Bush Clearance 007 Wm

And we’re off. The hard graft season 2016 has been officially declared open.

The shot above may be a little blurry because the subject was indeed in motion and the light for photography dire. Note the winch cable right of centre. The camera caught the berberis in a less than elegant moment. And shouldn’t the gardener have remembered, only too well, the shrub’s ready capacity to extract revenge? Two days later and its beastly thorns are still stuck fast in three of my fingers.


Tree Felling 008 Wm[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=


If you recall, last year we cut the berberis and the rhododendrons (bottom of shot) almost to the ground in the hope that they would re-sprout and could be moved away from the newly exposed edge of the lawn. Fortuitously most of them seem to have survived this brutal act and to show just how grateful I really am, this week they’ve been ripped unceremoniously from the ground and hauled off up the hill.


Bush Clearance 008 Wm


Incredibly each one of the rhodos had been planted in its original nursery receptacle, many of the pots little more than 12 inches across. Some roots had spread from the top surface of the root ball but for the large part were still contained. The plants had virtually no drainage either. When we tipped one of the pots onto its side, water flowed out. It’s a miracle they ever established at all. At least it made them easy to dig up.


Shrub Clearance 001 Wm[2]


The rhododendron ‘hedge’ prior to pruning, the largest of the shrubs almost 8′ high


Possibly the pots had been an attempt to keep the plants growing in ericaceous soil, or perhaps in the hope that their ultimate size might be reduced. Either way there were about a dozen specimens in this bed, growing intermingled having been planted on average just 18 inches apart.


Bush Clearance 009 Wm


Rhodos in their pots,  plus the berberis, getting ready to roll


Bush Clearance 011 Wm


And this is where they’re going.

It’s the area behind the outhouses, a dumping ground for fallen tree branches and a mass of brambles not so long ago. Prior to planting we’re cutting away the plastic pots and trying to loosen the roots as best we can. They’re going in at 1.5 metres apart this time with plenty of room to spread. I wonder if they’ll grow properly now, attaining the proportions they were always meant to have, or has the damage been done? At least they’ll have a chance. I plan to intersperse them with a variety of genera throughout Spring and Summer, to cover the ground and give me a low maintenance shrubbery in years to come. Hide the ugly backside of those sheds as well.


We’d started off working in Devon mizzle, not the most pleasant of conditions at the best of times, but by mid afternoon the rain had got to the thoroughly drenching stage. Suitably motivated, Mike found a new shortcut from one part of the garden to another..


Elephant Tree 001 Wm


Elephant Pass

It used to be a trunk road. Doh. Sadly (happily?) I cannot claim ownership of such erudite wit, the credit must go to one of the chaps now helping us out with some of the heavier garden work. But you know how it is when there’s a tusk task that just has to get finished..


Bush Clearance 010 Wm


You just carry on through regardless, right?



2017-10-27T09:46:08+00:00March 10th, 2016|Tags: |


  1. thesalemgarden March 10, 2016 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    wow, I’ve never seen rhododendron planted in pots like that? I think they’re going to be very happy in their new home!

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      I hope so Michele. If they have survived the move they should romp away!

  2. Bumbleabdme March 10, 2016 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Great post as always Jessica! I bet those Rhodies will reward your efforts. It’s amazing they even survived! I’m itching to get outside now, you’ve spurred me on! Thanks. X

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      Apparently it’s going to be dry for a week!! I’ll believe it when I see it.

  3. Sue Garrett March 10, 2016 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Love the trunk roots

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Fabulous aren’t they. I hadn’t noticed them until we started working up there.

  4. Caro March 10, 2016 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    Did this dig count as ‘heavier work’? I feel in need of a lie down just reading about it. If the soil is right for your rhodos, they should thrive in their new situation, with lots of room for the roots to spread. Must feel great to have ticked that job off your list – even if your back/fingers don’t feel so great. I admire your motivation to get on with things, guess I’d better do the same!

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      It does feel good to have started the season with a large job out of the way. I’d like to think it’s all down hill now, but somehow I doubt it! Definitely ‘heavier work’. I’ve planted out camellias and found a rhodo self layer which has gone into open ground and thrived, so I’m fairly confident about the soil.

  5. Sol March 10, 2016 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    wow what hard work. I have planted a few seeds I just cant seem to get it together this year. I love a good rhodo! like azeleas the flowers are lovely.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      You must still be recovering and it will take time. Starting with seeds sounds like a very good idea.

