The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

Bye Bye Barberry

4 Comments

I have been enjoying watching the Robins pick the berries off my Cardinal Dogwood just outside my back porch. I’ve observed three adults at one time vying for a loaded branch, Mom showing two waiting fledgelings perched on the leaf trellis how to pick their own berries, the fledgelings eating for themselves.

I’m reminded of a similar scene this past Spring of House Sparrows picking the berries off a Barberry shrub just off my front porch – an invasive species eating an invasive species. The Barberry was practically the only shrub we had when we moved into our home, but now that I’ve been planting and planning the garden for four years, it can go.

Early Spring, getting ready to clip back the Barberry

I’ll give the shrub credit. It has awesome color, fragrant small yellow flowers in the Spring, and beautiful dripping red berries in the Fall through Winter. It is tough, thoroughly hardy, and takes a good pruning. I understand why it appeals to so many and can be found on nearly every lot and street corner. But the Barberry is aptly named, it has thorns – big, sharp, painful, thorny barbs very much like barbed wire. It would make a formidable fence or barrier. To me, not a very inviting front porch planting and impossible to weed and work around. Most arguably it is invasive. I can attest to the ten or so starters I found throughout my front garden bed after the thorns were removed. I’m also reminded, again, of the Sparrows who ate the berries and deposited them elsewhere. It would sadden me to see our beautiful Northeastern woods overrun with Barberry. Thinking of our beautiful woods also prompted me to rip out a small Burning Bush as well that sentimentally I was holding onto because it was the first shrub I ever propagated from a cutting.

After lopping off most of the branches – I did suffer a few good barbs
It put up a fight but was finally defeated by the Toyota

The carnage – notice the Barberry, and Burning Bush, plantings across the street

I would not classify myself as a true die-hard-only-native-planter, but I do try to be mindful of the choices I make in planting my garden. I must admit, I felt good, real good, after ripping out this bad boy. Bye bye Barberry.

In its place I wanted to plant an evergreen. (This is my year of planting more evergreens in the garden.) Our native evergreens tend to be tall and large, not foundation friendly, and would overpower our front porch. I didn’t want a conical shape but something more mounding to retain the curve of the porch. I chose a hardy Bird’s Nest Spruce. Although derived from the Norway Spruce which can also be considered invasive, I don’t think this variety will pose a threat to our natural surrounding environment. It rarely sets cones and grows very slowly. It will however, provide an excellent wind break and cover for song birds. It is tooted to be a good choice for rock gardens and foundation plantings. It will take some time for this specimen to fill in. It will be fun, and a lesson in patience, to watch it grow.

The Black Lace (left) can really show off now

A very young Bird’s Nest Spruce

Now, I just have to paint the porch. It’s always something.

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Author: Kathy Sturr

Author of the Violet Fern blog, artist, and master gardener.

4 thoughts on “Bye Bye Barberry

  1. Good for you! A good choice to remove the barberry even though it is still all over your neighborhood. It is attractive as you said, but when I went for a walk in our Connecticut woods near a housing development, all I saw in the understory of the woodland was barberry. Unmistakable, it was everywhere. Its denseness and thorns are ideal habitat for tick carrying white mice, which adds to our Lyme disease problem in CT. I applaud your landscaping efforts : )The little spruce will grow very slowly, but you know that!

  2. That is one stubborn plant. I have removed a few and have a couple left. I love your porch planting!

  3. Great decision and I love that a Toyota was involved!

  4. I'm sure it's very satisfying to have that job done — even if there still are barberry and burning bush plants all over your neighborhood and those sparrows will almost surely deposit some seeds back in your garden. Your baby spruce is very cute. -Jean

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