Goodbye Squirrel Highway

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on whether I should move the Savannah Holly I planted recently back a little toward the house, or leave it where I had planted it. In case you missed that post, I planted a Savannah Holly tree at the right corner of my home as kind of an anchor plant for that end of the house. The landscape plan created by a landscape designer last year indicated the tree should be approximately 8 feet out. In my effort to not plant it too close to the house, I went a bit overboard and planted it 10′ 6″ out.

A Landscape Plan for Front Garden


Here’s how it looked at 10′ 6″ out from the corner of the house. It just looked too far out to me…very disjointed from the house itself. I ask what you guys thought and your comments were great and insightful…thanks so much for those! I haven’t done a tally but it looked like you guys were split down the middle. Some folks said move it back, others said to leave it where it was.

Savannah Holly Anchor Plant for Corner of House_wm


A few folks expressed concerns about moving the tree closer to the house, fearing the roots could become invasive. Fortunately, that isn’t usually a problem with the Savannah Holly because it’s really just a shrub that can be grown into a tree form. Here’s some info I found online that explains a bit more about that.

As you can see below, it indicates at its mature width, it can reach 10 feet. Actually, most of the info I’ve found online indicates it can become even wider but most folks keep them pruned to around 6-8 foot wide in the home landscape.



Since they do well when pruned and actually like to be pruned per my landscape designer, you’ll even see them in areas where there’s limited space.




In an ideal world, I would love to have left it 10 feet out but I knew once I added the gardenia shrubs in front, I would have reduced that patch of grass running between the large front island and the island with the holly tree down to a really small strip, something I didn’t want to do.

Savannah Holly Tree as anchor plant for corner of house


I called the designer who drew up the plan and she said it would be fine to move it back to the 8 ft indicated on the plan but not any closer. Yesterday the person who originally helped me plant the tree and the other Savannah Holly trees visible in the side yard, came back out and we moved it approximately 2 feet back, leaving it 8′ 6″ from the corner of the house. It feels more connected to the house now and I do like how it looks. I think it would have continued to nag at me if I had not moved it back.

Before I share the other things we got done yesterday, I have to tell you what happened this morning. I’ve been searching for someone to help me do a little light pruning on my magnolia tree as well as assist in keeping the other trees and plants I’m putting in maintained during the year. I don’t ever want things to get to the overgrown stage they had gotten before.

I called a company that does this and only this for a living. Pruning and maintaining trees, shrubs etc… in the landscape IS their business. The owner came out this morning and as he walked down my walkway, the very first thing he did was point to my newly moved Savannah Holly and ask, “Who planted that there?” I was stunned! Did I have some giant, “I just moved my Savannah Holly back two feet” sign on my forehead?

I gulped and held my breath as I told him I had. I’m sure I looked petrified as I stood there just waiting for him to tell me it was too close to the house. I REALLY didn’t want to have to dig it up and move it, AGAIN!

He didn’t say anything after I answered, so I asked him why he had asked. He said, “Because it’s exactly where it should be, which is extremely rare.” I kid you not, that’s what he said! He added that everyone always plants them way too close to the house. Whew! I began to breathe again.

In full disclosure I told him where we had originally planted it and how I had moved it back a couple of feet just yesterday. I also revealed that a boxwood shrub would be going behind it on the corner, or at least that’s in the plan, and I was worried ultimately the tree might shade it out too much. I added that, if that does happen, I guess I can always remove the boxwood or maybe even limb up the Savannah Holly a bit more.

He told me that boxwoods can take some shade and it would probably be fine. Also, I may not let the Savannah Holly grow that far back toward the house. The end result was I felt okay with the decision to move it, especially after I began placing the gardenias around it in front. Is that not crazy though that he just zoomed in on that tree? That cracked me up. I don’t know what I would have done if he had said it was too close and needed to come out two feet. lol

Landscaping A FrontYard


My helper and I got a lot done yesterday. Moving the tree took a couple of hours. We had to go really slow and be super careful since the sprinkler system and the gas line for the gas lantern runs near this area. I marked out the area where the grass needed to be removed so the island could be extended for the Double Mint Gardenias I purchased recently.

Landscaping A Front Yard


To mark the area, I placed the garden hose where I wanted the island edge to be and using some spray paint I already had, I sprayed where we needed to dig out the grass. I decided to err on the side of removing too little because I didn’t want to find I had removed more than I should…it’s hard to put back!

Landscaping A Front Yard


Here’s how it looked with the grass removed. I think I may chop away a bit more of the sod before I get busy planting these because the pruning guy who came out today told me I have the gardenias a bit too close and that they don’t do well when shaded.

