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Washington, United States Us

Here is the problem. I live with my 76 yr old uncle in my gramma's old house. The back yard used to be beautiful and now it is an unsightly mess. There is an old, tall out of control lilac bush, next to it is an "Orange grape" bush and behind it is a very tall pine tree. Both bushes are overgrown too unsightly and have grown into each other. Then there is a shed and next to it is an old forsynthia bush that is tall and has scraggly, long ugly shoots all over the place. It has grown into, around and above the Dogwood Tree that used to bloom pretty pink flowers and then behind these two is a "Trumpet Vine" that is grown and mingled in with the other two with white ugly growth in and around the branches of the Dogwood Tree higher than the tree. It looks like its strangling the tree. Then next to the tree is a Quince bush that is unsightly and all overgrown with shoots sticking way up into the air. They are all mingled up with each other. My Uncle bocked at the mere suggestion to hire someone to help with this mess as he does not "see" that there is a problem. HOW CAN I FIX THIS WITHOUT BEING TOO DRASTIC. OR do I have to be drastic and roll with the fall out knowing he will be happy in a few years when everything is healthy?
I need proof that the yard is in trouble . One of the bushes, I believe the "Trumpet
Vine" has grown itself around an entire tree wraping itself tightly around the trunk tight producing nothing but dead scraggly outgrowth into 3 feet of the neighbors yard, throughout the Quince Bush and all into the Dogwood Tree. When I merely mentioned this my uncle simply didnt see a problem and then didnt want to talk about it. There is going to be massive debris from the dead growth alone. Some of this stuff, the vine, has thick hard stems almost like a small tree.



This is what I'd call a 'derelict' garden, neglected and overgrown. I'd take drastic action and cut everything right back - what didn't regrow would then be removed completely. The trouble is, its not your yard, it's your uncle's, and I've no doubt he hasn't noticed how bad it's got and is reluctant, or unable, to admit how bad it is anyway. He probably also doesn't want the upheaval and change, older people feel quite threatened by things like this. Actually, what am I saying, a lot of people who aren't full time gardeners are utterly terrified of hacking back or removing plants in their gardens, feeling too fearful to make such a massive change.
Not sure how you can handle this - a few snips here and there when the plants are in such a state won't really be good enough. This depends on your skills, both social and gardening - if you're confident and gently persuasive, he might allow you to do it without feeling too upset. Perhaps suggest you just do two or three overgrown things first, I don't know.

6 Mar, 2012


Simply a beautiful and thoughtful response. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your gracious reply.


6 Mar, 2012


Most people, of what ever age, don't like change. Also, I suspect all the plants have special memories for your uncle. The problem is that, left untended, these plants will continue to battle with each other with the weakest being killed.
Any major restoration project will make the whole area look worse before it looks better. But if you can get the go ahead to do the deed, in five years' time, everything will look as good as it did in times gone by and everyone will wonder why it wasn't done sooner.

6 Mar, 2012


My Grandma's garden is like this. It used to be so nice that people would walk past just to see the roses. Now she has stopped the gardener from even pruning the roses.

Bamboo is spot on, the bottom line is it causes upset to that person when you try to act, however by not acting it only gets worse and an unkempt garden is a sign to burglars that someone vulnerable is living there (in the UK at least). I'm just saying that this situation is so common. Also, it's true that anytime when two people of any age work on a garden there can be a clash of wills :)
I think the garden can be an area where someone feels that they can hang on to control of the situation.

Perhaps you can just make a start of the garden little by little, so that he gets used to the idea? It might be good to have it under control before everything grows again though.

6 Mar, 2012


Maybe you could start with just the forsythia and the dogwood? Forsythia flowers on last year's wood so a neglected one will probably not have many flowers. As you need to go gently how about cutting back the part of it that has grown into the dogwood, and cutting the dogwood where it mixes with the forsythia? If you get any flowers on the forsythia the time to prune is when the flowers have finished but before the new growth starts. If you don't get flowers cut some branches back in about April. Then you should get some new growth that will flower next year, and may encourage your uncle to notice the improvement.
Cut enough of the dogwood to give the forsythia some room to develop. If you only do a small part of it you can be drastic and cut it quite low. If this is successful you can repeat the process on the other side of both bushes next year.
You might trace back one or two of the branches of the vine and cut them at a point before where they tangle with the shrubs. Then when the branches die you can remove them later. Only do a bit a time so that at first sight there is not much change.
If at any time any of this disturbs your uncle you will have to decide whether you want to keep him happy more than you want to sort the garden. wish you all the best with this.
All the best with this task.

6 Mar, 2012


The other factor to consider is that your uncle is already 76 - we all know that doing a proper revamp by drastic methods (which is what I would do) means he may not live long enough to see the end result, so talking about what the garden will look like in 5 years might not be helpful. There's also the issue of control - as we get older, we have less and less control of not only our lives, but our health, our bodies, our senses and brain, so forced major change coming from outside is enough to cause a bit of panic whenyou're already aware that things are slipping away from you. That saying "when you're young, you go where you will; when you're old, you go where you're told" is an uncomfortable truth.
Cutting back a bit, and being drastic with one or two, and perhaps making it look more flowery and attractive this year with some new plants for summer might convince him that its the way to go because the result, whilst not a real solution, makes him appreciate it looks better. Seems like slowly, slowly catchee monkey is the best way to go.

7 Mar, 2012


Good advice from everyone above.

Given your uncles age I'd probably take the "little at a time " route.

If this year you fairly hard prune say one third of each shrub carefully ( trying to leave at least a few leaves at the bottom of each branch you prune) the effect won't be too noticeable.

Do a different third next year and another the year after and you'll then be left with well pruned shrubs without having one drastic hit. You;ll still get flowers on the branches you didn't prune( and in some cases) those you did.

7 Mar, 2012


Please let us know how you get on with this!

7 Mar, 2012


Maybe if you post some photos people her could offer some tips? Once you get started on a garden it's never as bad as you think.

Like others suggest, some annuals or whatever is in bloom this at the moment might revive his interest a bit, for a bit of instant effect. I don't know how it work in your climate, but for example we have spring plants now such as primulas and daffodils. Then there will be your typical geraniums (pelargoniums) and petunias. I know serious gardeners are not always keen on these plants but it might give a bit of lift to the area.

7 Mar, 2012

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