the fate of these hedges over the past few seasons. I'm not sure what it was about that afternoon a couple weeks back, but Tim got the notion that it was time to clear them out — and he did it:

Clearing everything out exposed ivy and other weeds along the beds that may have contributed to their overall issues — so we spent time clearing out each of the beds as well.

The funny thing about pruning and weeding in a city home, is having to bag and dispose of all the clippings. In our older, suburban home we could just rake brush down to the front ditch to be picked up on trash day. That doesn't work so well when your "front ditch" is considered a parking curb, ha.

It's amazing how immediate of a difference a change like this can make:

So what's next for these walkways? Well, we're not 100% sure (suggestions welcome!). For now we're enjoying how much wider the front walkway feels and thinking about what our next steps are for these shrubs — we'll definitely be mulching the beds. It's feasible we'll leave them if they begin to sprout new growth, retraining them over the next few years. We may also decide to dig them up and start anew with something completely different.

Whatever the outcome, you can be sure we'll keep you posted.

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