Sydney, Australia — I confess, I let a pretty one turn my head. Not my usual type, this coquette tarted up to call all attention to herself. Not from around these parts, either.
To make matters worse, it was a pity planting. I discovered the barely recognizable hydrangea hidden in the agapanthus thicket I was thinning out front. I couldn’t ignore the tiny green leaves, because as much as I am committed to native gardening, I am also a keen recycler, especially in the garden. I couldn’t bring myself to toss a potentially viable plant, especially one that had hung on likely for decades in my elderly father-in-law’s long, long abandoned garden. Who was I to deny such a magnificent will to live?
I decided to replant the hydrangea in a brand-new bed meant to mask the ugly back wall of the garage, a dry and shady spot of lifeless, weed-infested dirt.
We weeded and composted, of course, and then added a flagstone path border (recycling more of the hoarded materials piled up around the yard). Acting more hopefully than sensibly, I gave the aspiring hydrangea pride of place, to anchor the far end of the bed. We left Sydney in late August and the garden to its Darwinian fate.
So when we returned in mid-December, I was, to use the vernacular, gobsmacked. The hydrangea was a foot or two, lush and louche, with a half-dozen large, blue flowers in full bloom. I couldn’t stop peeking at it from behind the bedroom curtains, and Ross’s study, and the kitchen. After a satisfying diet of admittedly restrained Texan bloomers, I was binging on extravagance.
I still feel guilty, like I’m two-timing my Australian native grevilleas and westringeas and eremophilas and lilly pillies. The appeal of the hydrangea is too facile, too beauty-pageant. Still, I can’t look away. Conspicuous display can make me happy, too.
More from Ann’s gardens: