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Unwanted Plants


we moved into our new house last year (1920s in need of renovation), a big reason we bought it was because of the huge back garden (we are quite suburban so its rare to find), its in excess of 100ft long but not too wide, but not thin. The previous owner had been here since 1950s and clearly was a great gardener although it’s obvious they had a love of shrubs... there are 3 parts to the garden. first is a patio leading to grass, on both sides very thick borders with camellia and other huge shrubs, leads onto a narrow walk way into an open area with a summer house (seen better days) and a grassy area, huge trees tower over so very shaded (we are south facing) and that leads  onto a veg patch. if i am honest most plants (especially shrubs) i want to get rid of, it makes the garden seem smaller than it is and quite an eye sore. I liked the camellias (there are 2 huge bush camellia which i didnt prune last year) but are far too big now, theres a lovely acer nestled in there also. Last summer i cut some of the shrubs right down and was going to dig them out but the base is huge! Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get rid of them? Also with all the waste I am going to accumulate whats the best cheapest way of getting rid of it all? I originally wanted to work with whats here but I have new ideas and the big shrubs are not included. With the trees (think one is a pine) its a bit risky to burn the waste and closer to the house we also have a huge tall fern that would easily go up in flames if we lit anything near it. Thank you



  • B3B3 Posts: 26,546

    A slater's hammer or a mattock and lots of elbow greaseimage

    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,672

    Hi Vikki,

    Quite a problem you have there.  Unless you really like the big trees, I would be very inclined to pay somebody qualified to take most (if not all) down. If you have a south facing site, you will always have a problem with shade, coupled with very dry soil. ( vegetables in particular need sun) .If the budget would allow, I would also get them to remove any of the big shrubs you don't want - possibly with a mini-digger, quicker and easier than digging them out. Get some quotes and see what the average cost might be.

    As to removal, you could include this in the spec - far easier to get somebody to take it all away!!

    If finances don't allow, you could ask around and see if anybody wants to come and chop up the trees for firewood (if you have them cut down).  We bought a Bosch shredder when we did the same thing with our old shrubs (about £140 from memory), but it's still quite hard work and the shredder doesn't work for wonky branches or very thick ones. It does mean you get your own bark mulch to use on paths though so we thought it a good investment.

    If your council runs a green bin scheme, you could get one and keep filling it up gradually with the shrub bits. Ours costs about £47 per year, but I believe some other councils are cheaper.

    As for digging them out, again it's very hard work, it's best to work round the root ball, cutting off each root in turn with a pruning saw, trying to get underneath it and sawing through the centre tap root if it has one and then levering the whole think out with a crowbar and pickaxe - muscles needed!

    Alternatively, you could just cut the bush down as much as possible and plant around it, but you might end up with honey fungus on the dead stump which is dreadful.

    I don't know whether this helps at all, don't want to put you off.

    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601

    Before you make any irreversible moves, think very carefully. Shrubs that are properly managed can give structure, vary texture, provide a backdrop or foil and have interest when many plants are asleep for winter. However, once you are sure, there is a lot of hard work ahead if you want to cut costs as well as shrubs.

    The first step is to cut off the top growth to about 3ft - this gives you something to hold on to. Then it is a matter of digging around the base, cutting roots as you go. You may need a pick axe or mattock for this and an old saw. Rock the trunk to loosen it and help locate roots. Just think, it will save a fortune on gym membership. Once it is out, I think a skip is probably your best option. Burning all that material in a suburban garden is not practical.

    Trees are different. If they are any size you need a professional because you can do yourself serious harm, as well as demolishing sheds, your neighbour's garden and much else.

  • Thank you for the advice, I’ve kind of guessed we will need a professional in. a friend of a friend is a tree surgeon but didnt know they could deal with large shrubs also so will ask for a quote, seems like quite alot of work. We fell in love with the garden because of the ‘secret garden’ type feel but with young children ideally I’d like to be able to keep an eye on them while they are out there, also theres so much wasted space. We do love the two huge trees (including the pine) and will definitely keep them, although shade is generated it doesn’t reach the whole garden and doesnt shade the veg area, it’s lovely to have such tall trees in the garden these days. The big conifer has to go as it blocks the sun to the back of the house from around 1pm and its not a nice looking thing. There is also a huge amount of ivy that basically covers all the fences, intertwined in the shrubs and on the trees, I’m thinking of having someone clear that also? 

  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,672

    Hello Vikki,

    I agree with Posy that some shrubs should be kept and pruned as they will keep some of the character of the garden and give it maturity. (and save you some money!). The professional should be able to advise you which ones to keep and which ones have had it. The  camellias are so lovely and most are evergreen, and I think they can be pruned quite well, so you could think perhaps of keeping them.

    As to the ivy, if it is completely swamping the fences, you may have to bear in mind that that might be all that is keeping the fences up! so factor in possible expense in replacing the fencing as well. Average lifespan I have found is around ten years, a bit more for the vertical type.

    Let us know how you get on - exciting times ahead.

    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,439

    Think very carefully before you do serious cutting down. Once it’s done there is no going back....well not for a long time anyway. I would think of what you will loose like the loss of privacy and the secretiveness that you liked. Being overlooked by neighbors you may not want. 

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • KT53KT53 Posts: 8,479

    For the big old shrubs you are sure you want to get rid of, leave a few of the thicker stems 3 or 4 feet long when you cut them back.  You can they use those thicker stems for added leverage.  It will make it much easier when trying to undercut the root ball and rock it loose.

  • Thank you for the replies. I agree shrubs can give character to a garden but ours are more of an eye sore to us... my vision for the garden keeps changing which doesnt help but basically everything thats already there (bar a lovely rose that’s actually flowered already, some hydrangas that im desperatly trying to save and some honeysuckle) doesnt fit with either plans. The Camellias are beautiful i agree but the size and position isnt ideal. Could I dig them up and plant elsewhere? Unfortunately we actually had our neighbors complain to us last year that the ivy is growing into their garden and hinting they want us to re fence... definitely agree the ivy’s probably holding it up. I actually wouldnt mind it if it was just up the fence but the groundcover is crazy, along with growing up the trees. I’m considering hacking back as much as we can (with the aid of a chainsaw, pruning saw and possibly an axe Haha) and then hiring someone with a mini digger? The ground needs digging up and refreshing, whilst digging last year i came across a burried barn door... god knows what else is burried to obviously try to stop weeds etc. i am dieing to get out there now! Problem is getting rid of it all, budget it tight and considering just dumping it all at the end of the garden (the previous veg plot) and dealing with it next year? 

  • There is a thing on eBay where people auction off large established plants and the buyer has to dig them out if the ground.  Garden designers buy them as established plants cost an absolute fortune,  and often they still have to dig them out at the nursery themselves. 

    if you stick them on on a no win no fee day then it’s worth a shot and you might make a few hundred pounds. 

  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,672

    Hi Vikki,

    Dumping all the rubbish down the bottom of the garden might be the easiest and cheapest option, although dumps in my experience have a habit of just sitting there and making you feel guilty.

    I'm a bit alarmed at the casual mention of using a chainsaw - have you done so before?  They can be really lethal machines if you're not used to them and you do need to have all the protective gear, particularly gloves, helmet with face guard and ear defenders. Screwfix often do a package for these things. You can also get special trousers but these are really expensive at £80 or so, so we very carefully do without.

    I really like the sound of the Ebay auction - didn't know that existed Learningcurve.

    Our new neighbours have done their garden the easy but expensive way, by digger, it's completely demolished back and front, 12 years of loving gardening  and some lovely plants, all tossed in heaps and then taken away by lorry. The previous owners had dug up (with permission) as much as they could before they moved out but it's heartbreaking to see the destruction. On the upside, if  the hellebores which are currently flowering get dug up, the new owners will let me have some.

    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
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