One of the first steps I took to improve the new house’s curb appeal was to tame the wild pyracantha (also known, for a good reason, as firethorn) that grew along the front fence.
I’m honestly not sure what the goal was with this untidy little disaster, for welcoming it was not. The lanky limbs of the pyracantha were begging for something to clasp their tiny thorns into and I wanted to offer them something other than my arm. It seems every Southern city has examples of these thorny shrubs espaliered up a trellis along a brick chimney and so I knew somehow I could turn this crazed flora into something sedately charming. Surely I can weave this thing around our falling down fence, I thought.
My first task was to dig up the forsythia, to clear some room. It was the one nice example of the shrub growing in our yard, but it had no balance in this particular grouping. Gritting my teeth, I dug a hole to the width of the canopy and tugged like crazy. The shrub had sent a league of envoys out into the soil, and the roots seemed to stretch across the entire yard. Covered in sweat, dirt, and thorns, I gave up and sank my shovel hard into a section of root and pulled the plant free. Not sure where to stick it, I moved the forsythia to the back corner of the yard, thinking the bright yellow blooms would help brighten February mornings standing at the kitchen sink, where I’d get a perfect glimpse of it’s cheery flowers.
With gloves tugged high, I grabbed my clippers and leaned in close to the pyracantha. Almost immediately it began to fight back, weaving in the wind and jabbing its tiny pokers close to my eyes. That maneuver lost the glorified devil’s walking stick any sympathy it might have had in my eyes and I began attacking its thickest trunks with the clippers.
It was a long and dirty job, and I was shocked at how bare the yard looked when I was completed. But it would turn out to be a perfect move in seasons to come; in the fall the pyracantha is a show of red berries, and in the spring the white flowers are like an aisle runner along the driveway.
This front corner would transform several more times over the next few years. But I like the way it looks now, with the firethorn racing its tenacious limbs down the length of the fence. I enjoy wandering out front with a ball of twine to welcome new limbs into the folds of the living fence.