The 'shringle' bush and how it grew -- a delight for catbirds and people

Last summer we pruned our backyard deutzia after it bloomed, and this year we have beauty anew. It's a very special bush with us.

For a long time we've referred to it as the "catbird seat" because of a family of catbirds that took over several years back.

Just in time we diccovered the "surprise package" deep in its flowery center and, of course, spared it.

When my parents acquired our old house there was an enormous deutzia just outside the dining-room window on the north side. Nobody knew its proper name, and my father, for some reason or other, dubbed it the "shringle" -- which suggested nothing sensible, now or then.

In any event, the white clapboards eventually needed painting, and that shrub was scraping against them.

So Dad decided to "give it a haircut." We reluctantly agreed it might be attempted.

By then we'd grown attached to the "shringle" and couldn't bear to see it damaged. Well, when we returned from wherever we'd gone, there was no more shringle out there. Almost, that is.

I can't recall which was more vehement -- the crying or top-blowing.

Dad assured us (with the same conviction he'd mastered in labeling the shrub) that it would recover. He guaranteedm it. There was nothing to do but wait.

Sure enough, the branches filled in, the twigs grew thicker, and a beter overall shape developed.

Soon the deutzia was a good as ever, with a fine display of pink-tinted blossoms doing very well in the shade. Hundreds of bees gratefully visited it again and again.

Years later, I suggested that some time Dad might dig up a section of root and give us a piece of the old bush. One day he did just that. Having no car, he carried it on his back -- all bare and scratchy -- over three streets to our house. It was 5 feet tall, but he managed. We planted it at the foot of our hill garden, where it still flourishes.

June mornings we breakfasted in the backyard. Our boiled eggshells went on the seed tray and were quickly taken up by a pair of catbirds. (The shells contain calcium carbonate, which bird seek at nesting time.)

We had no idea where they had built. The deutzia blocked our view as we studied their flight pattern, but gradually we discerned their swing-around to that shrub. Cautiously investigating, we discovered their nest, with three young birds quietly waiting to be fed. So we certainly couldn't prune the shrub that year.

The catbirds considered it their tree, high and thick enough for sanctuary.

We trimmed that shrub each year after that, anticipating the arrival of more tailored transients. The birds paid their rent in controlling our garden's insect pests and we had a good deal going.

As for the deutzia, we remember Dad every June when it blooms in brittle-stemmed, pink-tinged splendor.

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