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Garden Photo of the Day

Garden Photo of the Day

This plant's future is in your hands...

comments (53) September 21st, 2010 in blogs
MichelleGervais Michelle Gervais, Senior Editor
62 users recommend


How many couples do you know that have arguments over plants? Well, you can help resolve this one. Eric and Danielle Wotzak have been renovating this fantastic house in Northport, New York, for the past year, and now they're starting to think about what to do in the front yard. One thing Eric is sure of is that he wants to rip out this hydrangea, because he thinks it crowds the porch steps. Dani, on the other hand, is equally determined to keep it. Whose side are you on?

Welcome to the Fine Gardening GARDEN PHOTO OF THE DAY blog! Every weekday we post a new photo of a great garden, a spectacular plant, a stunning plant combination, or any number of other subjects. Think of it as your morning jolt of green.

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posted in: trees

Comments (53)

djk78 writes: I would love love love to have this tree. Gorgous.I would move the steps and then put a water feature close to it to enhance the flow of it`s form.You not not see many trees of this size in this specimen. Please do not cut it down. Posted: 12:35 am on January 3rd
CompoGrow writes: Like others say, move it.

Unfortunatly you won't be able to bring in a tree spade because of the close proximity to the porch, so lots of hand digging will be required.

If you can bare to part with it there are a lot of people who would be willing to pay for somethinng full grown like this one so I would call a couple of local garden centers or nurseries and see if they know of anyone looking.

You could luck out and find somone willing to pay a pro to transplant it as well as pay you for the plant itself... Help pay off some of those renovations! Posted: 2:28 am on October 15th
Motleyalaskan writes: Jeezy Peezy brother...just extend a little trellis over the steps, keep the gutter clear, and train the hydrange to vine up and over. Prune anything than doesn't agree! Whack the whole thing? What...are you NUTS?! Posted: 9:20 pm on September 22nd
audrey7826 writes: This specimen seems to be quite old. I would kill to have this tree in my yard. It is not easy to get most hydrangeas to perform like this one. I think you would be making a
big mistake by removing it. It is obviously happy just where it is as evident of it's profuse blooms. To relocate it may run the risk of loosing it. Perhaps you might want to plant boxwoods underneath and surround them with annuals which would take the focus off of the trunk of the tree and in addition, symetry could be establish on the right side of the house repeating the use of boxwoods and removing the existing schrubs. I would rethink your position
eric. Posted: 7:36 pm on September 22nd
PinkHat writes: COMPROMISE!

Call a certified arborist with an airspade who's had experience to have them excavate it while preserving the root system. Best to do it in late November or early December when the plant goes dormant In the meantime, prepare a site in the yard where it can grow ideally and unimpeded. It will cost a bit, but you couldn't buy a replacement and it would take many many years to have it reach this size again.
Posted: 12:17 am on September 22nd
Garypooh writes: Keep it/loose the house! Posted: 11:25 pm on September 21st
margoa writes: This is a gorgeous specimen - it would be sad to just rip it out. As others have suggested, some careful pruning would help a lot, as well as additional plantings underneath the hydrangea. Some of the volume needs to be removed from the side nearest the steps to the house, and then additional pruning to keep balance in the overall shape. A good landscaper will be able to come in do this for you as well as even out the design around the hydrangea and install a walkway that will compliment that corner of the house and add to the overall curb appeal. And just in case, take some cuttings - it never hurts to be on the safe side. Your hydrangea is beautiful! Posted: 10:43 pm on September 21st
Bonnielou writes: Yes, keep it for a while, and I agree; prune it, and maybe thin it out a little in order to make your final decision.. I think the trunk is interesting. With other plants it can be balanced out. Posted: 10:34 pm on September 21st
valleygardener writes: This vintage hydrangea is worth trying to transplant in an area of the garden the owners can agree upon. Then the front area could have its makeover. Keep it and try a new life elsewhere, worth a try! Posted: 7:53 pm on September 21st
sheilaschultz writes: Oh man, I'm going to be strung up on the nearest Hydrangea, but this one has to go. Transplanting would be wonderful, but be prepared for it not to move with grace or life. If the focus is curb appeal, than this beauty doesn't work. There are so many disappointments and bad positioning with our dream plants, but then there are so many opportunities to correct our well meaning mistakes. Posted: 7:05 pm on September 21st
ncgardener writes: Keep it for at least another year. In the meantime thin it. Take some cuttings for propagation and then if they root and it is still an issue try to move it. It seems well established and it may not make the move but if the location is that much of an issue, move it. Compromise is the key. Posted: 4:57 pm on September 21st
arboretum writes: oh my goodness, michelle, look what you've mustered up!!
i think people want you to ask them their opinion, duh!!

i would definitely prefer to see more photos of this situation and yard. for all we know, there's a glorious hedge of these same things, just out of the photo frame.....
I also can't see if it hits you as you use the stairs. If the answer is no, i agree with the 'keep it' faction.it is just lovely, well pruned and shaped. I would suggest choosing better plantings, variegated included, under it.

best,
mindy
www.cottonarboretum.com/ Posted: 4:47 pm on September 21st
granniegreenwell writes: While I hesitate to disagree with so many, I would move this plant if possible or remove it if not. It's a shame that the person who planted it didn't take into account its mature size. Because it IS too close to the porch. It actually is detracting from the symmetry of the house. A shrub that was no taller than the porch would not detract. Also, because it is rounded at the top but bare on the bottom, it looks top heavy and as though its looming over the porch. The bareness could be corrected by extending the bed around the hydrangea and filling it with shrubs or perennials 4' or under. If the tree was located just 4 - 6 feet further out (diagonally from the corner of the porch) it would be an absolute assest to the garden. Posted: 4:45 pm on September 21st
catsdogs writes: Love the Color of the Tree, and the way it is Hanging there, its going to get bigger, it looks like a Great Walk way entrance. Ha. Great Stuff....Gardner Posted: 2:53 pm on September 21st
Luvsgrandsandplants writes: I love this plant just as it is. The only condsideration, in my opinion, is possible damage to the porch and roof. It's difficult to tell from the front view. If not-it's lovely just where it is; although appropriate under plantings would enhance the look. Good luck!
Posted: 1:56 pm on September 21st
Marnett writes: While it does over crowd the porch, this has such a great structure. Have you considered trying to transplant it? Maybe there's an arborist / horticulturist who could help you. I think placed out farther in the front yard, you could enjoy it much more. Consider asking your county extension agent / ag. dept. at a college nearby. Good luck! Posted: 12:44 pm on September 21st
mower writes: All I can add to the above comments is: "you will be very sorry if you remove this fantastic hydrangea". This plant is very much in keeping w/your home and if you just spent quite a bit of money and time renovating this house and decide to remove the plant you will be destroying the look that you wanted.
I have a beautiful old hydrangea along side my barn and my husband wanted to add on to that side of the barn 25 years ago and ... let's just say that the hydrangea is still there and going strong.

Good luck w/your decision Posted: 12:41 pm on September 21st
Satisfaction writes: We have a tree hydrangea that is over 30 years old. We prune it severely every year. It is not replaceable! We have shared hundreds of blooms for dry arrangements. Additional plantings?? Maybe. However, it appears there isn't much space there so the entrance may seem more crowed with additional perennials. However, I agree on extending the steps and making the perennials area larger. I say keep it and prune it. Posted: 12:25 pm on September 21st
wittyone writes: It's beautiful, has been well taken care of and is obviously very happy right where it is. Previous comments about some judicial pruning, extending the bed underneath it and even widening the porch steps, if the budget allows, are exactly right.

You will regret it if you take this wonderful specimen out. Posted: 11:43 am on September 21st
agardener writes: I was surprised to see such a healthy, huge hydrangea. It is a focal point that adds interest to your lovely house. I think the porch step area is comfortably large enough and maybe using a creative porch roof (lattice, etc.) would accommodate a renovation while keeping peace for the owners. Posted: 11:37 am on September 21st
Momsnotmad writes: I think this beauty should be kept as it seems to be more at the corner of the porch and not obstructing too much of it. You're doing a great job keeping it pruned, it seems. Posted: 10:57 am on September 21st
Marilyn_price writes: The plant is beautiful, and needs to be saved. I would consider moving the steps (entrance) to the left so it doesnt interfer. Since you are redsigning the front yard anyway, I'm sure a good landscaper could come up with a plan that saves the trees, moves the stairs a bit, and enhances the house.
My son in Denver just had his backyard done. He had small concret steps coming off a dbl sliding door. The contractor made large, flowing steps coming off that door. The effect was beautiful and more than function. Good luck. Posted: 10:53 am on September 21st
oakleafgreen writes: KEEP! Chop it off and the ground and let it come back! It's funny you mention this today, because I'm posting something about that exact thing for today's Garden Designers Roundtable. ;-) Posted: 10:45 am on September 21st
amanda4973 writes: I agree that it should be pruned and kept in place, UNLESS:

(1) The roots are a threat to the foundation of the house (unlikely, I know, but worth considering). Then the hydrangea should be removed.

