Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ligustrum Lament

If you want to get a gardener talking trash in Austin, just bring up the topic of ligustrums.  The botanical name is Ligustrum japonicum, but you may also know it as Japanese privet or Wax-leaf privet.  We just love to hate these highly invasive shrubs!  They easily grow from small plants into tall trees, crowd out local plants, and form dense thickets by developing tasty berries to entice birds to "drop" seeds miles away.  

What we don't want to remember is that bees and butterflies (particularly Red Admirals) love their fragrant white flowers and that their trunks can be truly beautiful when pruned and tended.

Our yard was home to a fully mature specimen when we purchased the house about 10 years ago, and I've constantly apologized for my ligustrum ever since.  Yes, I tried to be responsible by pruning immediately after it flowered so those little purple berries wouldn't form.  But challenged by how I might quickly replace a tall architectural element in the garden that also attracted swarms of bees and butterflies, I could never bring myself to cut it down.

Well, a leaky pipe has now fixed all that.  Seems the original owner of the house planted that sucker directly over the spot where a city water PVC pipe connects with the copper pipe to our house.  The very same spot where a majority of residential leaks develop.   By the time the leak was detected, 500 gallons of water PER DAY had been seeping out for who knows how long.  Ouch!  

My dear husband dug test holes all around the base, patiently showing me that the source of the leak was indeed directly under our 15 foot tall tree and that it really did have to go.

Patient husband digging 3rd pilot hole to find leak's source
Last branch to go

Broken pipe at the bottom of it all
 As soon as it was gone, brainstorming a replacement kept my mind racing.  What would be tall, perennial or maybe even evergreen, good in full sun to dappled shade, flowering in any color but bright orange, and in some way beneficial to local bees, butterflies, or birds?  So far, I've decided a nice metal trellis will be a good way to establish height right away and hopefully also update the look of our house.  That's already in the works.  Now I need your suggestions of a vine that will meet my criteria.  Tell me - what would you plant?

All material © 2014 by Vicki Blachman for Playin' Outside
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.  

10 comments:

Bob said...

I'm still going with the Mexican Flame vine.

vbdb said...

It's so ORANGE!!! Isn't there something in a nice blue, clear red, or deep purple? Maybe I'll just have to go with passion vine and let your beautiful trellis shine in the winter when the vine dies back.

Annie in Austin said...

I hear you about the Admirals - they do love my neighbor's ligustrum! But since it's in my neighbor's yard I can enjoy the butterflies with no guilt!

Have you ruled out a climbing rose for Bob's trellis, VBDB? The one I'm thinking of is that climbing mini-rose called 'Red Cascade'. It's semi-evergreen, has deep red flowers off and on.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Jean said...

How about a nice red trumpet/coral honeysuckle? They stay inbounds and behave (usually). I hear you about ligustrums and what the mature ones provide. Our old house had them along the back, which provided privacy from the house behind and below, and provided lots of nectar for bees. And berries for the cedar waxwings. Whoever bought our house cut them all down, probably for the downtown view. But then the neighbor's bamboo, which also provided privacy, died in the drought. So now it's pretty naked. And ugly.
I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't describe her African trip. I have one more Botswana post to go.

vbdb said...

Thanks everyone. I'm trying to "see" all of these suggestions in my head. Annie - my Red Cascade in the back yard doesn't seem to attract any bees or butterflies but it's a perfect color and does seem to survive in spite of low water and abuse. Jean, hummers would love either of those. I'll find pictures and test your suggestions. Bob, bright orange still isn't completely out of the running.

Bob said...

You may also want to check into Evergreen Clematis. It is white but is still nice.

My Old Blush rose keeps it's leaves all winter long and is in about half sun, half bright shade. It even thros an occasional bloom in the winter which is nice.

Rock rose said...

So sorry to hear about your leaking pipe woes. At least it was outside the house and not under the slab.I really don't know the ligustrum well enough to recognize it out there in the wild. One did start growing in one of our gardens and made a nice small tree which people commented on. Then I heard it was a ligustrum and we removed it. It was a pretty tree though. too bad. Hope you come up with an answer for your replacement.

Lori said...

I'd plant blue morning glories while you settle on a permanent replacement! Nothing beats that shade of blue!

Mary Thevenot said...

We recently offered to dig up one of our crape myrtles that was getting shaded out in the back yard and give it to our neighbor. He started to dig a hole for it in his front yard near the corner of his house, when BAM! He hit a water leak. We felt pretty bad about it, but he thinks it had probably been leaking before he started digging there, too. I think you're on to something about that spot being prone to leaks.

Maggie said...

I miss the gardens we had. They were simple yet fun. We lived close to the beach four blocks back but were surprised to find a lot of things grew there year round. Broccoli, raspberries, carrots and a lot more.