One of the joys of a garden heading into its third decade is that so many established Flowers have moved themselves around the garden to places that suit them better. My initial plantings may or may not be there in the place I chose for them, but happily, many plants have drifted or seeded themselves in unexpected places that prove to work better for them than the spots I tried.
When I got up this morning, I strolled around the gardens greeting new arrivals. In the Arbor Garden, Leopard’s Bane has begun to blossom. This Flower, one of the ingredients in Golden Armor, jumped ship from where I planted it and moved lock, stock and barrel to a new spot on the other side of the garden where it lines a gravel path and tucks itself under a weeping crab. It looks spectacular in its chosen place.
Generally, volunteer plants are a celebration and delight, but truth be told, I spent a whole day this weekend battling one thug of a volunteer that thinks it belongs everywhere, filling every Flower bed, front, back and center.
When I made my first Flower garden in the early eighties, the proverbial “little old lady with tennis shoes,” a master gardener named Adele, invited me to visit her garden for some slips of her prized perennials. I grew up in a clan of gardeners so I knew a bit about Flowers, enough to recognize a wonderful garden when I saw it…. but I had not idea the steely resolve required to create a garden such as the one before me.
In my naivete, I wondered why this woman carry a machete with her, one about half her size. And I wondered why Adele stopped every few moments to ruthlessly pull out a clump of what she called, “the Vees.” And why, as she whipped her machete around, did she shout, “You have one garden and THAT IS ENOUGH!!!!”
I took my perennial slips and sped away into the evening sunset, thanking God I wasn’t a Vee. Whatever that was!
Ah yes, all things seem to circle around, and this growing season, as the Vees fill my yard in the billions, I need to steel my heart and summon the gumption of Adele to do battle with the Vees. For Violets by any name still take over a garden at the speed of light.
And so with Adele’s war cry still ringing in my ear almost thirty years later, I told the Vees I was taking back one whole garden. This meant leaving them in the dozen acres around this one garden so I was hardly being as tough as Adele, but I still felt guilty. It is hard to pull up a blossoming Flower, even when leaving a zillion others in bloom.
The Vees were not making things easy for me. After a lunch break on Thursday in which I had started to pull up the designated Vees, they had someone call the farm to sing their praises. I kid you not. A woman called to tell me the hundred reasons why Violets made the best Flower Essences. I could talk to her while looking out the window to my pile of pulled up Violets. I felt horrible! This was Vees at their most determined. To arrange this call on the eve of me pulling up 10,000 more Vees! You see what a formidable opponent I had taken on! Guilt, the gift that keeps on giving and the Vees were using it to make me regret my work before I’d really began.
Determined to persevere, I returned to the perennial bed in question the next morning. For five hours I yanked out Vees with my claw, and yet as the day passed, I still had only cleared a space about the size of a ping pong table. The Vees have thick matted roots and tuck themselves under other plants with positive brilliance. In an ironic twist, the ones under the Magnolia tree that Adele had inspired me to plant were particularly determined to stay put.
After a day on my knees, I gave it a rest for Mother’s Day. Admired the relatively small space I cleared. Kept telling the Vees that I really did love them but that I had to have room for other plants too. I’m not sure they listened. When this morning’s garden tour went by the spot where I had battled the Vees, this is what greeted me.
A face anyone would love. No, I can’t think that way. I need to keep battling. Other Flowers deserve a place too. I need to keep summoning my inner Adele. Maybe I need her machete too.