Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So tell me, what you think of this idea…

As you may recall I recently was given a second chance to grow this much loved Clematis. Instead of just sticking it back in the same ole spot I've been scheming a little, and I’m curious what you think…

The inherited Hydrangea does a great job of framing the entrance into the back garden. When you first walk through the gate you have no idea there is a lower garden and patio beyond. This might be all there is…

Until you pass the Hydrangea and it becomes visible.

I don’t want to lose the barrier, but I also have no need to keep the Hydrangea. The partial shade provided by the garage could be used to grow much more exciting plants. The problem is anything I plant is going to be small, and I’m not big on patience.

Recently I discovered a source for an extremely basic metal trellis. No fancy details, just a simple grid, with metal stakes to sink it into the ground, a sort of room divider. So what if the Hydrangea was removed and the trellis put in its place? Roughly in the middle of the garage wall but out a few feet, so the outer trellis edge was just about even with the Hostas you see at the bottom of the Hydrangea here…

The trellis would divide the space in two, a front and a back side, which could be planted with fun plants like my Schefflera delavayi…

The Schefflera taiwaniana I planted in too much sun last year (it’s sort of putrid yellow cast lets me know I miss-judged the sun it would receive here)…

And this small one being rapidly overtaken by the Euphorbia stygiana I planted in front of it (another genius move)…

The Clematis would grow to cover the trellis and provide the visual barrier the Hydrangea currently does. To help along my impatience I could supplement it with an annual vine the first year. Imagine these lovely flowers covering the grid…

So…what do you think? I’m getting rid of a perfectly healthy established plant, but I’m finding homes for other plants which I love. Am I under-estimating the wonderful job the Hydrangea does of dividing the space and would I regret taking it out? What am I not thinking of? What would you do…

57 comments:

  1. I think it's a good idea, but you'll want to pay attention to flow. The big Hydrangea is sort of a rounded barrier, while the trellis will be more flat. I think you'll want to place your Scheffleras to soften that wall effect.

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  2. I think you want us to say yes :) The inner gardener is never satisfied. Go for it and make us proud.....

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    1. You sound like my husband "you're asking a question but I think you've already made up your mind"...maybe, but when I asked a garden designer what she thought she weighed in heavily on keeping the Hydrangea, which gave me second thoughts.

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  3. Good day. I am the least person that should be giving landscaping advice, but you asked. I love hydrangeas, lets establish that. I have never enjoyed seeing 'one' by itself. Your hydrangea is so pretty. However it looks too dense in this area and a little crowded out to the stepping stones. In photo six looking straight on it reminds me of a helmet, it drops off, no blending for shape. Your knew idea sounds more appealing and would cause the eye to scan the area taking in all the sights instead of a whoa! that's a big hydrangea. I also think seeing more of the garage here and there through foliage would look better than the building sticking out on both ends. I bet you could find a taker for the hydrangea or at least part of it. Or donate it to the city....your yard/gardens are just so nice I can't believe I had the courage to offer you advice...

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    1. Thank you Darla! I am glad you decided to offer advice. I should have mentioned that it's only this time of year the Hydrangea starts to crowd the path. I trim it back severely in the late winter (to about 1/3 it's current size) and it works all summer to get this huge again. I like your point that the new idea would "cause the eye to scan the area taking in all the sights instead of a whoa! that's a big hydrangea" And you're right, it is a huge helmet shape!

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  4. A few years ago I would have said, keep the hydrangea since it's a perfectly fine plant for the spot. But now? Rip it out and replace it with plants you like more--plants you LOVE.

    We're planning on ripping out a few "perfectly fine" plants this fall ourselves and replacing them with more exciting ones.

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    1. What will you do with your ripped out plants? I've gotten rid of a few on Craigslist, even made a little dough in the process! Luckily I've already got a taker for the Hydrangea if I go this route...and in the neighborhood too!

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    2. Give them to friends or give them away on Freecycle.org. We're big believers in the Freecycle concept.

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  5. I like the idea of a trellis dividing the area. The trellis itself, smothered by the clematis serves as a focal interest as well as divider. And then have space in front and back of it for other plants. Good idea I think, although the Hydrangea is a nice plant too.

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    1. Glad you could picture it, I was afraid I didn't do a very good job of describing my vision.

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  6. Do these pants make me look fat? The only answer is Get rid of the hydrangea, you'll be happier. Of course, my first thought was to plant the clematis at the base of the hydrangea so that you'd have yellow and blue flowers together. I do that sort of thing and become disgusted with the tangled mess that ensues causing me to rip everything out. I like your more direct plan much better!

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    1. No those pants make your ass look fabulous! (sorry, couldn't help myself).

      Funny thing, we think alike. I planted 3 Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift' under it a few years back to give it some winter interest. I love the big evergreen leaves that work their way through the Hydrangea, and the fact that they bloom before the Hydrangea fully leafs out is perfect. Of course it makes pruning the Hydrangea in the spring just that much more difficult. Also what to do with them if I remove the big H? Two clematis on a trellis sounds like a bit much. Plus I wonder if they would even survive the dig?

