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Landscaping for Dummies

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When we first moved into this house, I felt like the landscaping had been designed from some standard kit that all landscapers in the 80’s used: yews, junipers, a couple of Japanese maples, and some Weigela. With the exception of the maples, I was sick to death of the rest. I quickly dispensed with the overgrown and poorly kept evergreens, and installed a few viburnum (before they became so ubiquitous). As for the Japanese maple and Weigela in the backyard corner, I moved the maple to a more prominent and sunny space, and simply chopped the unruly Weigela down to knee height. As I added a trio of Chinese dogwoods, and the Japanese maple took off with the infusion of light, that corner was mostly hidden from sight, and I only saw the Weigela if I was doing early spring cleaning. If I was feeling generous and kind-hearted (which didn’t happen every year), I’d drop half a bag of manure over its otherwise impoverished soil, and prune the daylights out of it. It always sent out new stems, on which the buds formed.

This past week, something pink and bright caught my eye beyond the emerging blooms of the dogwood: the weigela. Despite general apathy, it survived year after year, throwing out sprays of new stems and foliage and blooms, happy to put on a show even if no one was watching. I admire that kind of perseverance and devil-may-care attitude.

Andy used to have a couple of these at his old house, and having just driven by that place a few days ago, I was reminded of the wonder of the weigela. It may be time to bring it back into vogue, and I recently saw a chartreuse-leaved variety on sale at the nursery. The foliage worked gloriously with the color of the bloom.

Which reminds me – if the season fluctuates in just the right way, you can coax a few blooms out of this shrub intermittently throughout the summer. That sort of surprise bonus deserves a spot in the garden. Now I just need to find one…

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