It’s a fair bet that I own my last Victorian house. Never again. In future, I intend to suffer only over pieces of architecture worth suffering over. Some people are Victorian house people. Not me. Dark, pokey, irrational, over-embellished.
I invited a carpenter over this week to discuss my rotting front porch. He helpfully moved on to questioning my chimneys and slate roof. And he and I both know that I can’t fix the porch without painting the joint. I’m sure the painter, when he arrives, will helpfully add another dozen things to the list.
In life, I generally like to own up to my problems. I grew up in New Jersey, and we really get a kick out of not sugar-coating anything there. But owning old houses has taught me the wisdom of denial. My first house–a beautiful 220 year-old Georgian with 7 fireplaces–had a front door that never opened properly despite being planed a few times. Sill issues.
I recently drove by and saw the new owners putting in a new sill, ten years after I sold it. That seems about right.
If you want to live in denial, plants are helpful beyond measure. Outsiders seem not to have noticed the condition of the porch because it’s draped in a fragrant old rose named ‘Russelliana.’ A red Asiastic lily that I bought in Lowe’s a few years ago–$7 for 7 plants–has now multiplied 30 times over and is a major distraction.
In addition to ‘Russelliana,’ I’ve also woven an ‘Alba Maxima’ in and out of the porch spindles. Albas are a group of old European roses that have blue leaves and white or pale pink flowers–in my opinion, the most delicate and romantic of roses. Growing up the side of the house are a variegated Virginia creeper and a volunteer Boston ivy. The Virginia creeper is hiding an ugly cement block chimney the previous owners installed for a wood stove.
Yes, I know. I am really living dangerously here, planting clinging vines on clapboard. I expect it is going to be a real problem at some point. Long after I am dead.
Plants may be the most powerful cosmetic on earth. Let the garden get lush, and everybody is too mesmerized to complain about the condition of the house.