The Juniper Hedge

A long view of the juniper hedge, half-trimmed
The juniper hedge, trimmed about half-way, with the fireplug finally free!

We had only been in the house for a week or so when one morning I came outside for the newspaper and found something taped to the back of my truck -- a notice from the city that the juniper hedge was in violation of city code. All 75 feet of it had to be trimmed so that the "entire sidewalk" was clear, or else we would receive a summons to court. The city requested that this work be done by a date less than two weeks away.

We were still moving out of the cabin at that time, still painting downstairs, and everything we owned was in boxes. I was not very happy to add this extra chore to our already long list of things to do, and so I called the city administrator listed on the slip.

He told me that he'd recently had "more than one" complaint about the fact that the juniper hedges made the sidewalk impassible. I was pretty surprised to hear that people were complaining as soon as we'd bought the house, since it seemed pretty clear that these junipers hadn't been trimmed in years, if ever. To make a long story short, I talked him into giving us an extra week (basically one more weekend to work in), and that was all the leeway I could get.

We knew when we moved in, of course, that the hedge needed to be trimmed. We both like to walk, and moving to a neighborhood with sidewalks was going to be a big pleasure for us. Not to mention that the fireplug at the corner of our property was completely buried in juniper! That could be disastrous in case of an emergency

But I was grumpy (to put it mildly) that some of our neighbors were making trouble about it when we had hardly begun our move.

Anyway, over the next couple of weeks, whenever we had a chance, in between moving out of the cabin and into the house, we were out with some loppers we borrowed from our friend Lisa, chopping away at those prickly juniper branches.


The Process

Of course we had a wet snow the first weekend we had to work on the hedge. Even though we wore leather gloves while working our hands were freezing and the snow not only made the branches wet and dripping, but heavier than usual to carry.

By the second weekend, I went ahead a bought my little garden cart to carry branches back to the yard where we were piling them up. Next spring I'll get a chipper and turn them into mulch! I can't wait.


Junipers get heavy and wet when it snows. More junipers in the front

The hedge at the side is a full 75 feet long, but there's another patch along the front corner that we also needed to clip, adding another 20 feet or so to the total. The picture above on the right is from the front patch, showing one section of juniper I cut that turned out to be a snaking branch almost eight feet long! Underneath the branches, where they had been laying for so many years, there was actual soil forming on top of the sidewalk. So each day after cutting a little more of the hedge, we'd have to spend another fifteen or twenty minutes with a hoe and broom scraping away dirt and then cleaning off the sidewalk.

As it turns out, those junipers had been planted right after the house was built, almost twenty years ago. They had never once been trimmed in all that time. We learned this from one of the neighbors who stopped by to congratulate us on doing this chore, and who has lived here the whole time. "I remember the day they planted those junipers," he said.

Actually a couple of different neighbors stopped by to say hello and thank us for cleaning up the sidewalk, which should have pleased me (this neighborhood seems pretty friendly), but I couldn't help but feel suspicious about just who had complained about us and brought all this work onto our shoulders at a time when we were already overloaded.


The Result

Well, as you can see in the "before and after" pictures below, we did finally get it done, and just in time for the code administrator to come by. I guess we passed, 'cause I never heard from him again.

I'm already planning to pull out that front patch next year and turn it into a flower bed. Eventually, we'll dig up the hedge by the side, too, and put in something that grows up instead of out.

Then I'm going to start digging up the many junipers that were also planted around the house as foundation plantings. You can't imagine how much I hate junipers now!


Before trimming After trimming
Juniper hedge, before and after

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This is my page: Jennifer B Powell
Last update: 1/27/99