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.