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  7. I do like the hydrangea, but I also think it's way oversized for the space it's in.

    I think the trellis, with softening plants around the base, to off set the hard, straight lines, would do nicely there.

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  8. Say goodbye to the Hydrangea! There are plenty of Hydrangeas in Portland to enjoy, so one less Hydrangia will not be a crime. When you dig it out, see if you can make a small division to give to a friend and keep the legacy of the plant going and your conscious clear. I found that they divide quite easily.

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    1. Good to know, I do have a neighbor who's willing to take it but who knows, it's been there for so long it might actually be more than one plant by now.

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  9. I vote for getting rid of it. It really surprised me to see it in your yard. Not that it looked out of place, but that you would give up so much space to something that you see everywhere.

    Can you share your source for the trellis? I am looking like crazy for the same thing and everything is so ugly.

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    1. Email coming your way about the trellis, it's a wholesale place.

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  10. I like the basic idea a lot in terms of the geometry of your garden (and I have no allegiance to the hydrangea) but I wonder if the C. tibetiana will give you the screening coverage and surprise factor you enjoy from the hydrangea. Would your sun-sensitive plants on the east side (I assume) of the trellis be protected adequately by it? When we saw Scott's it was pretty dense, but it was supplemented with other perennials around it, so it was hard to tell how much coverage was actually from the clematis. But it's your garden and your experiment, so just do it. I'll look forward to seeing how it all shakes down!

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    1. Yes...the screening coverage/surprise factor is a concern for me too, and I hadn't even thought about the plants on the east side...good point! Uhm....

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  11. The hydrangea surprised me too, though there are some nice ones imo.

    I was thinking about a similar problem - arbutus vs montezuma pine. It always feels wrong to me to discard a plant that gives structure to the garden. But when something better comes around, you've just got to grasp it.

    Besides, i'm sure you'll put plenty of thought into the change, it reads like you have already.

    the chthonian life (David) btw. I don't think blogspot and wordpress get on.

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    1. Tell me about it! Blogspot and Wordpress...silly silly silly! Why can't we all just get along!

      Anyway....so which one is at risk and which one are you thinking about replacing it with? (arbutus vs montezuma pine)...If it's the pine on the chopping block I say GO FOR IT!

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    2. Aw, the arbutus' days are numbered i'm afraid. I'm going to get me a macro bonsai pine instead. No pruning needed - it just grows that way. Erm . . . unless the weather kills it first. You know how it goes.

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  12. The hydrangea isn't your style, change it out, give it to another gardener, and you can plant things you prefer. The garden unfolding slowly is important to the layout so you might need a denser planting than a trellis and vine. You can work that out with all the options you have.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement Shirley, you've got a great design sense so I like reading your take on it.

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  13. The Hydrangea is pretty good looking and doing exactly what you require of it.

    I like your idea and I think that it will work well - I am not entirely sure about how the plants will react to the changes in sunlight, but I am sure you have worked that out.

    The only downside is that it is going to take a while for your new plantings to establish and have the same presence as the Hydrangea. I do accept that gardening and garden design is a marathon not a sprint though.

    Hmmm, on second thoughts maybe a relatively big change like this is a good thing. When the Hydrangea comes out you will have lost that big old plant that obscures the view down into the rest of your garden and now you will see more of it. Your mind will get used to the change though, but over the seasons the plants will fill out and you will be back to where you are now except with different plants obscuring the view.

    Go for it Loree!

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    1. Sunlight = actually I haven't, I was giving the garage more credit than perhaps it deserves. And yes! I am not patient. I want everything to be big RIGHT NOW! That's why I over-plant everything.

      I think I'm a little emboldened by the other screen, the Rhody, coming out last spring and how quickly I've gotten over that. Plus to have something evergreen there would be amazing! (the Schefflera, not the Clematis). Thank you for the encouragement!

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  14. Take the wimpy way out:

    1) cut the hydrangea way, way back, but don't remove it.
    2) Put in the trellis (perpendicular to the garage wall I assume) in front of the hydrangea, get the vines going, and see what you think for a year.

    If you love it, take out the shrub. If you hate it, let the shrub grow back.

    Or just bite the bullet and rip it out. You can always put some big potted plants here to help fill out the area if needed.

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    1. Actually knowing how fast that thing grows I don't think that would be the easy way, no matter how much I cut it back I think by about August it would have totally over taken the trellis. I like your train of thought but if I'm going to do it then I need to just rip off the band-aid, so to speak.

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    2. See...not the easy way...

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  15. hi - first, loove your garden. this is the 2nd time i've peeked in on your blog. i'm an architect, so i wanted to just chime in! agree with all the comments that the hydrangea seems big for that spot. hopefully you can find a new home for such a great plant. i'm wondering what your trellis idea is about - instinctively i'd want to be able to sit under it - maybe have a more intimate seating area under there?? instead of just something visual. just a thought. seeing your minimal outdoor furniture and hardscaping back there (and from your description), i am sure your execution will be lovely, regardless. sounds like a fun transformation.

