It took over ten years, but I’ve finally banished the last patch of pachysandra from my garden. It lingered on in front of the house, which is dominated by tree roots and deep shade. I knew it would present a terrifying replanting ordeal—and it did—and I was a bit concerned about digging up all my species tulips, erythronium, and other small bulbs. But I’ve chipped away at it, having already removed large beds of it throughout the property. Now it’s completely gone, replaced by shade perennials (still in pots, above).
I don’t know why the previous owner liked pachysandra so much. Buffalo’s superb contemporary art museum has this lining their inner courtyard, with no other plants in use. It makes sense to have a quiet green backdrop in a modernist sculpture-filled space. As an urban planting on a street of Victorian beauties, pachysandra is just boring. Its only justification is, I suppose, the lack of maintenance. Even that I have issues with; a bed of healthy perennials like those I’ve put in its place—hosta, polygonatum, ghost fern, brunnera—can be ignored just as easily.
It’s more than just the illusion of low maintenance. The impulse to “cover the ground” with some innocuous green thing suggests—to me, anyway—that a garden is something to be ignored whenever possible, almost an embarrassment or annoyance. I do get turfgrass when it’s done without too much water or chemicals, especially for kids. But minimal and modernist just doesn’t work with the ornate architectural embellishments you’re likely to see on our street.
Right after removal—under that innocent-looking soil is an insidious and nearly-impervious web of roots.
All that being said, trying to get anything into this space was pure hell. The guys who pulled out the pachysandra (they were there already doing some hardscaping) said it came out much more easily than they thought it would—even it was being rejected. I’m building the layers up with organic matter as best I can.