April 23, 2012

Six Years Later

When I retired, my staff gave me a large, beautiful climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomela ssp. petiolaris) as a goodbye gift.  I planted it in spring 2006.  I put it inside a cedar tower to help it stay upright until it could reach the pergola frame above the garage doors.

Here it was the following year, in spring, 2007, large and leafy and healthy:

It is on the west side of the house, in too much direct sun, right up against the asphalt driveway and smack in front of the dryer vent.  It has forgiven me for putting it in such a horrid site.  It thrives, but in the way of climbing hydrangeas, which is slowly and cautiously.

After six years it is ready to start its seventh year aiming for the pergola.  This is the year it finally might make it. 

In May of 2010 it was full and glossy green and bottom heavy.  It just didn't want to reach for that pergola, it wanted to fill out below and go over to see what was happening under the guest room window to the left.  It was not interested in climbing up to the top of the garage doors.

This winter, in 2012, I pruned it severely, lopping off a lot of the woody stems below.

It was very hard to prune.  After six years, the stems are brittle and woody and won't bend.  Most of its growth was headed left.  I wanted stems to go to the right and up.

But do you see it now, in April?

Do you see that tentative reach for the edge of the pergola?

It still doesn't want to go there --- I had to tie the topmost branches to the pergola frame and a few branches still wistfully stretch to the left, and the whole thing sags down in the middle. 

Artistic?  Sinuous and elegant?  Or twisted and bent looking?

This is what I am after.  I photographed this at a home that was on our local garden tour last year.  How beautifully the climbing hydrangea scrambles across the top of the garage doors.  And in bloom, too.

At this home the woody stems were limbed up and are quite bare until the leafy mass reaches the top of the frame.  See, it can be done.

Mine will get there.  It's been six years (have I really been retired that long?) and this is the year the branches are actually resting on a few inches of the top of the pergola.

That's something.

 

23 comments:

  1. Maybe they only grow to the left. Transplant it to the other side of your garage! :)

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    1. Bob, ha! That could work for this leftist leaning vine.

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  2. Odd behavior, but then, that's redundant; it's a climbing hydrangea, which does all it can to keep from growing the way you want it to – or blooming. That said, I like your left-leaner.

    Ironically, I'm waiting for blooms from a relative of yours; mine is Schizophragma hydrangeoides. Let's hope this is the year we both get what we want.

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    1. Lee, my climbing hydrangea is growing awry, but it does bloom. I think they want shade for their foliage, but full sun for best blooms. And mine gets hot west sun. Maybe your schizophragma needs the same --- shady conditions to grow well but sun to bloom?

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    2. Yes, they seem to want what they can't get. OK, how's this: If we get big winds in the hot summertime, and the leaves blow off the trees, they'll lotsa sun and then bloom. Maybe.

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  3. Hello there !
    This has been such an interesting story about how stubborn some plants can be .. I am starting some climbing roses on an arbor bench and I am wondering how stubborn are they going to be with me ? haha
    Actually I have read it takes a long time to train hydrangea like that ... yours will be there eventually and it will look beautiful !
    So just hang in there a little longer : )
    Joy

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    1. Garden Joy, Climbing hydrangea is a notoriously slow grower at first, but once it gets going after several years, it does spread out nicely. Good luck with your roses, here's hoping they are compliant and agree with your plans!

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  4. It has personality! What a great idea to have it climb that way. A beautiful gift.

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    1. Gardener on Sherlock, I like thinking of this plant as having a big personality!

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  5. Your climbing hydrangea reminds me of a cranky teenager. Sometimes they take a while to become beautiful. I think it looks great already! :o) What a thoughtful retirement gift.

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    1. Tammy, some plants do remind us of the quirkiness of people, and this hydrangea has had a long, challenging youth. Time for it to grow up and grow into its beauty now.

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  6. I think this is exciting that your hydrangea is finally creeping onto the pergola. Your patience and perseverance will pay off. Maybe it will take off across the pergola this year. Your vine must be something of a Peeping Tom since it keeps going toward that window. ;)

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    1. Lisa, hmmm, what could be going on in the bedroom that the peeping vine wants to check out? Mostly it would just see cats sleeping on the guest room bed, which they are never, never allowed to do.

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  7. Sometimes you have to be the tough parent with plants as well as teenagers. It will take off once it realizes you mean business.

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    1. Layanee, This is certainly the year I expect it to take off. Finally. I hope.

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  8. I had no idea these were such slow growers. I've always wanted one of these but maybe I should be thinking about where to plant one soon so I'm not waiting too long to see it grow. That photo of the hydrangea across the garage is wonderful, here's hoping yours makes it that high this year.

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    1. Marguerite, From what I have read climbing hydrangeas are slow in the beginning, for the first five or six years, then they really take off. We'll see about that this year. I hope you get one planted.

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  9. Laurrie, You are not alone in waiting for a climbing hydrangea to grow. I have one that is about as old as your is and it is about as tall. Last year it finally had a single flower! Yippie! If you ask me, patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to climbing hydrangeas.

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    1. Jennifer, Patience is a virtue in so many gardening things! My climbing hydrangea does flower, and has since the beginning, although they are subtle and not very showy. I think it blooms best in full sun, which mine is in. I hope you get more than a single bloom on yours this year.

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  10. It can be so difficult to wait for climing hydrangea to grow. Did the trellis you saw on the garden tour have a hydrangea planted on both sides of the garage?. That would certainly aid a fuller vine.

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    1. Joene, the garden tour climbing hydrangea was just one large plant growing from one side of their garage, stretching more than 20 feet across. So it can get quite huge! I am sure it had been growing for many, many years.

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  11. I retired five years ago in June, and the gift from your staff beats the engraved clock I received that has since stopped working:) Looks like your hydrangea is finally bending to your will. I've heard these can get huge, so the pergola will be perfect for it!

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    1. Rose, Ain't retirement grand? I'm glad to know another retiree-gardener out there.

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