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    1. Thanks Sarah, actually the trellis is just a vertical object for the vine to grow up, no horizontal feature to sit under. Although I understand what your envisioning and I've seen several properties with layouts like ours that have done something like that and I love it. Since we've already got a structure to set under behind the garage I'm not willing to give up this valuable semi-shady planting area for more seating...really in my garden it's pretty much just all about the plants!

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  16. I say go for it. Nothing in gardening is permanent and it's the spark of new ideas that fire our imagination and enthusiasm.

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    1. I wish you lived closer and I'd say come on over and help!

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  17. I'm always up for removing inherited plants, Hydrangeas get too big and bulky , this from someone who has several. Also I was put off when a blogger discribed them as " charmless papery flowers the faded, washed out colours of old lady knickers caught in a colour run."
    But that aside I love the idea of metal ( rusty ?) trellis, sounds more Danger garden like.

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    1. Well that description certainly paints a picture doesn't' it? Truth be told I do have a tender spot for the Hydrangea, there was a beautiful one in front of the window of my first apartment in Seattle. Pretty exotic for a kid from Spokane.

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  18. WOW! That is a major proposed change. Well I have mixed feelings to tell you the truth. The hydrandea is lush. It looks really nicely balanced between the hostas and definitely provides an anchor so to speak. But then there is the drama that could be achieved with something like what you are suggesting. And the idea of space for plants like schefflera delavayi is sooo epic! hmmm... I think I like the new idea.

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    1. Your comment pretty well sums up my state of mind. There are pros and cons to both...ugh!

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  19. Well, well.. I have to say I liked the Hydrangea in your garden, it provided a counterpoint to the spiky stuff, and it said 'we are in the PNW' ..on the other hand, digging stuff out is my MO - I think it's a done deal for you-I've never once pondered digging something out without actually doing it eventually.It seems to segue from an idea to a need.

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    1. True...(the segue)...plus the husband has wanted it gone for quite awhile, that helps too.

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  20. It sounds like you're going to do it already. I don't know. It will switch things up but my policy is that if it's established itself, you work around it:) But then again change is also good. It's the toughest part of gardening for me.

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    1. It is a work horse, and rarely complains...

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  21. I agree with Linda, if you aren't 100% bought in to an inherited plant, it's probably holding your garden back to some degree. I'm probably older than most of you and some of the best decisions I've made have involved removing plants I wasn't sure about!

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    1. You take me back to the day I ripped out a Hebe that I inherited which was past it's prime, I felt such relief.

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  22. A garden should never stay the same. Go for it.

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  23. I think it's a pretty good idea...and you know how I feel about ripping out plants...DO IT! I still look at my Laurel and have the same reservations...as boring as it is...it DOES serve a purpose (un-exciting as that may be). However, I've never had regrets about ripping out a shrub once its done. I usually wonder why I waited so long. I think the Hydrangea is pleasant enough...but it is a LARGE space to give up to something if you don't LOVE it. I don't know if the Clematis will give you as "solid" a visual block...but maybe that's even better...more of a gauzy, mysterious screen...still enticing :-)

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    1. "pleasant enough"...is right up there with "fine" as in "you look fine" which is a far cry from "you look great"

      BTW there are little flower buds on my new plant!!!!

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  24. Two things Scott rip out that Laurel already and Danger follow right behind with removal of the Hydrangea. I like the idea of the Clematis much better. So far this year I have removed my Rosa glauca, an Apple tree, and a Fire Maple. Next to go is a Forsythia, Lilac, and maybe a Fir tree.

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    1. Wow...you're a crazy man and your lot must be huge! I applaud everything on your list except he Rosa glauca...love those hips...

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  25. Lose the hydrangea. I like them, but they're easy to grow. If you miss it, it could be grown back in little over 5 years. Your idea is more interesting, and I agree with earlier writers that say the hydrangea is ... a little to big, a little too round, a little dull in this garden.

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    1. Good point, but I doubt once it came out I'd replant another! It's more the sentimentality and easy care of that one. But as you say..."a little to big, a little too round, a little dull"...thank you!

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  26. Out with the old, in with the new! Your new plan sounds fun and exciting--I say go for it. Hydrangeas come and go.

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  27. You might be under-estimating the hydrangea. That's a substantial amount of foliage and a complete visual barrier.

    But you should always follow your bliss. And I think a teasey, peekaboo screen of the clematis will be lovely. Go for it.

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  28. I love the hydrangea, but probably because it's an exotic plant for me, and it does a marvelous job of the "slow reveal" of your lower patio. That said, I am a BIG believer in ripping out even healthy plants when they don't suit your vision, and in trying something new. I say Go for it! Can't wait to see the changes.

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