We had a big planting day around here yesterday. Joe and I planted three currents, a disease resistant elm, a Juneberry, a lilac, and three grape vines; and we moved an apricot windbreak shrub that was looking sickly. Then I quickly poked in the rest of my annual flowers as it was beginning to sprinkle.
When we moved into our house almost ten years ago, the parsonage was only three and a half years old. The church was built in the seventies, so the trees near the church were mature. There are flowering crabs and spruce and a dwindling honeysuckle hedge on the north side of the church.
But around the new parsonage were only baby trees. There were baby poplars and spruce and willow on the north side; and between the church and the parsonage there were ash and maple and spruce. The poplars were only about five or six feet and the spruce and ash were very small, maybe only three or four feet. There was also what was left of some windbreak shrubs on the south side. I think there may have been nine that made it through our first winter here, scattered around what used to be two rows. These were mostly still in what I call the "stick" stage, the single upright stick or two with a few leaves or tiny branches.
Since then, the poplars have grown very tall, as poplars will; the spruce and willows are all over my head; most of the ash and maple are probably twenty feet tall; we combined the scattered remains of the two rows of sticks on the south side and have added to it each year. It is now complete and starting to fill in the spaces between the shrubs. We're ready to begin a second row next year.
Our first summer here, someone had given money, specifically for some shrubbery for the parsonage. So we got three arborvitae, a bridal wreath spirea, a burning bush, a lilac, a double flowering plum, and a clump birch. These were all planted up around or near the house, so immediately added a bit of green hominess to the place.
We've continued to add each year, planting a few more bushes, at least one tree a year, and perennials. We've planted strawberries, raspberries, jostaberries and currents; apple and plum trees, and now grape vines; and we have choke cherries, high bush cranberries, buffalo berries and Juneberries in the windbreak hedge on the south side.
Each spring, we watch impatiently to see which things make it and begin to put out their little leaves; and which things show nothing but dead brown branches after our hard winters. We try to replace the things that die, but sometimes we have to admit that a certain variety may not fit well with our climate and soil conditions.
Since we live in a parsonage, there's always a bit of tip-toeing to figure out which things that we try are OK with everyone. It's a basic fact of parsonage life that we can't do whatever we want; out of respect for those church and parish members who own the property, we try to take into account the opinions of those who provide such a nice home for us. And in order to help us feel at home here, the parishioners allow us as much freedom as they can to do our own thing.
That said, there are probably as many opinions among the members as there are members. We cannot please everyone. I hope we've never bothered anyone too terribly with all of our plantings. Some people want a nice big open yard, and others say to shade the yard with several trees. Some people say to leave the south side open. Some have advised that fruiting trees are too much maintenance or make too much of a mess in the yard. Some think a certain tree is pretty and others think it's ugly.
And so comes the tip-toeing. We plant what we like, and some that we don't, but that are very popular otherwise (arborvitae, for instance, although I will say that I am getting used to them; the green in the winter is definitely nice). We try to plant reasonably, thinking of the families who will follow us. We try to plant usefully, hence the fruiting varieties. Not everyone who may follow us here will want to use the fruit, but the bushes and trees will still provide shelter and windbreak, shade and visual appeal.
And so gradually the parsonage grounds are becoming greener. Or dare I say, the glebe is more verdant?