Protecting your yard from overabundant foliage

newDonnawebWalking down the street this morning, I saw a sign on a tiny house: Bramble Cottage. The house with the cute name had a hedge so wildly overgrown, it blocked the view of the property, scaring away potential buyers and potentially attracting criminals.

No one deliberately plans for an overgrown garden. School children bring home evergreen trees from Arbour Day and plunk them in the front yard. Birds drop seeds when the house is new, which later sprout into seedlings a foot away from the foundation. Blooming shrubs offer a sweet scent by the window, but can turn into a unwieldly mock orange over time.

After 30 years and several new owners, the evergreens block the house, the seedling tree threatens the foundation and the mock orange hides the picture window as the landscape expands from bare land to big mess.

Here are some tips to tame your brambles this year and open the view both into the home and from the home:
1. Never plant full size evergreens in your front yard. Dwarf evergreens such as globe blue spruce are a better choice than the larger natural version. If your yard has a large evergreen, consider removing the lower branches or the entire tree.
2. If a bird-dropped tree seed sprouts too close to the house pull it out right away. One friend, Laura, remembers when a small tree appeared in her flowerbed next to her home. Her kids were in pre-school then. Now her daughter has practised law for 10 years and Laura just spent $2,000 to remove a 10-metre-tall tree planted by a bird 30 years ago. The arbourist told her something had to go: either her tree or the foundation of her Killarney bungalow.
3. Even well-placed trees need trimming, which should be done in June or July. Trees trimmed on a regular basis are easier to manage over time.
4. Spring blooming shrubs such as forsythia, bridalwreath spirea, lilac and mock orange are best pruned after they bloom every year to control their size. Hire a professional if shrubs are tangled after years of neglectful haircuts.

Yes, trees make an excellent home for birds and wildlife but reduced greenery limits thievery every summer. Get out the hedge trimmers, clippers and pruning saws because no one wants to feel unsafe in their home. If you are just starting the landscaping process in a new home, curb your enthusiasm and buy fewer plants initially.

Donna Balzer is a garden writer and entertaining speaker. Check out her blog at or follow her on Twitter @NoGuffGardener.