Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

You Told Me So: A Public Declaration

The front of our house is red brick and the windows are very low, perhaps only a foot above the ground.  Because we have a walkway from the driveway to the front door and because we wanted to be able to look out those windows, we didn't want a large bed of foundation shrubs against the front of the house.  I have large rectangular areas of groundcovers between the walkway and the lawn: liriope on the sunnier side and indigofera mixed with variegated vinca major on the shadier side.  My brilliant idea?  Plant creeping fig ivy to climb up the brick walls, providing a cooling curtain of green and the look of shrubbery without any depth at all.

The Chief Engineer in our house advised against it.  "You'll constantly be trimming it back, to keep it off the roof and the windows," he said.  But how hard could that be?  I mean, I can climb a ladder.  I have my own special smaller-hand Felcos.  What's the problem?

Well.  It's a problem.  Don't get me wrong -- I love the look.  It really does cool down the hot red color of the brick.  It does look like landscaping without having rows of big bushes in front of the windows.  But it's a real project to keep it trimmed correctly.  If it gets away from me, it leaves sticky little footprints on the woodwork.  It's crawled around to both sides of the house, and threatens to actually come in the front door.  It's harder than it looks to use the ladder to trim the top.  The trimmings are pretty tough and don't decompose quickly in the compost pile.

There is a benefit, however, that I had never considered when I planted the ivy.  Whenever I'm working on it, I'm thinking about my marriage.  About when it's important to be right and when it's not.  About giving and taking advice in a graceful fashion.  About doing what matters and forgetting about what doesn't.  And that's got to be a good thing, I figure.


  1. The Chief Engineer loves the look too!

  2. And he never says "I told you so!"

  3. that pic could be the back wall on my house Elizabeth. Fig ivy looks so cool when it is kept neat and from growing wherever it wants to. My lovely domestic engineer takes up my slack with regards to the maintenance. Love can overcome fig ivy.

  4. And love may be the only thing that can overcome fig ivy, Victor! I just finished the trimming this morning. :)

  5. (You've been had, that's no ivy, that's a FIG, think Strangler Fig) Another blogger said, don't let the dog get too close, you'll never see him again. For years I struggled to get these plants to grow, love the way they look. Now when I blink they put on another metre. But mine are on the boundary wall, not coming in the front door ;-)

  6. I know, I know. It's too late for me, but the rest of you, SAVE YOURSELVES! It's quite aggressive. It's not on any invasive lists here, but it's a mover...