Consider the Hydrangea

This was going to be “the year” for my garden. Spring clean-up revealed that the perennials I have planted over the years now occupy virtually all of the space. I showed great restraint at my trip to a garden center and purchased only one plant at the Farmer’s Market. Not because I didn’t see things I liked, but because I simply didn’t have room. And with more arthritis in my hands, I wasn’t eager to do a lot of planting. I’ve also found vicarious enjoyment in my neighbor’s garden, which is a sweep of color from annuals and dramatic arrangements in pots. No need for both of us to be on hands and knees!

Five years ago, I bought an annabelle hydrangea. I planted it in a northeast corner, against the house, to cover up the water meter and fill in a dark space. Too dark, as it turned out. The plant needed more sun than it got, and, because it was tucked away, I often forgot to water it. The hydrangea didn’t die, but it also seemed never to do anything.

Two years later, I found a new home for the hydrangea, at the south end of the yard, where, in the midst of a larger garden, it would receive plenty of sun and attention. I was eager for its white blooms to complement the yellows and lavenders nearby.

The first year, I didn’t expect it to flower while settling in, and it didn’t. The second year, now well established and doubled in size, the hydrangea still did nothing. Had I pruned it back when I shouldn’t have, or left it alone when I should have given it a hard trim? I couldn’t remember.

This year, it continues to grow, full and green. But while hydrangeas in other yards are already in bloom, mine has nothing but heart-shaped leaves, not the mound of white flowers that would last well into the summer.

When I complained to my neighbor—the one with the beautiful garden—she was unequivocal. “Take it out. There must be something wrong with it.”

The growing season in Minnesota is short. Gardeners are like capitalists, wanting the biggest bang for their greenhouse buck. As one who daily depends on mercy, I’m reluctant to dig it up. For now, the hydrangea fills a large space in the garden. It provides shade for animals. It is shapely in its green robe. Its glory may be still to come.

One thought on “Consider the Hydrangea”

  1. Lenore, I love this. I can relate too. We watched a Pinkie Winkie hydrangea die a shady death. The leafless stick made me wish I had intervened earlier. My neighbor, who also has a beautiful garden does not have patience either for lagging bloomers. But I am with you, mercy is a good quality to have as a gardener. I like the reference to aging, hands and a short growing season!


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