Landscaping A Front Yard


In addition to moving the Savannah Holly and removing some of the sod to make way for planting the gardenias, we did a little light pruning on a Crepe Myrtle up near the road and then began work on this side of the yard. The messy looking shrubs on the left all needed to be removed to make way for the evergreen shrubs I’ll be putting back. The tree will be transplanted this fall after it goes dormant. I’ve been reading up on transplanting Japanese Maples and it turns out they do very well if transplanted after they are dormant.

Landscaping A Front Yard


Notice the magnolia branches touching the roof of the house. When my termite guy came out to do his yearly inspection, he told me I needed to get those branches off the house. They are also a squirrel highway to the house. Yesterday we tackled that, too!

Landscaping A Front Yard


Here’s how this area looks now. Magnolia branches are off the house and the squirrel highway has been closed down for good. The shrubs have been removed and over the next few weeks as I wait for the maple to lose its leaves, I’ll be finalizing/purchasing the shrubs that will be going back in this area.

We’re in the ugly stage right now. Just like with a kitchen renovation or a major room renovation, there’s always that “it-has-to-get-worse-before-it-gets-better” stage. Yep, that’s where we are now.

Today the pruning guy shared a place where he thinks I can purchase larger shrubs like boxwoods, so I’ll be checking with them to see what they have in stock. In the meantime, I need to decorate my front porch for Halloween. I’ve been so busy digging, I haven’t had a chance to give that area much thought.

Landscaping A Front Yard


Looking forward to sharing some pretty pics before long…shouldn’t be too much longer now! Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. It wouldn’t be near as much fun if you weren’t here cheering me on. Okay, now where is that bottle of Advil. πŸ˜‰

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  1. Speaking of squirrels- I had one take out my power this morning! Little stinker traveled across the tree line to the pole and made contact with the wrong thing and boom he was dead and so was my power!! LOL… fortunately it didn’t take too long for the power company to fix me back up. You’ve been working your buns off on the exterior. Come next spring you’ll be so delighted to see everything coming up!

    • pam ~ crumpety cottage says

      Oh Liz, that reminds me of the exact scenario the electric company reps did at my son’s school many years ago. They had a little working model of a home (very cute, too!) and a pole with lines, transformer, etc. The only thing out of scale was poor Mister Squirrel. He was huge in comparison, lol. It was comical. Anyway, they were trying to teach the kids to stay clear of the lines and they showed what happened to Mister Squirrel when he got too close to the transformer box. He quickly became Mister Toast. Fire and all. I was so shocked at that demonstration I remember it all these years later. RIP Monsieur Squirrel.

    • Oh no! That must happen a lot because a couple of years ago my son lost power at their home and when the guy came out from the power company, he told them it was probably caused by a squirrel. Hopefully it’s a fast way to go and they never feel a thing. One minute they are here and the next they are in squirrel heaven where the trees are always loaded with acorns and the bird feeders are within easy reach! πŸ™‚
      I hadn’t even thought about next spring…that would be wonderful! Something to look forward to after all this work. Thanks, Liz! Glad you have your power back on!

  2. I got wind of your blog from Susan Branch’s list of blogs she enjoys. Well, after visiting your blog for almost a year, I want to say thank you. I enjoy your perspective, sense of humor, and your sense of fun. The steps you take to problem solve life’s little complications make for enjoyable reading. I so enjoy home tours. My favorite- Judy Blume’s home. Did you catch the Fred McMurry home? Love it too. So great job with the landscaping. One thing always leads to another. My husband was gone for a week of duck hunting in Oregon so that means project time since I wasn’t cooking… Again a little thing like trimming the vines on the back porch lead to scraping, scrubbing and painting. But you know how satisfying that feels! Lani

    • Thanks so much, Lani! No, I need to look that one up…thanks for the tip! Oh, that is so true…you do one thing and notice 10 more that need to be done. It does feel so good though to get some things done, though! Good luck with your projects! I bet Oregon is beautiful right now. I have a friend who lives in Bend and it’s a beautiful place to hike and ski.

  3. Luv your magnolia’s new “do.” Wished we could do gardenias here. franki

  4. I’m so glad you got validation for your holly tree placement! πŸ™‚ How funny that he instantly zeroed in on that!

  5. Peggy Thal says

    So much work! But it looks perfect and beautiful already. Can’t wait to see it all finished. So happy you moved the holly it would always bug you. Just liked a crooked painting. Good luck with your landscape. Take aspirin or pain meds before you work more.

  6. crumpety cottage says

    Susan, you are making fast progress! It’s probably just as well that you moved that tree; it would have haunted you. Glad your pruning man approved of the location. That’s a relief. I need to find someone like him. We have so much landscape to maintain, it would be helpful to have someone like that. Happy planting. Looking forward to more ‘reveals.’

