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Hedgerow Hedge Woe

A story about buying small arborvitae at the hardware store

Article from The Everett Herald, June 21, 2005 [scroll down for text]  


                 Photo caption:  The uneven hedge at Kristi O'Harran's house in Mill Creek should be shoved into a chipper.

Little did I know the hedgerow would be a hedge woe

By Kristi O'Harran / Herald Columnist

[re-produced from The Herald website: ]

Everyone has seen hedgerows like the one along the side of my front yard.

They are supposed to be nearly symmetrical in height, with maybe a foot or so difference among plants.

Pity my poor hedge. Each plant is doing its own annoying growth thing, ranging from 2 feet to 6 feet tall. The profile bobs up and down like the back row of a kindergarten choir. It looks like some dumb person planted individual shrubs summers apart.

I'm not that dumb. They all went in the ground at the same height, on the same day. I thought each would grow at the same pace like triplets and make a neat buffer between my yard and the next-door neighbor's driveway.

But like most of my gardening exploits, this went awry. It makes me crazy because everywhere I drive or walk, I see straight-topped hedges.

My situation went more public two weeks ago when my daughter got married. The rehearsal dinner was at my house and included about two dozen out-of-town guests who had never seen my yard.

Before these sorts of occasions, one surveys all the faults at one's abode. The joint needs to be painted, the shake roof needs to be replaced and that darn hedge should be chopped down and put in a "Fargo" chipper.

Look at the picture, with the giant hummer at the end of the row. That big boy cracks me up. Why would that one plant surge like an Olympic high jumper when the squat one to the left looks like a stunted green munchkin?

The week before the dinner, my oldest son helped us power wash the patio, put up a canopy in case of rain and scrub our stainless steel barbecue. My daughter's new father-in-law from Walla Walla planned to cook carne asada, a Mexican beef dish, for everyone.

We vacuumed, mopped and scoured the bathroom. Pooped from our chores, the yard would just have to be what it was, and that wasn't good.

At the height of our preparations, I cursed myself for not planning the meal down the street at La Palmera in Mill Creek. Just go, order, and someone serves you. Throwing the shindig in our back yard was all part of our economical ceremony.

We took a lot of financial shortcuts, but the wedding turned out fine.

It was fun at the barbecue, getting to know new friends from Texas. Kindly, no one mentioned my unprofessional yard. Remember my adventure planting a couple of hundred tiny ivy starts on my backyard slope? My mother said in the growing season that the over-done ivy would creep into our kitchen window.

Har har, Mother. I keep it neatly trimmed. My wings were clipped after my ivy column, when a horticulturist admonished me for planting ivy in the first place. The person said it was a noxious weed and killing trees left and right.

In my defense, I keep ivy away from my cedar trees. If they sell it at the store, it's good to go in the ground, right?

When my husband, Chuck, and I decided a few years ago we wanted a green barrier, we went to a hardware store and bought a dozen identical foot-high plants. We embedded the potential hedge in good soil and even inserted a commercial fertilizer stick that looked like a carrot next to each root.

The fertilizer did its job - on half the shrubs.

If we trim the tall plants, we will have to take 3 feet off a couple of the looming shrubs. The tops will end up looking pretty silly, like fat snare drums, next to short bushes that come to points.

I'm still debating whether I want to trim, but I am in no rush. I don't have upcoming party plans at my house, except poker nights. For our next family event, my middle son, Brody, will marry Lisa in September at her parents' dairy in Idaho.

Lisa's family is doing some landscaping before the outdoor ceremony, although their home and dairy already are gorgeous. Maybe I'll get some green ideas from farm folks who know what they're doing.

I might also milk my first cow. Like planting a hedge, I'm game to try new things.

Which spigot is for sour cream?

Columnist Kristi O'Harran: 425-339-3451 or

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"Our privacy bank of trees has done nothing but grow well into maturity.  Our back yard and deck area is totally private and the 10 trees your team planted [in 2005] are rich, leathery and dark green.  We remark on them every day it seems.  Please include me in any of your "Testimonials" as you would be hard pressed to find a more satisfied customer."                                                                                                                  Jim, Port Orchard

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