Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Can this shrub be saved?

Posted by: Martha Buns under Perennials, Transplanting + dividing Updated: April 29, 2014 - 8:34 AM
Minuet Weigela  from Bailey Nurseries

Minuet Weigela from Bailey Nurseries

Usually problems in my garden don't assert themselves until late spring or summer. This year I didn't even have to wait until spring.

It all started with this winter's ice dams, when drips started appearing in places we'd never seen before. That sent my husband up onto the porch roof to rake the snow off the offending parts of the roof. After clearing off a ton of snow, he was about to descend the ladder when when there was a hideous crunching sound, and from my vantage point watching out the upstairs window, I saw the porch separate from the house and my husband's head disappear out of view.

After racing downstairs, I discovered that the good news was that only the porch and not my husband had met an untimely demise; he was completely unscathed. While I've got my priorities straight and am counting my blessings, after I quit hyperventilating a few days later I realized the consequences for the garden. The structure formerly known as a porch was bounded on two sides by garden space, both my prime sunny vegetable garden plot and by a row of perennials and shrubs. Any deconstruction/reconstruction of the porch is going to prevent planting, and require removal of any plants I want to try to save.

There's the blueberry we planted last season, and the barberry bush we bought with a gift certificate a friend gave us when my father died; losing that seems like bad karma.

Then there's the first perennial I ever bought when we moved in 19 years ago: a white Henri clematis whose platter-size blooms welcomed me home in the moonlight during the years I worked at nights. Given how hard it can be to establish and maintain a clematis, I'm worried how it will survive transplanting from a location it's clearly enjoyed.

The plant I worry about the most is an outsized weigela bush at the far end of the porch. It's always been too large for its location, despite rigorous efforts at pruning over the years. But its profusion of pink trumpet-shape blooms are long lasting and a magnet for the delightful little buzzing migrants that enlivened many a lunch on the porch. (Wait -- is that, yes, it is, the hummingbird is back!)

This shrub is a good 5 feet in diameter; I can't imagine how wide it has spread its roots. Given that it's smack up against the porch (yet another case of what were they thinking on the part of previous owners), we can't reasonably expect the porch to be rebuilt around it even thought it has more structural integrity than the poorly constructed porch.

I figure we have to give it the old college try to dig it out of harm's way, but given what's likely to be a massive root structure, it's not like we can hope to successfully put it into a large pot while the reconstruction occurs, and even if it would survive transplanting, I don't have a likely location to transplant it to....unless maybe where one of those spindly honeysuckles is trying to eke out an existence....Just have to figure out a way to turn this into an opportunity for a nice new porch with a more well-planned border in front.

Anyone had any luck transplanting uberly large shrubs? Any advice for trying to save this plant for future generations of hummingbirds? And if anyone knows of a good porch builder, that's up next. Just don't get me started on ice dams. 

Photo credit: Bailey Nurseries; This Minuet Weigela from Bailey Nurseries might be a good candidate for a replacement shrub if the old one doesn't survive.

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