    • I hope I’ll be able to use him. He said to give him a call in January/February because by then I’ll have everything in (hopefully). That’s also when he does most of the pruning. I’ll have to get an estimate then to see what he charges. Hoping I can use him, though!

  7. Susan Jones says

    Girl, these are some of my favorite posts from you! Keep sharing what you do in your yard. They are more inspirational than you would think.

  8. Linda Page says

    I agree with your tree guy that the Savannah Holly is in the perfect spot. It was just sort of sticking out there before. Everything is looking good!

  9. Everything is looking so nice! I agree that the tree looks better moved back. I didn’t actually comment my vote, but it seemed everyone was commenting the way I felt. It would have continued to nag at you if you didn’t move it! I hate that, so if something is bothering me, I just go ahead and do it. I was having heart failure (well, not literally) when you told about the tree man asking about it. What a relief that he confirmed the proper placement! Everything looks nice and clean and ready for new plantings. It will look so opened up with the Maple moved away from the window. I’m looking forward to seeing things after all the new shrubs are planted. Should I order you a massage somewhere? πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks, Kim! lol So was I…having heart failure. He walked over to the corner of the house and showed me where it will ultimately end up and it was pretty close to the corner, so the boxwood may have to go eventually. But I’d rather have the tree a bit closer now and in the future than worry about the boxwood. It may not even be visible once the tree gets bigger anyway. When I planted that Japanese Maple as a specimen plant it was really small and there were shrubs behind it. I thought they were slow growing but that one grew relatively quickly and covered up the shrub in no time. It appears they take transplanting pretty well so keeping my fingers crossed it will do well. lol A massage is sounding really good right now!

  10. Awesome work! My magnolia is getting to the point where I need a professional pruning. Did you use an arborist? I don’t know if there’s really a difference from other types tree experts, but I have one neighbor who did use an arborist on hers and it was huge. It looks really good, and it was shaped and thinned throughout for good circulation. Expensive, I’m sure.

    • Thanks, Rita! I’m not sure if he is an Arborist or not. His website says he is a “certified Georgia Nurseryman and a Georgia Certified Landscape Professional.” You can check out his website here: He can’t help me with my magnolia. He recommended a tree company but I think I called them last year and they weren’t able to do it either.

  11. Mary from Virginia says

    Looks great to me! Glad you moved your tree. It would have made you crazy!

    Looking forward to seeing the rest!

  12. Everything is looking great! Yes, there is a lot of dirt and pain during transition….take lots of before pictures! And think how much you will smile next year every day you come home to your new landscape. Really enjoy reading your blog….thanks much for sharing with us. You are inspiring me to tackle some less than attractive areas in my yard.

  13. You never stop, do you? I am glad the holly is in the right place!! The magnolia looks great after pruning too. Yup, it is always bad before it gets good again:):)

  14. Oh, I got quite the chuckle fit, after reading about the guy asking you who planted that holly there ! Had he only read your blog… he would have known the story. πŸ™‚

  15. Really didn’t think 2ft would make any difference, but it really does. I see now what you meant by weak connection to the house and that it was sticking out. And in the after photo, it looks connected to the side hollies. Good job;)
    Amazing (spooky?) he focused on the holly over all the other foliage in your yard!

  16. Great planning & planting.Hubby always wonders why I take so much time “studying” where I want to plant shrubs,etc. I’ve done a good job in choosing deer proof, evergreens so the appearance from the street is always good. I told him curb appeal is important when selling a house……….though we don’t plan on moving for a very long time. The plan has to have time to develop!!

  17. bobbi duncan says

    Funny, ironic story about the holly and one you’ll always have in memory whenever you look back in time. The yard is going to look amazing…can’t wait to see the “after”.

    • I know…it’s funny now but he scared me for a minute! I would have about died if he had said it was too close because it’s not much fun moving it.

  18. SharonFromMichigan says

    See, you have a good eye. Trust your instincts. The picture of the mature holly tree is just beautiful. I would have been nervous too when he zeroed in on that tree. We use an arborist to trim our crimson king maples and it seems professional trimming looks much better and the trees make it through the windy winter storms better.

  19. Susan, I was very interested in your Savannah Holly story.
    Where do you live ? And how is it doing after all this time? Is it a messy tree/ shrub?
    I live in Williamsburg, VA in a new section that has a very fussy HOA.I want to put 2 on my rear property line to give me a bit is a screen from the houses behind me. Mature height can’t be above 30 feet. I want something that is green all winter as well. Thanks

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