Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Along the Driveway

In the end of September, 2011 we had a long curved bed installed along the side of the driveway. I had no planting design for it, but I had some conflicting ideas in mind of what this garden should do.

First, a garden here had to screen the neighbor's house. This side of their large house is unattractive. The blank side wall without windows at the near end is awkward, and the roof angles down weirdly.

They are nice neighbors and I didn't want privacy as much as just a way to hide the looming oddness.

Second, I wanted a line of tall plants to draw your eye up the driveway. It had to define and enclose the edge of our property, and give a sense of entry as you arrive.

Third, I really liked the idea of a long line of panicle hydrangeas -- a hedge of them, with big white cones of blooms catching the sun.  I had seen just such a hedge. I convinced myself that this long bed lining the driveway would be perfect with a billowing row of late blooming panicle hydrangeas.
(out of focus because I photographed this from a book)

I only had room for three 'Tardiva' hydrangeas, and that was not enough for the kind of hedge I had in mind. But they went in, lined up between the trees that already anchored this strip.
first installed, in 2011

At first they were fine. But three were not enough to make a real hedge, they were smushed between the trees already planted, and I kept adding more plants to this border which crowded them even more.
August 2013.  A little floppy and rangy, but not bad. Nice flowers.

I planted a Parrotia persicaria tree in back to get some height eventually -- the hydrangeas were never going to get tall enough to screen the neighbor's house. But the little sapling was swamped behind the hydrangeas.

There is a doublefile viburnum behind the hydrangeas too, still small but destined to get very large and spreading.

This summer I pruned the hydrangeas to get more form and structure, but that just encouraged them to lie down across the other plants in this border and smother them. It looked totally chaotic.

In the end, I had to give up the idea of a flowery hedge. And I had to give up the idea of quickly screening the side of the neighbor's house. The hydrangeas had to come out.

I got two of them out last week. The third under the Norway maple will have to go too. Now I can see the doublefile viburnum, and the tiny parrotia. Eventually the viburnum will get much taller and will spread, and the parrotia will become an upright real tree.

The parrotia and the nearby variegated sweetgum will have to do the work of screening the house, but I will need to be patient while they grow into large trees. That is going to take time, but the line of tall trees will eventually hide (or soften) most of the unwanted view.

I can't be stuffing lots of big plants in here in hopes of hiding things right away. And I can't create the hedge I wanted where I already have structure and trees and other shrubs -- that's chaos.


If I can be patient enough, this border will have a curved line of tall trees from the dark Norway maple, to the upright parrotia, to the brightly leaved sweetgum, and then ending with the grouping of witch hazels and corneliancherry dogwood at the top end.

That's a lot. I don't need big blowzy hydrangeas in there too.

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