I have a river birch tree too close to my house; as it grows I’m concerned that it could crack the foundation. I’m planning to take it out along with five spiria bushes that surround it. Would it be better to take it out now or wait until spring? I haven’t decided what to replace it with and it’s on a small decline, which causes concern about rain water drainage. Could you give me some suggestions on what would look good and wouldn’t get too big?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Marie: It is important to consider space limitations when we choose our plantings so they can reach their mature size. In your case, it does sound like the river birch (Betula nigra) is too close to the house. If your intentions are to transplant the tree as well as the spirea, the best time to do this would be later in the fall or early spring. If you are removing them and not transplanting them, you can take them out anytime. Unless you have water pooling in that space, I would not be concerned with the drainage, especially because it sounds like there is a slight slope to the land. As for replacement planting suggestions, what is too big? Are you thinking about a smaller ornamental tree, smaller shrubs, or a combination planting? Dogwoods, redbuds, and serviceberries are all smaller trees, but depending on the space you are dealing with they may still be too large. Some smaller flowering shrubs include dwarf nandina, compact abelia, and certain crape myrtle such as ‘Razzle Dazzle.’ A sun-loving perennial mix might be nice. Russian sage, amsonia, anemone, and baptisia are some of my favorites. Ornamental grass or smaller evergreens may also be options for your space. If you give me more specifics on what you’re a looking for, I can give you more suggestions.