(2) Pruning doesn't solve the problem, and people don't have clear access to steps and walkways. Access ought to be a primary consideration in garden design. a beautiful plant that impedes people trying to get somewhere becomes an irritant, which shouldn't happen. People and their responsibilities are more important than plants.

That said, it's a great plant, and I think the old-fashioned look of the hydrangea compliments the style of the house well.

I also think the white trim of the house makes the pink flowers look dull, and the homeowners might consider painting the house trim a lighter shade of the house's body color to tie the whole property's color scheme together. White in the landscape is very tricky, and doesn't blend well with pinks, yellow, or oranges. It tends to make those colors look dull. It looks great with blues, purples, and reds, however. I would not plant white flowers nearby ... stick with soft, subdued colors or just foliage.

It's a big decision. I'd gather three bids from landscape designers, even if only for their professional opinions. Don't act in haste here. Good luck.

Posted: 10:39 am on September 21st
Vespasia writes: Can you bear one more comment, many of us including myself have recommended pruning. One very important caveat, do not prune this shrub until the spring as you will seriously damage its flowering ability. Since it flowering so beautifully it has obviously been prune at the correct time of year in the past. Posted: 10:35 am on September 21st
Leta writes: It is really lovely. I think pruning it would be the correct answer. Posted: 10:10 am on September 21st
mom24dogz writes: By all means, keep it. I would spend thousands to have such a beautiful tree. Surely, there must be a way to save it and not damage the porch. Move it over a little bit. So beautiful, it would be a crime to kill it. Posted: 9:57 am on September 21st
MJH714 writes: It is definitely crowding the porch and out of proportion. Trim it back and give it one more year. However, this beautiful home would benefit greatly with a new landscape design. A perfect opportunity to be creative and enhance the architecture of your home. Posted: 9:49 am on September 21st
pdgarner writes: A true beauty. It belongs where it is. It may be crowding the porch but adds more than it takes away. Posted: 9:47 am on September 21st
blumz writes: It would be totally WRONG to disturb this gorgeous specimen. Anyone entering the house should appreciate this shrub so much that they would not mind ducking a little. If I did anything at all, I'd reposition the steps. I can't tell what shrubs are on the left of the steps, but I'd take those out and remove part of the porch wall, and make the steps extend further to the left. It is much easier to construct steps and porches than to grow such a perfect hydrangea. It has rewarded you with such beauty, please repay it by keeping. I've had many "discussions" with my husband about things just such as this. Posted: 9:44 am on September 21st
gloie writes: I agree with the majority, although I understand the concern of the husband. It does appear to be to close to the house. That said, get a professional to lighten up the top with pruning. Open up that umbrella so it will appear light and airy and hopefully lift the left side which appears heavy. The key is in the pruning. Then add the plants as suggested by gracepete. Live with this for a year or so and if he can't accept it ----re-negotiate!