  6. FlowerAlley March 10, 2016 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I helped with a landscaping project years ago. Several years afterward, some of the azaleas were dying. I decided to pull them out to replace them. Someone had planted them in their pots. Who are these people?

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      It does make you wonder. I’m amazed ours did as well as they have. With that degree of tenacity hopefully they will brush off their latest trauma.

  7. LINDA from EACH LITTLE WORLD March 10, 2016 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    I have to echo Flower Alley: Who are these people?! I know not everyone is a garden maniac like we are, but really seems like they would know to pull the plant out of the pot. More amazing is the fact they grew so well. I think they will be grateful to have their feet unbound.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      I’m sure there must have been a reason at the time. Most of the plants have been back in the ground two days, final three done today, and so far they look good. It’s getting warmer and dry though, there is going to be a lot of hose action.

  8. Peter Herpst March 10, 2016 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    Interesting to find the rhododendrons still in pots. Thanks for the morning giggle!

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      They’re certainly survivors. So far at least..

  9. Backlane Notebook March 10, 2016 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Gosh that’s rather good finding them still in their pots- I imagine if not restricted you’d be digging the roots out for miles. And they’ll hopefully romp away now.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      Before starting we thought it would be a much harder job. Digging the new holes hasn’t been so easy.. there are a lot of tree roots in the new place. Hardly surprising I suppose, there are tree roots everywhere!

  10. kate@barnhouse March 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful and amusingly recounted story of your latest exploits. I’ve moved both scarily prickly berberis and sickly rhodedrons in my time, they’ve been absolutely fine. Digging up old shrubs is full of surprises – I’ve found some still desperately growing round in circles, freeing them from their confines as you’ve done at such a good time of year should earn pleasing results. Your ‘chaps’ are right, as soon as I saw the image I thought ‘elephants’. Glad to hear you had help with this hefty work.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      At least I’ve given them a chance. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but we had nothing to lose. Good to know they respond well though. This is the area the Anemanthele are going into too, with plenty of room to spread! Thanks Kate.

  11. Archie The Wonder Dog March 10, 2016 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    I bet you’ll be able to hear them heave a sigh of relief as they’re planted with their roots free to roam!

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      They look better already. Perhaps I should treat them to wine and easter eggs too 🙂

  12. Kris P March 10, 2016 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    What a job! I’m glad you have some extra help. Between the weather, the mud, and the thorns, I’d have been hard-pressed to take on that job. I haven’t seen mud like that – well, maybe, ever!

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      Yes, it’s been pretty wet. But, and I can hardly believe it, we’re forecast a dry week. I foresee much gardening getting done.

  13. sustainablemum March 10, 2016 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    How bizarre planting them in their pots, at least it made it, slightly, easier for you to dig them up!

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      Much easier as it turned out. It was the replanting that was the hard bit. And the dragging them up the hill. The root balls were waterlogged and extremely heavy. But it’s done, so hopefully I will now be able to watch them grow.

  14. Linda aka Crafty Gardener March 10, 2016 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Wow, amazing the rhodos grew so well if they were still in pots. Hopefully the move to the new area, minus the pots, will be successful.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      I was totally amazed Linda. Rhodos are not small plants, how on earth did they survive.

  15. Wendy March 10, 2016 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    That does look like incredibly hard work. Thank goodness those plants were in the pots. They’re clearly survivors so I hope they also do well in their new location and give you lots of spring colour.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:16 pm - Reply

      I would imagine I’ve lost the blooms for a year or so, hacking them back as hard as I did. But if they come back and thrive it will be worth the wait. To be honest, I’m not that fond of rhododendons. But where they are now I will see glimpses of colour through the trees. Much better.

  16. Denise March 10, 2016 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    Don’t you just love that moment when a stubborn shrub finally gives up the struggle to stay planted and just ‘pops’ out of the ground? I’ve experienced many a sudden ‘bum meets the ground moment in a hurry’ occasion when this has happened, especially when clearing an allotment plot.

    An ‘elephantine’ job!!

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      There have been plenty of ‘bum meets the ground’ moments on the slippy slidey bank today. And then a midge flew into my eye and promptly died, leaving me with the problem of getting it out. Not nice I can tell you.

  17. Julie March 10, 2016 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    My back hurts just looking at your photographs Jessica, Rhodos are tough as old boots, I’m sure they will be fine, so will the Berberis. I hope some drier weather is on the way for you.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the reassurance Julie. They must be tough to survive as they did, if they’ve made it through the indignity of the move they should be fine.

  18. Dorothy/The Nature of Things March 10, 2016 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Wow, those plants are definitely going to be much happier in their new home. Good for you for saving them and giving them this chance.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      It was either move them or chuck them out and that seemed rather unfair. I need the lawn edge freed up so I can plant a new (much lower!) hedge. And actually in the new position they’re doing me a favour by covering earth and the back of the outhouses. Win win.

  19. Julieanne March 10, 2016 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Jessica, you don’t do anything by halves, do you?! That looks like a really big job, even with getting in help. I’m sure the Rhodos will be ok, they seem to survive anything, and you’ll sure be pruning them back in their new site.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:28 pm - Reply

      They can grow as tall as they like in the new site. I just hope they do. Getting in help is proving to be a good move, we should get so much more done this year.

  20. Jayne Hill March 10, 2016 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Who on earth plants rhodies still in their pots? Good grief . . . poor little things.

    If you haven’t already got them back in the ground I can recommend Mycorrhizal fungi. I’ve used it for all the shrub and perennial planting at Bag End and it’s amazing how much faster everything seems to establish. Much, much cheaper to buy 2.5kg tubs on eBay than sachets from a garden centre.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      Yes, I’ve heard of this stuff but never used it. The rhodos are in, but I’ll certainly look at it for future plantings. Plenty more to come. Thanks for the tip.

  21. Janet/Plantaliscious March 10, 2016 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Good grief, amazing those Rhodos survived at all! Definitely a good job jobbed as my grandad would have said. Love your pet elephant…

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:35 pm - Reply

      The elephant has a new azalea for company as of today, I hope they’ll be happy together. If I’d been sensible I’d have labelled the plants with colour and height before I pruned them. Of course I didn’t. The results could be interesting..

  22. Sam March 10, 2016 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Yesterday’s weather was foul; today’s has been heavenly. Elephant Pass – brilliant. Gosh, you don’t do things by halves, do you! I think rhodos won’t die unless you try really, really hard to kill them, so I’m sure you’ll have a rhodo jungle in no time 🙂

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      I hope so. If only to make the effort worthwhile, not being a great rhodo fan. But with all the earth I’ve got to cover throwing them out didn’t make any sense at all.

  23. Amy at love made my home March 10, 2016 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Wow, it is amazing that the plants grew at all restricted in their pots. Poor things. I am sure that they will be much happier now you have moved them to their new homes and without the pots!! xx

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      Yes, they have suffered haven’t they. We did discover some empty pots, so not all of them made it through. But most did. Hopefully they’ll really take off now they can stretch their roots a bit!

  24. Josephine March 10, 2016 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Lots and lots of back-breaking work there, Jessica…..kudos to you .
    I love the elephant trunk……perfect.
    Another growing season gets off to a start, I can’t wait to see what’s in store this year.

    • Jessica March 10, 2016 at 10:48 pm - Reply

      Hi Jo. Hope you’re healing well and will soon be home.
      The elephant trunk has been the perfect tool today, it makes a great guide for the hose and I’ve had a lot of watering in to do!

  25. Alain March 11, 2016 at 2:41 am - Reply

    It is incredible these rhododendrons survived! Isn’t it amazing how cosseted plants will die while others prosper with no care.

    • Jessica March 11, 2016 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      It is. The trick is to identify and fill the garden with the latter!

  26. Helene March 11, 2016 at 3:10 am - Reply

    I guess it is possible the rhododendrons were been planted this way for the same reason I intend to plant all my acers, camellias and rhododendrons the same way; because of clay soil and too high pH. I know a lot of people would say that I can’t grow those plants in a garden like mine – but I want to! So container plants it is then, and I will bury the pots because then the soaker hose can water them during the summer and also they won’t dry out so quickly – and it also looks better, as if they were actually planted. But hopefully I won’t forget about them completely as it looks like has been done in the case of your garden, they need to get a new and bigger pot just as often as if they were growing in pots above ground 🙂

    Congratulations with getting all that work done, I am on a similar path having spent the last 2 months digging out old, mature shrubs. Only one left for now and it is proving a headache – might have to admit defeat and get some help in.

