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. Squirrels gotta eat and I wonder if it was the birds eating the berries would you be so harsh on them?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Yes, I would chop them too, before they get too big to dig out. Squirrels don’t go for berries here, but nibble the fresh growth on all our evergreens!

  6. Oh, what was God thinking when he created squirrels??? A little bit of hell on earth, maybe? They are the only yard critter that makes me want to own a gun, seriously! Ditch the shrubs. A lot of work, but totally worth it. Happy gardening, Jason!

    • I also grumble about shooting the squirrels, with a BB gun at least. Judy points out all the inconvenient local ordinances I would be breaking.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Life is filled with difficult choices as well as wascally wabbits and scoundrelly squirrels.

  10. 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.

    • If trees produce a poison on their trunks, I wonder how I lost three yellowwood trees to rabbits. The trees were young, so perhaps they had not had time to fully develop their poison!

  11. One of the first things we removed when we started our garden was a cranberry Viburnum. I felt it never performed up to its hype. In urban gardens I think we have to be ruthless about getting rid of anything that is not doing its job.

  12. I grow none of these shrubs, but certainly feel your angst about clutter and overcrowding in the garden. For now, it’s opposums who are devils in the garden, as we cannot keep them (him/?her?) out of the owl house.

  13. The presence of critters in the garden is always a challenge. I vote for taking away their food supply if that is an option that works for you.

  14. 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.

  15. 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).

  16. Here it is the deer who nibble on Viburnums. They nip off every bud in sight so that they never flower, let alone produce berries.

    • I thank God every day that there are no deer in my neighborhood. They can be found in some of the leafier suburbs and in city parks, though.

  17. 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.

  18. If you feed the birds maybe the squirrels don’t bother your feeders because they get plenty of berries.
    You could always move the shrubs to another location too, if you have a spot. Or give them to a neighbor.

  19. Much as I love many of my plants I am always prepared to be ruthless with under performers. Life is too short to worry about a couple of plants. What do you intend replacing them with?

  20. Squirrel stew! There are so many shrubs that you really love, why not take these out and replace them with something that’ll make your heart sing?

  21. 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.

  22. If you have the cranberry viburnum in another area and these three are not living up to your expectations, then I would definitely take them out!

  23. Well, it is a way to cure anger, but you may have constant roots to deal with OR just more area for “fun” new plantings. I like the winter foliage too. Especially love the Rowan tree or mountain ash as we call it here.

  24. Hello Jason, it’s an opportunity to introduce something else as a replacement. Further down the line, if that doesn’t work then you can bring the viburnum back as new (cheap) young small plants. It would be a bit like starting afresh.

  25. It’s so frustrating when things are devoured. We have red squirrels eating all sorts here too, they are rare and pretty so get away with it. Still annoying though!xxx

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