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Whew! And Now What?

When we started having electrical problems, Ward went out to look at the wires that come into the house from the street. He found a woody stem of my climbing hydrangea so snug around the meter, he was concerned the vine might be wedging itself between the cover and the base, and getting inside.

When I planted Hydrangea petiolaris in front of the meter, my plan was to camouflage the ugly thing, since it's right on the front of the house. I would train the plant around the box, pruned so the meter-reader could see in, but creating enough distraction that you wouldn't notice the meter unless you looked for it.

After five years, the hydrangea got established enough to start flowering; now I look forward eagerly every summer to see how many of its lacecap flowers it will produce this year: white, shallowly dome-shaped clusters, eight inches across, mostly of tiny fertile flowers, with a few larger-petaled sterile ones decorating the cluster's edge. In fall, the heart-shaped leaves turn golden tones.

A trellis, to hold it away from the wooden siding, was also part of the plan. But this vine grows up to 50 feet, and I never decided what shape to limit it to. After ten years it's now eleven feet tall, and growing about a foot a year.

The plant supports itself naturally by grabbing out with short little finger-like aerial roots, onto and into any unevenness in the surface it leans on. The housepaint was already peeling, but these roots are helping. In addition, the hydrangea didn't quite grow where I wanted: it has grabbed onto the electric service wire — but next to that it's left a big gap where I wanted its main mass. Instead, several feet away, it grew another big vertical branch up a window shutter, and even onto the window!

I need to choose a trellis ... but then attaching these stiff, already-grown stems will be awkward. I should probably prune it back to the two-foot tall, free-standing section, and have it grow up again on the trellis. But I hate to chop it down.

The electrician opened the meter: no roots inside. The electrical problem was farther up the incoming wire, nowhere near my hydrangea. The horticultural problem remains, and now I've been forced to pay attention, I can't go back to forgetting.

Photos by C.H. Clark:
  • the first, of the whole plant, showing the gap where I wanted it to grow.
  • the second, of woody stems clinging to the window shutter with their little adventitious roots.

Text and photos © Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 11 November 2005

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