No Fun…But Has to Be Done!!!

Hola my dear readers!  Try as I might to get back to my normal posting routine… it wasn’t going to happen yesterday. Hurricane Irma put a halt on that plan.  We fared the storm well, just lots of tree branches down and what seems like a billion pinecones all over the yard that I will need to pick up. The worst was losing power for 11 hours yesterday, hence no internet or Wifi for me to get a post up. Luckily, we spent the whole day on Sunday in the yard cutting down holly bushes, so we were happy to sit back, relax and enjoy the darkness.

My area was not hard hit, late last night the power came back on and the sun is trying to peek out this morning. Right now I hear a few chain saws humming in the distance, probably slicing up downed trees, but that is the worst of it for my area. Many others were not so lucky…hoping and praying for all those who were hit hard and will not be able to bounce right back into a normal routine.

As we watched the news all weekend to see where the storm was going, Ed and I decided since the weather felt fall-like that we would start to take on this…..

Cutting Down Holly Bushes

The overgrown holly that is 6 – 8 feet high along the front of the house.


It is massive… a total of 14 overgrown bushes and stumps to remove…  see Ed in there… way in the back behind the two rows of the shrubs, ready to take it on.

What is the easiest way to cut down shrubs

Cutting down any tree or shrub is hard, but when cutting down holly bushes, it is like cutting into sharp knives.  You have to cover up hands, arms, legs and feet or else you will come out shredded from all the razor sharp and pointy holly leaves.

I felt a little sad having to cut down something that is so lush and healthy, but it had to be done.

On the other hand, I was excited that by cutting down the holly bushes a nice architectural feature of the house that has been hidden for a long time will be exposed and come to life again.

The vertical glass windows go almost to the ground.  The holly takes away from this feature.

Ed is making good progress, but the job is going to take a long time, plus we have to dispose of all the clippings.  I will keep you posted as we make progress over the next few weeks.

Now it is my turn to make the area look better.  I have to clean out the garage and find new homes for the shelves and stuff on them that were hidden previously by the holly. I also plan to paint over the green paint on the front of the house using a more neutral color.  Most likely a beige color that will match the mortar in between the bricks.

Any advice for cutting down holly bushes around your own home?  Any tips to make the job easier, besides hiring someone else to do it?  :-)

I will be back tomorrow with some fall decorating ideas and some exciting news for my living room. :-)

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  1. I need to do the same. How did you get the roots out?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Nancy – Removing the hollies was very hard. It took us a few weekends to get the all down, roots and all. Ed did it all by hand with a few very sharp Fiskar’s garden tools – Billhook, Machete etc. A a few readers told us they attached a chain to the hitch on a truck and removed the overgrown shrubs by driving the truck slowly away from the shrub until it was out of the ground. If we had a truck this would have been the fast and easier way.

  2. I haven’t had to deal with holly, only blackberries. I spent a summer (weekends) clearing a field of blackberry canes. What I found helpful: leather gloves, lopers and my “pitch fork”. One old farmer laughed at what I called a pitch fork by calling it a potato fork. I don’t care it does the job. I’d make a pile of cut canes, stab the fork in, lift as much as I could handle and carry to the burn pile. I loved the work. I was able to take out my frustrations on those blackberries and made sure they didn’t get out of control, again.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Michele – Not a fun job no matter what you are cutting down, but sounds like you kept a positive attitude and got a great workout all summer. Thanks for the tips and hope you never have to look at a blackberry bush again. :-)

  3. Removing holly is our big (dreaded!) task for September also. We only have two, but they are 10ft high, and have spread like crazy. I am so grateful that you posted about this, as I have learned a lot by reading the comments!

    Your windows are fabulous! I never would have guessed those windows were so tall. I can’t wait to see the final pics…I’m sure it will look amazing.

  4. Jeane Gallo says:

    I asked my husband for his tried and true method for removing overgrown holly trees. He said to cut off all the limbs, cut the trunk down to about 4 feet. Then dig around the base, cutting roots. He rocks the stump back and forth and keeps digging and cutting until he gets it out.
    We live down by Charleston.

  5. We evacuated Tampa to stay with family in Chapin – close to you. It was strange experiencing Irma all the way up there! My holly bushes “came with the house” in Tampa and were planted along with pyracantha (firethorn) as an intruder deterrent (just like the experience of some of your other readers). Not fun to remove. Heed the warnings about holly coming back. Unless the stump is totally removed, it will keep coming back. Caution, patience and perseverance, and you will succeed!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Carol – We have good friends in Tampa who we spoke with today. They had tree branches down, but nothing major. I hope your home came through with only some branches to clean up. Where in Chapin does your family live? You may have been right in my neighborhood. :-) On another note…. Ed just removed 3 holly stumps tonight. The area is looking better and better. :-)

  6. When you are ready, I would consider painting the siding/wood the color of your mortar; I did that once on a home and it really looked cohesive.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Ann – I have played around in my head with using other colors, but think just going neutral is going to look the best. Like you noted…cohesive. I plant to start on the front of the house and slowly work my way around to the lake side. I will post my progress.