    • Jessica March 11, 2016 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      The irony is the soil here is acid. I have planted out camellias, pieris, enkianthus and they’ve all been fine. Although I can understand it for your garden, there doesn’t seem to have been any reason why these rhododendrons should have been planted in their pots. So maybe it was to try and reduce the size. Digging out mature shrubs is a huge task Helene. It is well worth getting someone in for a couple of hours to help you. It feels great when it’s done and frees up the space for Spring planting.

  27. hoov March 11, 2016 at 3:43 am - Reply

    Wow. Still in the pots,placed too close together. Maybe Americans planted them. ;^)

    I’m envious of your mizzle and damp and mud and puddles…though we have uncomfortable gardening here too. It’s not any more fun in 30C weather than it is in the rain. Progress! Onward through the puddles! Great work!

    • Jessica March 11, 2016 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      I can’t quite believe we’re supposed to be in for a dry week, so lots more gardening to be done. I hope the flipside works as well… and California gets rain!

  28. Rick Nelson March 11, 2016 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Berberis and rhododendrons must both rate as “tough as old boots” rd, so I imagine they will recover well.

    • Jessica March 11, 2016 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      I hope you’re right Rick. Seeing them being dragged and/or winched up the hill I did wonder if they would ever put on a leaf again. Even cut back and still in pots the rootballs were heavy, mostly through excess water.

  29. AnnetteM March 11, 2016 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    You must be very pleased with yourself having achieved all that. I am sure the rhododendrons will love all that space finally and hopefully reward you with some lovely flowers maybe next year.

    • Jessica March 11, 2016 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      It’s a great job to get done. We put the last three in the ground yesterday, struggling as it was just the two of us, but so glad we did.. there was a frost last night. The roots hanging out of the top of the pots might not have fared well.

  30. Sarah March 11, 2016 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    That looks such hard work in those conditions but you must also be pleased with a job well done!
    Sarah x

    • Jessica March 11, 2016 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      The couple of dry days that we’ve had since has made a huge difference. Looking forward to getting out there again this weekend.

  31. germac4 March 11, 2016 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    Good luck with the rhododendrons, they are such beautiful plants they deserve another chance. That sodden soil must be hard to work with..

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 10:48 pm - Reply

      It’s clay soil which means it’s a quagmire in winter and rock hard in summer. It’s slowly drying out. We’re approaching the short but golden window of opportunity between the two extremes!

  32. annamadeit March 12, 2016 at 5:30 am - Reply

    In their pots??? Who are these people, indeed… I have big things that need to be taken out/moved, and I have to say I dread the work ahead. You are most definitely an inspiration. I love the name Elephant Pass. I bet that name will stick!

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      It’s why we got in some help. It’ll only be on an ad hoc basis, but a few extra hands at the start of a tough job is sometimes all that’s needed.

  33. Anna March 12, 2016 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Yikes that looks like seriously hard graft Jessica. Hope that they take to their new homes.

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      Well so far so good, but with this sudden (and not unwelcome) bout of dry weather I fear I am going to have to get the hose out quite frequently. And needless to say, it isn’t the easiest spot to get to.

  34. Jo March 12, 2016 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    I’m often amazed at plant’s abilities to grow in inhospitable places but you really wouldn’t expect them to have survived being planted in their original pots and grow the way they did. Poor things, I bet they can’t wait to spread their roots now they’re going to get chance.

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      I’ve bought shrubs and sadly left them in their pots for far less time, only for them to expire on me. I wouldn’t have believed it either had I not seen it with my own eyes.

  35. Angie March 12, 2016 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    I’m knackered just reading! It baffles me that those plants have survived and as you say makes you wonder WHY? I don’t know about them but I know when I’ve had a pair of uncomfortable shoes on only for a night out the relief I feel when I can finally kick them off…..ahhhhhh! Multiply that by 1000s I suppose and that’s exactly how they feel.
    Hats off to one and all Jessica!

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 11:12 pm - Reply

      It will be interesting to see what happens now they have their freedom. I don’t suppose I’ll see any flowers for a few years but at least now they will be able to grow into a pleasing shape, unhindered by close neighbours. Assuming they survive the move of course.

  36. snowbird March 12, 2016 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Struth! That does sound like hard work, how amazing that they survived in the pots, hopefully they should romp away now. I love the elephant trunk!xxx

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 11:14 pm - Reply

      I hope so. The only trouble is I neglected to note down the bloom colours of the different plants. I do hope there won’t be any awful clashes!

