A few years ago, in a desperate effort to isolate ourselves from six barking dogs owned by the various neighbors in a three hundred and sixty degree radius of our place, we planted these Chinese elms around the house. Basically, we wanted a hedge row and we'd read that these were fast growing, hearty plants. At the time, I wanted to put in a Burning Bush hedge instead, because I think they are so beautiful in the fall, but they grow quite a bit more slowly -- not to mention the fact that they were quite a lot more expensive. So between that and the need for at least some kind of barrier from the dog chorus - and soon! - we opted for the cheaper, faster growing plant instead.

I won't say it was a mistake, because in the back yard we've let them grow up as tall as they will and when they are really leafy it almost feels like we're not living in a neighborhood where you can stand between the houses, stretch your arms and touch them both. I love it back there in the late summer - especially now with the hot tub on the deck. It's awesome. But in the front yard, we really just wanted a little waist-high hedge.

Let's just say that when they said in the catalog that they would grow quickly, they weren't just whistling Dixie. In two years, these plants grew from spindly little pencil sticks stuck in the dirt, to a big beautiful leafy hedge row in the front yard. But the problem was that they didn't stop. We had to cut them ( I say "we" because I cut them once... Once.) at least six times a year in order to make our house not resemble ancient temple ruins in the Mexico countryside. They grew into thick-trunked woody trees, resembling a hedge row only because of their location. Our neighbor across the street complained when they grew too tall that she couldn't see into our yard anymore (but that's another post for another day). It really pissed off our next door neighbor when we wouldn't get to trimming them for a few weeks and they grew through the fence and into his driveway. More than once, I heard him cussing us for not cutting them more often when he didn't think I was outside. The thing was, we did cut them. It's just if you didn't set up a schedule much like a regular appointment at your favorite hair stylist, they just got out of control again in a mere six weeks and who wants to spend every Saturday trying to convince trees that they are hedges?

Finally The KoH had had it this year and he did what we should have spent our time and money on in the first place. He bought enough Burning Bush plants to replace the Chinese elms in the front yard and he pulled out all the elms, which now had root systems that rivaled the tributaries to the Mississippi river. It's too bad, because that's like six or seven years of growing time that the Burning Bushes could have been doing and they would now be big and beautiful, but instead we've got spindly, pencil like sticks in the ground again and will have to wait another hundred years or so to see a real hedge around this house. (I'm soooo hoping we won't still be living in it by the time that happens.)

So this, I guess, is a cautionary tale to anyone considering purchasing Chinese elms: Unless you really enjoy yard work, don't.

The Dormouse, however, had a GREAT time helping Daddy pull out the elms. That is, if you define "helping" as: walking around underfoot, talking non-stop, insisting she wear this "gardening hat," running inside every six minutes to get something and tromping mud all over the carpet, and moving one small pile of dirt from the ground to a cardboard box and back again sixty times. It was very serious work for her.