The Hydrangea Allée 1, 2013
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I’m told Americans move every seven years, on average. That used to be true of us. After seven years we’d have done what we could do with a house and its landscape and be itchy for a new project. If you’re a gardener, though, this means you’re probably never in a house long enough to see some of what you plant mature, especially when it comes to trees.
Our current home is the culmination of many house dreams. We’ve lived here longer—more than fifteen years—than either my wife or I have ever lived anywhere. We’re under lots of trees. We naively thought that would be good, and it is in some ways, except for when hurricanes knock trees down onto, or into, the house. It also makes gardening more of a challenge if your entire gardening experience up to now has been in sunnier settings.
Nature has helped us some. Hurricanes occasionally blow down giant trees that local environmental regulations prevent us from removing on our own. This allows more sunlight onto the ground until the remaining trees branch out and block the light again.
One of the things we can grow well here is hydrangeas. Inspired by a picture in a gardening magazine, about ten years ago I planted an allée of hydrangeas in the woods on the more densely wooded side of the house. Due to unforgiving soil and competition with the trees for moisture, some years it was a challenge just to keep the hydrangeas alive. But over the years they hung on and formed a pleasant place to walk.
The last major storm that passed through took out a couple of 90’ tall pines and an even taller and more massive oak tree. That seemed like a good thing, too, at first. We were intoxicated by the prospect of what we could plant on that side of the house not that there was more light.
Within a year, though, everything I’d planted along that hydrangea allée doubled in size. No longer having to compete with as many trees for moisture, they doubled in size again the next year. This summer what was once a pleasant path is now an obstacle course.
I’m not complaining, though. Hurricane season is upon us. What nature giveth she can also destroyeth in hurricanes. Of that you can be sure.
For the first time, though, I’m confronted with something I’ve planted having matured to the point that it’s a nuisance. (I can’t believe I’m calling a dozen hydrangeas a nuisance, what with all the poison ivy, briars and phragmites procreating willy nilly just a stone’s throw away.)
I guess I really should be worrying about those two magnolias I planted about eight years ago. They, too, seemed pretty benign at the time. I thought I gave them plenty of room. But if we’re here another fifteen years they’ll probably overtake the house.
The Hydrangea Allée 2, 2013