Friday, March 23, 2012

it's a gas gas gas

When we bought our house, back in October, we ran all-electric, all the time. Electric heat, electric hot water, electric stove, you name it, it ran courtesy of our town electric company. Having a municipal electric company has its perks. During the Freak Storm and Blackout of Fall 2011, our lights were out for 12 hours, whereas some of the neighboring towns, even those closer to the city, were without power for over a week in some locations. It also means our electric bills are fairly low. But, heating your house with electric is pricey. The former owners heated with wood, and used the electric to supplement, not as their main source of heat. The wood stove served us well, too, through Christmas, and Mike became quite good at getting it roaring hot quickly.
our Vigilant, circa 1977, in October
Just before the holidays, our gas line was run in from the street, and just after the holidays, we had nice hot water baseboard heat on the first floor, powered by a cute and powerful boiler in the basement. It was a good investment, and we hope to extend the gas heat to the upstairs once our pocketbook is no longer feeling quite so bruised and thin.

A gas boiler also means, eventually, a gas stove. Hurrah! I look forward to replacing our glass-top '90s vintage electric stove. I grew up cooking on gas, and learning to cook on electric was an adjustment I didn't appreciate (white people problems, as Mike would say, ha!). Plus, slightly more practically, I can use a real wok (the one I inherited from my mom, the real one with a stand and round bottom) on a gas cooktop.

It also means a challenge in the garden department. How so? Well, on top of our front yard looking like it recently endured the tunneling of a giant mole (from running the gas line, you see), we have this:
Lest you think that this is no big thing, let me assure you that it is right next to both front entrances (garage and formal front door), and that it is a blot on our otherwise welcoming dooryard. Here's another mugshot:

It sticks out about a foot and a half from the side of the house. On the left in that photo is the path going up to the front door. Just in front of that path is a sizable plot of dirt with not much planted within it that I especially want to keep (anyone want a green-and-gold creeping euonymus? I have a dislike of both creeping euonymus and of gold-variegated plants, so this one's definitely out. I'll even dig it up for you and put it in a pot, if you come pick it up). So the question is, what shrub would be most interesting and serviceable in this spot? Oh, also, this is the north side of the house. No direct sun at all. This shrub needs to be:
  • attractive for most of the year, i.e. no oak-leaf hydrangeas or cotoneasters that look like shite in winter;
  • fairly large so as to extend its branches gracefully outward from its place near the corner of the house and screen or otherwise distract attention from the gray metal atrocity;
  • not dwarf Alberta spruce or burning bush/winged euonymus; 
  • bonus points for flowers or other nice features.
But, you say, aren't you the expert? Why are you asking your blogience (blog audience, c'mon... don't give me that skeptical look, it's a great word, use it and spread it around) about what shrub to choose? Solve your own garden problems, you lazy thing! Well, yes, but I already have a list of shrub candidates for this spot, but I thought perhaps you might be more clever.

My short list: 
Viburnum rhytidophyllum Leatherleaf Viburnum
Viburnum rhytidophylloides Lantanaphyllum Viburnum
Hydrangea paniculata Panicle aka PeeGee Hydrangea

It really is intensely shady in this spot. The viburnums would most likely not flower, so it would be more about their leaves and form. What do you think?

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