For me, a garden is more about shrubs than any other plant group because A, they fill it up, B, they're relatively low-maintenance, and C, many of them are gorgeous. Getting into pruning big-time a few years ago only increased my enjoyment of these plants, as I learned to thin and shape and size my shrubs to enhance their individual beauty, their fit in the spots I'd planted them, and their overall health. I even had a Hort Club presentation here once with a wonderful Master Gardener named John Hartmann which consisted of recommending our favorite shrubs and generally conducting a lobby session/love-in for them. And a shrub I've recommended many times that I've now decided to banish from my garden for poor performance (sorry!) is the leucothoe. Allow me to make the case for banishment.
Exhibit 1 is, I believe, a 'Rainbow' or variegated leucothoe that looks SO, SO gorgeous when the foliage is perfect but which usually looks mangy and covered in leafspot. This one and two more like it were moved to the woods last season because they were getting too much sun where they were, but they came through the winter looking terrible, so I'm concluding they also don't like winter. (Me, either, but I don't get all diseased over it.)
Exhibit 2 is, I believe, 'Scarletta,' which has solid dark green foliage. It's looking a lot better than the variegated type- no surprise - but almost as scraggly and a bit diseased.
Now as I'm looking in my handy red Garden Book, about which I lectured to you in an exasperated tone last fall, I see all sorts of useful information I'd refused to acknowledge about these shrubs. To wit: "Fickle in landscape. Vulnerable to fungal leafspot, esp. when stressed. Prefers acid soil." And what should have been the clincher: "Not drought-tolerant," with the underlining in the original. But I loved it as an evergreen for shade with a lovely cascading shape, so I needed to be hit over the head and forced to stop buying the damn things, and the blow finally came recently when I heard a shrub expert talk at Benkes Nursery. He veered diplomatically away from calling it a difficult plant but recommended "even moisture," and honestly, I'm not a careful enough gardener to make that happen throughout the year. And who is? I know I'm not alone in refusing to coddle difficult plants any longer. We've entered the age of Tough Love in Gardening and I say it's about time. Difficult plants are just too hard on the gardener, not to mention on Nature. Drought-tolerance is right up there with disease-resistance as must-have features, and leucothoes fail on both counts.
And here's the real heartbreaker. This solid lime green Leucothoe Florida was my favorite of the three and because it's not variegated, I thought it had a real chance, assuming I kept it shaded. No problem, until I removed the now-infamous Bradford pear shading it. So in this total rearrangement of one whole side of my garden (stay tuned for the "after" pics in a week or so) I had to move it, and here it is between the Adirondacks getting way too much sun. I clearly haven't accepted the inevitability of its demise yet because I'll be moving it again this weekend.
Which raises another feature in the life of the gardener - continually moving plants. Is the solution to put our plants on rollers for their first decade, just for convenience? Or is moving this plant yet again just part of my journey, another humbling lesson in a lifetime of humbling lessons that go with the territory? So be it. I like the territory.