Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Photo Pre-Project: Our front bed with trimmed back firebush stems (just barely) visible in center close to driveway's edge.

In the summer before 4th Grade my parents moved us from Tarrytown to BrykerWoods, causing me to attend a new school that September.

Although my new school was not itself all that different from my previous one, the kids were all strangers to me while quite familiar to and with each other. I was an interloper, a transplant, and far from being one of those "cool new kids" I seemed to suffer from every form of shock that typically comes with such an uprooting.

Which gives me deep empathy for my latest endeavors in the reshaping of our landscape.

I have attempted to move two mature Mexican Firebush plants (hamelia patens)- that were originally placed too close to either our driveway for one, and the front sidewalk for the other. Because they demonstrate fairly exuberant growth habits, well outstripping the predicted 3 foot height by a good 24 extra inches even during the hottest months of summer, we were forced to constantly trim and prune them back, often to the loss of most of their brilliant clumps of orange red flowers.(Photo at left is one of the firebush plants gearing up by the sidewalk - it always ended up two to three times this tall by the end of each summer.)

This business of trimming the plants at the height of their glorious display always made me a little bit sad to do. It was necessitated so we could do nothing less important than get a car into the garage or approach the front door with comfortable access to the sidewalk. The Flame Bush was only doing it's job, it was just doing it too well and in a bad place that we'd chosen for it. All those deeply red blooms,appealing to hummingbird and butterfly alike, were also an unfortunate nuisance to navigation.

I'd talked about and even attempted to transplant both bushes before, but each time was quickly thwarted or dissuaded as I discovered and re-discovered how firmly rooted they were, especially up against the immovable slabs of drive and/or sidewalk.

This year I decided to take the plunge. Either the firebushes would find a new home where they could fill out and display their flowers without risk to navigation, or one of us would die in the attempt to get them OUT from where they were so firmly lodged.

So far, and from the safety of the other side of the brute force required, this has gone reasonably well. I have managed, after hours of patient labor and some few spurts of impatient SHOVING!! to get both plants uprooted and moved to a new location.

I did my best to honor the plants in a process that may have actually killed them as a result of uprooting them in their maturity. I chose the new spots carefully, dug the new holes with room to grow, watered the plants in thoroughly, and I have mulched them generously.

As we routinely trimmed them down to woody stems each winter, only Spring will tell if the rudely uprooted plants will take to their new surroundings, and reward us all with yet another season of brilliant red blooms.

As part of a general redirection for the two beds closest to our door and front porch, moving the two firebush plants was the largest piece to tackle. Cutting out several volunteer laurels and at least one on it's last leg juniper bush was child's play compared to trying to move two equally large bushes in a way meant NOT to kill them outright.

I survived 4th grade in a new school. I even made new friends that year. I hope the firebushes will forgive this last insult and spread new roots and enjoy their new home as well. The margin of error between two successful transplants and two candidates for the chipper/shredder pile is not all that large. The photo shows a cleared out front bed, with the two clumps of stems - the trimmed back firebush plants - in their new places.

I'll be keeping an eye out for signs of new life. Stubborn Texas plants are a lot like stubborn 4th grade girls, I hope. It will take more than an uprooting to do them in.

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About Me

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Rollingwood, Central Texas
Family historian by default. Oldest surviving matriarch on my branch of the Family Tree. Story teller, photo taker, gardener, cook, blabbermouth.