For years, I took my barberry hedge for granted.

It was there when we moved in almost two decades ago -- a dense clump of dark foliage that lined our front walkway.

I had to trim it frequently, to keep the spiky branches from getting overgrown -- and stabbing people with the barbs.

But at least the 9 barberries that formed the hedge grew at a uniform rate and were a pleasing uniform shade of deep burgundy.

Sadly, my hedge has been going downhill for the last several years. First I accidentally killed the two bushes on one end after using salt to melt ice on our sidewalk.

Now the surviving bushes have gone rogue. Two of them came in thick and healthy-looking this spring, but one is burgundy and the other has turned bright green. The others are in various stunted states with a only few new branches emerging from a prickly thicket of dead wood from last season.

At this point, no amount of pruning is going to transform this hodgepodge of shrubbery back into an attractive hedge. So I'm torn. Should I dig 'em up and put in petite new barberries? Or try something else without the sharp, prickly barbs? What's your favorite shrub? And have you ever had a burgundy barberry suddenly turn bright green?