Zen and the Art of Barberry Removal


Removal of barberry

As I learn more about native plants and the many drawbacks of imported varieties, I find it necessary to thoughtfully consider my landscaping choices. This year I learned that Japanese barberry is an invasive species that is often a haven for ticks. Those points of contention along with a desire to create a seating area near my latest garden vignette (see bottom photo) were all the motivation I needed.

One friend suggested burning the remaining shrub tangle out of the ground. At that point I already had more than twelve hours of work into my slow-going pruning and removal process. Thankfully, the remnant was too close to the vinyl siding of our garage and burning it is against the law in our Ohio village so I was not unduly tempted.

I could have used quicker, more tool-oriented tactics for the removal. I opted for the meditative, methodical route because I prefer to stay present, connected, and thoughtful in each moment of such endeavors. Had I gone with one of the more normal methods, I undoubtedly would have killed more living beings than just the shrub itself and I would have much less connection to the space that will eventually be a meditative seating area.

During the journey of barberry removal, I relocated a lovely praying mantis, urged spiders and crickets on their way to safer havens, collected rocks for the companion space (my shamanic garden), and found the tiny skull of some long past mammal. I considered all manner of life questions while remaining connected to the present through the occasional thorn-puncture of my gloved fingers. I also pondered whether the bird’s nest tucked into the outer layers had fledged babies successfully, hopefully with intact eyes. I marveled at the nets of webbing covered in berries and other plant litter—proof of so much activity.

This particular shrub was in place when we moved into our home nearly twenty years ago. Through the years, I have lightly pruned it but otherwise steered clear since it was prickly and I don’t usually spend time with that sort. I enjoyed the photo opportunities it presented during winter and assumed that someone was enjoying its berries. But otherwise it has simply existed as a visual anchor plant to our garage.

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