  7. Diane, I know someone who owned a truck and a chainsaw that can help if needed?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thanks Gail, but Ed is using the removal of the holly as his personal gym. He just removed 3 more stumps tonight. :-)

  8. We have removed a lot of over grown bushes (holly and juniper) at our current home. DH uses a sawsall to cut of the majority of the growth then digs around below the surface enough to affix a chain and pulls them out with his truck. There have been some that were SO stubborn that he had to cut some of the largest roots with the sawsall also to weaken it enough to be pulled out. Good luck to you and Ed! It’ll look great when you’re done.

    Also, I would consider window frosting film for the garage window to keep a bit of privacy (security) and not highlight the clutter that is inherent to a garage.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jen – I bet using a Sawsall worked great. Much smaller and easier to handle then a chain saw. Great idea to cover up the window with frosting film. Another reader suggested painting the windows and another to hang black cloth up. So many good ideas. I am looking forward to updating the exterior now.

  9. Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa. I am so glad that you , your family and home are safe and well. I watched the progress on the storm on Fox News and was so afraid for a dear friend and her children that live in Stuart, Florida and they evacuated to, first Talahassee, turned around and went to Orlanda where they stayed in a hired apartment. They returned home to find a miracle. No damage to their home and with a baby about to be born, that was one great relief. You home looks lovely after the hard work with the Holly. Be blessed.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Gerolene – I am so happy that your friends came out of the storm unscathed. I sure hope the ones who didn’t can get back to living normally as soon as possible. My husband, Ed worked more tonight to remove the rest of the holly in front of the windows. It looks so much better and we haven’t even gottne to the clean up part of the project yet.

  10. So glad you two are safe and relatively unscathed! I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the Charlotte area, and friends up and down the coast as well as in Florida. What a horrific few weeks this has been for our Southern States.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sharon – It sure has been a horrific few weeks for the southern states. I hope your family and friends didn’t have any major damage to their homes and can get back to normal soon.

  11. Tammi harrison says:

    Black curtains so you don’t have to clean garage or lose its functionality lol!!!!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Tammi – Thanks for the great idea. I want to do this for the sidelights by my front door, but with a sun shade. I am trying to see if I have two made that are white on one side and dark or black on the other. I may have to DIY it.

  12. We’ve pulled out a lot of bushes/shrubs in the past few years and I will say that some are so heavily rooted even a truck and tow strap don’t work. We broke several heavy duty tow straps trying to get an overgrown burning bush out and also a large boxwood. So the tow strap & truck idea may or may not work. We ended using a chainsaw at ground level, then dig, dig, digging with a mattock and spud bar. Hard on the whole body!! But some of the pine family come right out with tow strap. It is very satisfying work when they pop right out. Good luck!

    1. Gilmer Gal says:

      We used a heavy chain and made sure the ground wasn’t real dry. Attached it to the back of my husband’s truck and out they came!

      1. Diane Henkler says:

        Hi Tracy – I can imagine that having a truck and chain would make it easy to remove the stumps. Sadly we don’t have a truck :-) So far Ed is taking on one stump at a time with a few hand tools and winning. He still has a few more to go.

    2. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Arlene – Thanks for sharing your experience with removing big shrubs. Ed has been using a pick ax and it has been working pretty well so far in removing the stumps. Some have been easier than others to remove, but he is making progress and getting a good workout at the same time.

  13. Norma Rolader says:

    Wow what an undertaking that is I wish him luck and my prayers are with him God bless

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Thank you Norma. Ed is making good progress making history of the overgrown holly.

  14. Your home looks so much better already!
    I haven’t had any holly experience.
    So happy you are safe without too much damage!

  15. We live in SC too and cut ours with a chainsaw at the stump. They will grow back! When we did a porch addition and had to remove 2, we removed them all (chain and tractor). We have NEVER regretted it.

  16. Marianne B says:

    Hi Diane! Glad you weren’t too affected by Irma. On to the problem of Holly—my late Mother thought that having them around windows would deter intruders. Kinda like the more romantic bougainvillea lore that you hear about—but bougainvillea isn’t perennial in zone 7—Hence the horrible Holly, I took a pick ax to mine—and please take note, they seem to sprout from the most removed obscure root! Ugh. Good luck and if they do return, like some horror film monster that you think is dead but isn’t, well, that’s holly!! Good luck!!

