One hydrangea overlaps another, then another. Poking out from this melange is a small clump of Pineapple lily (Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’) and a soft wooded, variegated Blue mist shrub (Caropteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy’) that struggled through the cold winter, and now is barely hanging on as an overly vigorous Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) nearly overwhelms it. For several years this combination was superb, I think, but now the balance has been lost. This is not so unusual, and often some small part of the garden will be exceptional for a period, and then the magic is lost.
I suppose there are gardeners who can envision these things (or so they claim), but mostly I think that our best hope is to create something wondrous, until it’s not, and then hope that we can hold on a while longer by snipping here and there, and later by pruning more severely in an attempt to enforce order. Usually, this is not the same as when branches weave upon their own devices to cast a fleeting spell. And so it is, and the gardener must be joyful that the magic was there at all rather than feeling disappointment when things are not just so.
I’ve often said that the most delightful creations in this garden are completely accidental, and while this is overstating the case a bit, seldom am I able to imagine that a fern will arch delightfully above the broad leaves of ‘Francee’ hosta nestled beside a small stream that has been constructed. Across the stream ‘Carol Mackie’ daphne (Daphne x burkwoodi ‘Carol Mackie’) grows through and above a thick clump of sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis). Moss covers the small stones that line the stream, and for several years this scene has been extraordinary.
No doubt, the sweetbox is due for some horrific blight, and the daphne will inevitably fail for no reason at all (as daphnes do). But again, nothing of the sort could happen, and here are plants that are unlikely to suddenly take off and overgrow their area.
The sweetbox took forever (it seems) to get to this point, and never could I have forecast that it would grow right through the daphne, and that both would remain perfectly content. ‘Carol Mackie’ has suffered its own challenges, with large branches falling from the forest’s swamp maples flattening the shrub more than once. But, this shaded scene with a backdrop of variegated Japanese aucuba (Aucuba japonica ‘Gold Dust’), nandina (Nandina domestica) and tall, deciduous azaleas is the highlight of the garden. Perhaps it will remain so for a while longer.
Other parts of the garden capture my attention for a week, or even a year until some manner of ruin steals the scene. Usually, the ruin could have been anticipated if I was able to think these things through, I suppose, but the error is not so grievous that plants must be moved or radically pruned. It is only that the proportions are a bit off, that one has grown or another diminished, and this is what enthralls the gardener on rare occasions when all pieces mesh to perfection.