Thursday, April 11, 2013

Good Neighbors, Annoying Landscaping

It's so nice to have good neighbors. I've lived in my current home for seven years. Although most of my immediate neighbors are much younger, married, and with kids (lucky for me, some are Girl Scout-cookie-age), we all get along. Since we don't have a lot in common other than sharing a street, I don't socialize with them, but we have been known to help each other out - for instance, shoveling driveways together in the winter. It's a great neighborhood.

Today, the universe confirmed that I was in the right place, at the right time. I am fairly independent, preferring to try to do things myself rather than ask others for support or help. But sometimes, people just need to step in. And I need to let them.

I guess I should backtrack. When I first moved into my house, there were two bushes planted in the front yard, close to the sidewalk, in an area filled with landscape rocks. They were nice then. About four feet tall, red leaves, nothing exciting. But nothing too outrageous either. I always intended to add flowers, other shrubbery, and maybe even a small tree, to brighten it up a bit.

Then as time passed, those shrubs took on a life all their own, without my permission or encouragement. They grew large and out of control. Probably at least ten feet tall and with a diameter to match. I chopped them back several times, to within an inch of their lives, or so I thought. And each time, they grew back stronger and bigger, and nothing else had room to grow. I kept putting off the inevitable – to remove the entire shrub. Finally, I realized that they had taken over the entire area, and I could do nothing about it. I was tired of them, I wanted them out.

So a few weeks ago, I cut them back down, although the base of each shrub remained, with lots of sawed off limbs shooting out. I wanted them gone. I wanted no more annoying limbs and leaves spraying me in the face when I mowed. I longed for a real tree, some colorful flowers, and something manageable to work with.

Then yesterday afternoon, as I was digging around the stumps, trying to plant something else, I realized the undergrowth of roots had formed a large network of aspiring shrubs, just waiting for my ground cover to open up enough to break out and grow. That was the last thing I wanted. Some of these roots were two inches in diameter, and were so long that they looked like sprinkler lines.

Two of my neighbors, Joy and Erika, were out talking, and they came over to look at the mess. It wasn't long after that Erika's husband Ryan came over and said he thought we could just use a heavy-duty chain and a big truck and pull them out. Then Joy's husband Rob came home, and Ryan soon recruited him to start digging around the roots.

Using an ax, a shovel, large clippers, and a rake, they soon dug a hole around the first shrub, and once the roots were cut, Ryan determined it would be a piece of cake for Rob's truck to pull it out. We didn't have a chain to use. I got on the phone, called my brother, and left to borrow his towing chain. By the time I returned, less than thirty minutes later, they had finished digging around the second shrub.

It took only a few minutes to hook each shrub to Rob's truck, and they both pulled out quite easily. At last, the shrubs that had so annoyed me over the years were gone! 

I had two lessons reinforced from this incident. First, when something really bothers you, address it early on, or it will just grow bigger and more unmanageable. And second, it's okay to ask for help from people, even if you feel you can't reciprocate in the same way. Most folks do like to feel needed.

I also re-learned some truths. Good neighbors are a treasure. Never take them for granted. And you can judge how ugly your front landscaping is by how quickly and willingly your neighbors volunteer to help get get rid of the eyesores.

Okay, they would have helped even if it wasn't that bad. Like I said, they are wonderful neighbors. 

I hope they are around when it's time to plant the replacement tree...