    1. Love the progress photos of Ed with the holly! First he’s hidden, then the look on his face, so funny!
      Glad you both are safe – and, yes, the house will look even more fantastic when the windows are exposed – beautiful!

  17. My husband puts a heavy tow strap around the base of the bush, attaches to the tow hitch of his truck and pulls them out. Quick, pretty easy and not too painful.

  18. Michelle P says:

    Wow. It looks better already!

  19. Pulling out with truck or tractor will work, if you can get to them and have such a vehicle. If you want to cut them down, though, there are the kind of extension pruning saws that allow you to prune tall fruit trees. Used horizontally, you could saw down the hollies without having to get too close! Since a lot of tree & branch work is going on in the neighborhood, you might look for a chipper nearby and pay the guy to just throw in your holly waste. You can rent them, but there is probably a much bigger one around that is commercial size, owned by some landscaping company. It is always cheaper if the equipment is already nearby, and your little job can be tacked on to whatever task they are already doing.

  20. Kristine Brown says:

    Aaah. Looks so much better removed. I too like to remove overgrown bushes that “hide” the home in favor of smaller plants and colorful flowers. And holly would be the worst to remove. Wow!

  21. We took out a holly tree that was planted right at the corner of the house. The wood is very hard and it took different tools to hack it apart.The worse for us was getting the root out. I remember digging and digging and eventually sitting in the hole to get it out, digging around the roots The location was not a good spot to use a truck so it was all by hand. Glad I don’t have to to do that again

  22. Hollies are heinous! I removed four of them and came to despise them all the more after the activity.

    My tips for removing the evil holly: 1) check for wasp nests, if found spray first, cut hollies later; 2) cut off as many branches (with their prickly little leaves of death) as possible so only the “trunk” or a stump is visible; 3) after branches are removed, then dig up the stumps, removing as much underground root as possible; 4) wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, and leather gloves. Good luck, Ed!!

    Your home is really taking on your personality and style. I love seeing the transformation.

  23. We had giant juniper bushes in front of our old
    house that had been there for 15 years. Easiest way to get them out was to back the pick up truck up to them and tie the chain to their trunks. The kids and I had fun standing back and watching the dirt explosion as they flew out. 12 total! I feel your pain. Good luck and can’t wait to see what you have planned to plant there in the future :)

  24. Never removed holly…but have removed many an evergreen that had overstayed it’s welcome by growing too large. We usually use a chain saw (electric) to cut down branches, then hook up a chain to our jeep and pull it out. Always a fun time! Good luck with that project…glad Irma spared you and your neighbors! ;)

  25. Chain saw? It would go a lot quicker! We’ve also done the log chain and truck.

    1. Have you thought about painting the area just above the windows a dark color, like maybe charcoal, to visually extend the height of the windows? Just an idea.

      Also, I should have left a note for you (and a big THANK YOU) a long time ago. Last year you posted about the Patron tequila contest. I was a finalist and won $1,000 thanks to you. I took 2 Patron bottles and made an hourglass. I cannot thank you enough.

  26. Kathleen Hornb says:

    You are so fortunate. We are going to be at least a week if not two weeks before we get power in St. Peterburg. Don’t know how much damage has been done to my home but very blessed that my family is safe and healthy.

  27. Whenever I pull out anything at my house I use my pickup truck. I wrap chains securely around the trunk of the bush and attach both end to the truck with large hooks and slowly drive. Takes all of five minutes. Throw the bush in the truck and off to the town landfill.

    1. This was going to be my suggestion also. Did this with 6 foot Japanese yews that were across the front of my house. It should also pull out the stumps and roots so they don’t have to be dug out. Well worth paying someone with a truck and big chains.

  28. My suggestion is to take out the ones in the middle like you’re doing to see the windows but cut the other ones way back and see how you like it. I’ve had good luck with doing a super-hard pruning job on a holly. It wasn’t as large as yours, maybe only 4 feet high but I took it down to half of that. It was pretty ugly for a year or so but came back in a more manageable size.

    1. Hard pruning the hollies is a great idea. Hard pruning is best done in the spring. You can cut the bushes back to 6-12″. They come back full really quick. So, if you want to see the house now, you could cut them back to 2′ and then hard prune in the spring. I love having holly to cut from at Christmas to add to flower arrangements all over the house.

  29. I had hollies just like that- only they were two stories high when we bought the house- I have to say it didn’t cost nearly as much as i thought it would and they took away all the debris. It was about 500 in the Dallas area and they were done in under an hour! I wish now we hadn’t waited 4 years to do it!!!