Michelle Martin

Trimming the bushes

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

When we started trimming, the front bushes were overgrown, their leafy branches encroaching on the sidewalk and obscuring the windows.

By the time we finished a few hours later, the sidewalk was clear and we could see over into the neighbors’ yard again. But there were also a couple of huge gaps in the hedges that had boxed in the front yard of our house since my in-laws bought it more than 40 years ago.

Some of the bushes that make up the hedge had died, and as my husband sawed away the dead wood, the holes got bigger and bigger. Even the ones that are still alive aren’t looking too healthy, with tangles of gnarled sticks making up most of what fronts the sidewalk.

Now, losing the front bushes isn’t a tragedy, at least not from my point of view. They’ve been pretty scraggly for years now, and they often serve as a weir, catching all the trash that blows by on windy days. That doesn’t count the people who decide the bushes are a convenient disposal option for coffee cups and pop cans.

And because the hedges almost completely surround the yard, they made the space essentially unusable.

The area inside the hedges has been covered with gravel for years; a couple of times a summer I push through the space between the stair railing and the bushes to cut down the weeds that grow through the liner and take out the newspapers that have fallen into no man’s land and that’s about it. It would be lovely to have something attractive in front, maybe even a place to sit.

We’d still likely need a bush or something in the corner; if not, people will cut across the space all the time, making it so nothing will grow. Maybe a big rock or a planter, so local dogs won’t be able to kill it.

It’s not like we really needed another summer project; the trim and doors in the back, which took a beating with the winter weather this year, aren’t going to paint themselves, and the flower beds in the backyard, where we spend more time, need attention, and the list goes on. But cutting out the dead wood forced the issue and gave us something new to think about.

Cutting out the dead wood in our lives is something that we have to do as well; the Bible talks about the necessity of pruning over and over again. What old habits that once served you well have outlived their usefulness? What resentments are taking up space in your heart that could be better given to people who need your loving care? What new growth could take the place of the dead wood?

Take some time to imagine that. That’s what I’ll be doing this summer, looking at landscape ideas and picturing what we want our home to look like.


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