Create some clearings

Garden Gnome

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Gardening in small lots is a challenge. If it was up to me there wouldn't be a blade of grass left, but you-know-who insists on a water-guzzling, labor-intensive lawn.

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This is the new planting area that was cleared when a neighbor's tree crashed during a recent storm.    Sandy Hodson/Staff
Sandy Hodson/Staff
This is the new planting area that was cleared when a neighbor's tree crashed during a recent storm.

But there are ways around this. Look around and chances are you can find areas that you can transform. Thinning out shrubs and removing lower limbs can open up a new bed area. If you have gobs of English ivy and monkey grass, rip it out. You'd be amazed at how much real estate they can eat up.

Nature also has a way of making space for you. At our place, the crashing demise of the neighbor's giant oak tree opened up a space full of light. After clearing out wild rose bushes, thorny vines, English ivy and monkey grass, we have a great place for a cherry tree (yes!) and a couple of new shrubs. On the shady side, I'm thinking of hydrangeas, shade-loving irises and these very cool ground cover plants from the Pendleton King Park plant swap that are looking for a new home.

Seeing how the giant oak created a major headache requiring insurance companies, tree-removal services, a roof replacement and a trip to the emergency room before it was all over, I should have hard feelings about it. But how can you fuss when the outcome is more space for flowering plants?

So, when my buddy Sheila called to say a giant tree limb crashed at our house while we were on vacation, I didn't worry. At least this time the house was left unscathed.

When we moved into our house, the tree with the giant falling branch was just a sapling. Our neighbor Becky warned me we should pull it out but I thought it would be a good thing to have a tree there to provide shade for the cars in the summer. Boy was I stupid.

The tree in question is a sweetgum. I think anyone who figures out how to kill off every Carolina cherry and sweetgum tree in Georgia should receive a medal. The sweetgum's branches are rather ungainly, its roots go everywhere and create new trees and, worst of all, it produces these ping pong ball-shaped seed pods that are spiny. These seed balls are a pain to clean up and they lurk everywhere waiting for a wrong step and twisted ankle.

So the tree has got to go. Hopefully, next week I'll be telling you, with the help of a specialist, how to spot tree problems and know when a tree has gone bad.

I was raised a tree hugger and remain one, but not all trees are equal, and sometimes even good trees go bad and need to be removed.

Even in small yards with too much space devoted to grass, there are ways to find more areas for flowers and cool plants. Sometimes you have to look hard, and sometimes a good storm brings the answer.

Now I finally have the perfect spot for the Harry Lauder's walking stick.

Nursery to open

McCorkle Nurseries in Dearing will be open to the public Thursday and June 17 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and June 18 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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