  37. Sheila March 12, 2016 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    I love the ‘elephant trunk’…what a hoot! Just looking at what you have accomplished makes my back ache. We have a rampant cedar hedge that needs taming, and I wasn’t looking forward to tackling it. However our 20 year old grandson is at a loose end and has been employed to do it.
    I have a feeling your rhodis are just going to take off, now they have had their ‘corsets’ removed..!

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 11:24 pm - Reply

      Perfect.. That is just what 20 year old grandsons are for!

  38. Virginia March 13, 2016 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Oh My Goodness! They are humungous!!! And the weather! You deserve a medal for Persistence! And a stiff, hot toddy and a soak in a tub too!

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 11:32 pm - Reply

      If they attain that height again I will have a proper shrubbery. With a bit of luck the plants will smother the weeds in the fullness of time and virtually look after themselves. That will make all the effort in the interim well worthwhile!

  39. woolythymes March 13, 2016 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    where do you get your energy???? (I can almost hear those poor rhodies screaming their ‘thank yous’ for freeing them from those containers! YIKES! ) And the saga continues….

    • Jessica March 13, 2016 at 11:35 pm - Reply

      I don’t have that much energy really. I tend to work in short sharp bursts with a lot of pottering in between!

  40. Joanne March 14, 2016 at 8:37 am - Reply

    I’m glad your are reusing the rhododendrons. After surviving the original style of planting it’s nice to see they are being given another chance xx

    • Jessica March 14, 2016 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      I’ve done my best for them, I hope they can now thrive. Thanks Joanne.

  41. Indie March 14, 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    So weird that the plants were planted in their pots like that! Well, if they survived that, they must be tough things and will hopefully do fabulously in their new location! It looks so beautiful there – so lush and green! (I’m assuming due to all the rain!)

    • Jessica March 15, 2016 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      Definitely the rain. Although now it’s been dry for a week already there are cracks in the ground and I want more rain! That’s clay soil for you 🙁

  42. CherryPie March 14, 2016 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    I am surprised that they didn’t die off cooped up in pots like that.

    • Jessica March 15, 2016 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      Me too. On the positive side, digging them up caused little root disturbance. It’s a week since we replanted the first ones and so far they look fine.

  43. Laura March 14, 2016 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    I can honestly tell you, from my experience working at a garden centre, that YES sometimes we have to tell the customer that the pot must be removed before planting!!! Mind boggling, I know.
    Rhododendrons do love acid, but are one of the few plants that do not benefit from an application of mycorrhizal fungi. Blueberries, azaleas, and lupins won’t do anything with it, either.

    • Jessica March 15, 2016 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Unbelievable! I think in this case they were planted with good intentions, an attempt to keep the soil around the roots acid. But a soil check would have confirmed that they’d have been OK in the ground. And if the soil hadn’t been OK presumably ground water seepage would have damaged the plants anyway, even in their pots?
      Thanks for the tip re mycorrhizal fungi. I haven’t used it yet but sounds like it would be worth a try, if not on the rhodos.

  44. annie_h March 15, 2016 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    Yes that is a bit crazy that they were still in their pots, they will feel happier now you’ve moved them I’m sure. You’ve inspired me to think about cutting my rhodo in my garden, its getting way too big. When did you cut yours back hard?

    • Jessica March 15, 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      I did it about now, possibly end March/early April. It’s a tough decision to make because obviously it means losing all this year’s blooms. It’s also not guaranteed to succeed.. probably two thirds of mine resprouted but I did cut them REALLY hard back. There wasn’t a single leaf left by the time we’d finished. I figured I didn’t have too much to lose because growing so close together they weren’t a good shape at all. I still have one mature specimen, growing on its own, that I plan to cut back by about half, but after flowering. It’s also got too big for its space. That might be a better bet for yours?

  45. Chloris March 17, 2016 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Gluttons for punishment the pair of you.
    Weird people planting plants in their pots. Your Rhodos will be so much happier now.

    • Jessica March 17, 2016 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      Yes indeedy. On all three counts.

  46. casa mariposa March 17, 2016 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    I am absolutely amazed those rhodies did so well still incarcerated in their pots! What a relief it should be to finally have some room to spread their roots and really settle in.

    • Jessica March 18, 2016 at 7:41 am - Reply

      Yes, I’m hoping they will do well now. They are consuming water at a fearful rate. It’s going to be quite a job meeting their needs if our current dry spell continues.

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