This will be beautiful. Posted: 9:39 am on September 21st
michgardner writes: It is beautiful and worth trying to save. I would contact a professional and have it trimmed/thinned out quite extensively. Obviously, the entire front and side yard needs to be redone. I would make all beds wider and more free flowing, remove everything but the hydrangea, and go from there. Definitely need plants of various heights/shapes directly under the hydrangea tree! As it is, you eye is drawn straight up, which makes the hydrangea feel very top heavy. Posted: 9:38 am on September 21st
wwross writes: Keep it. Thin it. Posted: 9:37 am on September 21st
SunnyDispo writes: I love it and I think it should stay. Thin it out, work a new bed under it as others have suggested. Perhaps a new walk as well. It's a lovely specimen and with some TLC would improve the porch, not crowd it. Posted: 9:32 am on September 21st
Vespasia writes: Oh you must keep it, it is lovely and this type of Hydrangea takes many years to get to this size. It just needs some careful pruning where it hangs over the porch. I agree with many previous posts with regard to making larger beds with low growing perennials. I would also recommend a wider more formal front path (which would be much better in the winter) and then bring the side bed out to it. This would make for a welcoming front entry with great street appeal to compliment this lovely old house. Posted: 9:31 am on September 21st
FlowersRme writes: I Love the Plant. Should make it the focal point of the entry into this lovely old house. Build the porch around it and come way out into the yard so there could be a step down sitting area with a bench around the tree. What ever you do don't cut down that tree. Takes too long to grow a new one. Posted: 9:27 am on September 21st
Rootsgodeep writes: I don't believe this could be transplanted as someone suggested. It is obviously very healthy by the abundance of blooms. It is a beautiful specimen. I say KEEP it. Bring the bed out away from the house and plant more shade loving perennials like the hostas underneath it. The planting beds are much too shallow as they are. Make the Hydrangea a focal point leading to the front door. It's a piece of art and should be treated as such. Just think how many years it took to grow! Posted: 9:02 am on September 21st
gracepete writes: Hi Michelle, The poor plant is top-heavy and looks like it's been sheered to look like a lollipop. I feel badly for its mistreatment. I'm with the Mrs. It should definitely stay. But, I understand the Mr.'s complaints. If the plant were mine, I'd thin it out to show off its branching and allow more light onto the porch and I'd get rid of the lawn in front of it. A medium sized evergreen shrub, off to one side, would look nice and some lower growing white flowering perennials in front to echo the flower color would be nice. Then add a piece of garden art like a birdbath and voila. :) I hope you'll share the "after" photos. Posted: 8:56 am on September 21st
nce writes: Hi! This is gorgeous. Lucky you! I wish I had this charming hydrangea at my front steps. Keep it. All you needd to do is a little pruning. Posted: 8:41 am on September 21st
JAABA writes: It's beautiful and adds so much to their charming house. Compromise! Trim the offending branches. After reading the other comments and before hitting Submit I tend to agree with those who suggest additional plantings as well. I do hope you will share whatever you decide to do! Posted: 8:40 am on September 21st
Vojt writes: Absolutely save it. Integrate it by extending the bed out with low growing shrubs and perennials as suggested. It draws your eyes right to the entryway. Don't sacrifice a stunning, mature specimen plant that is a piece of the history of your old house! Posted: 8:33 am on September 21st
lijda writes: My husband and I, over the past couple of years, have, with difficulty, ripped out many large old shrubs and trees, some that I planted over 30 years ago, because they had gotten too large for our small garden and house. Even my best friend had misgivings but everyone now loves the result: it's an opportunity to find new 'perfect' plants in new arrangements. Don't think of just removing one plant and putting another in its spot: think about the area (even think of redefining the shapes of the beds and walks). And don't shy away from woody ornamentals because of this experience. There are so many plants out there that a husband and wife can love together. Maybe something taller but narrow would be dramatic. Even another tree, like a Stewartia. (They are SO beautiful.) You could have a wonderful time finding the perfect plants for this area. A first-stop candy store for shopping: Broken Arrow Nursery. They have many unusual cultivars and they're a wonderful day trip for folks who live in the next state. Posted: 8:07 am on September 21st
TheLivelyLady writes: They would be crazy to tear out such a beautiful curb appeal plant. Posted: 8:04 am on September 21st
perennialpal writes: This beautiful plant adds so much to this house. I love Stan's idea. Maybe you should even move the stepping stones in front of it out towards the street more to eliminate some of the problem and fill that with plants. It would be far better to just prune it back a bit if that is necessary to avoid running into it when going up the steps. Posted: 7:44 am on September 21st
charlotteA writes: The look is awkward. I think it takes away from the curb appeal although you should transplant it somewhere where it can be fully appreciated. I'm sure it's breathtaking when in bloom. Posted: 7:44 am on September 21st
CatMur writes: Pruning is the solution here and some additional perennials around the Hydranga's feet to soften its bare trunk. Posted: 7:37 am on September 21st
JulieBW writes: I believe it is formint an umbrella over the steps, not crowding the porch. It's all in perception... Posted: 6:29 am on September 21st
wGardens writes: This lovely hydranges can easily handle some creative pruning! I totally with Stan Horst... a garden underneath it, extended to the sidewalk and driveway could be awesome! Great oppurtunity here. Posted: 6:25 am on September 21st
stanhorst writes: Love the plant...Love the house. Why not extend the flower bed further towards the street and curve it around to match the steps? Then you could add additional plants in front of it and it wouldn't feel like it is standing out by itself.

Stan Horst
Publisher: BetterBenches.com Posted: 6:00 am on September 21st
gottagarden writes: Save it! It's a beautiful specimen. But prune it back over the steps and keep the rest. Posted: 6:00 am on September 21st
MundyR writes: What a lovely specimen hydrangea! It adds so much character and is irreplaceable, for many years anyway. I design gardens, and find that clients who rip out old plants often regret it later. Why don't you prune up the branches overhanging the porch steps and give it another year... you can always take it out later, but you can't put it back. Maybe plant a clematis to climb up the trunks too. Posted: 4:45 am on September 21st
pavel2nd writes: Unfortunately it is crowding the porch. The porch must go! Posted: 4:22 am on September 21st
Termar writes: It is crowding the porch, it should go! Posted: 4:06 am on September 21st
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