Friday, June 15, 2012

Nature Left to Her Own Devices

Come into the Garden, 2012

Mother Nature requires continuous “handling” at our house I can’t say “taming” because nature moved in mysterious ways when you’re not looking, slipping up on you in expected ways and places.
Gardening also teaches patience. Some people can afford to have fully mature gardens planted from scratch. I can’t, so I have to plant things small and wait for them to fill out. You can’t rush it.
When we moved to our current home here about fourteen years ago I lined a wooded path through the woods beside the house with hydrangeas. There’s a lot of competition for ground moisture in that area from the trees. It was touch and go some years as to whether the hydrangeas would survive the summer heat or the weight of heavy winter snow. This year most of the hydrangeas are doing pretty well.
The problem is that they’re doing so well now that getting down the path is like navigating a green and blue gauntlet. . Another year of growth will completely obscure the path. Mother Nature’s paying me back for taking such good care of these bushes. Can you say pruning shears?
The Hydrangea Alley, 2012

Meanwhile, out in front of the house I planted English boxwoods on either side of the sidewalk leading to the front door. They’re very common in the Mid-Atlantic, despite being expensive, slow growing and emitting an occasional cat urine smell during the summer. I started with small, affordable plants, which once planted looked like little soldiers in a row. (This is a real no-no in landscape design).  But like the hydrangeas, the boxwoods eventually grew.
In recent years, though, it’s as if their growth has stopped. It occurred to me that the boxwoods might be too densely packed. So I decided to remove every other boxwood from the hedges along the sidewalk. I was giddy with excitement at the idea that I’d have a dozen or so “new” bushes to use in other parts of the yard.
That was until I saw the result of my so-called smart thinning.
Nature's Afro, 2012

Boxwoods planted too closely together not only don’t thrive, but also leaf out only in the places where they’re exposed to the sun. So while I did indeed gain fourteen new boxwoods to use in other places, those fourteen boxwoods and the twenty I left behind in the original hedges all look like nature’s version of an Afro haircut. They’re hilariously skinny with leaves only on two sides and the top, as if someone took a plant and cut it into slices.
But what the heck! The vegetable garden now has an almost complete surrounding hedge of skinny boxwoods. They’ll be a good windbreak in the winter.
It’s true, though. All of the boxwoods look skimpy right now. If we were to have people over for a party they’d wonder why the heck we’d sliced the sides off the plants.  
I’d just tell them, “Have patience, friends. A few years from now you’ll wonder how that famous tightwad Bonney ever sprung for so many expensive bushes.”
Skinnied Up, 2012


  1. Your garden looks lush! I think those lace-capped hydrangeas are the best. Your boxwoods will be filling out in no time. It all looks very pretty.

  2. Hahaha - yes indeed - from skinny to nice and plump will only take a couple of years with..erm boxwood as well as with people !!!
    Wish Ihad your hydrangea's.. mine are more than 10 years old and still quite straggly..