Have you known parents who refuse to discipline their child for fear that they may “break their spirit?” I don’t know about you, but I generally like most children, until I cross paths with one who’s spirit has yet to be broken. I can’t get away fast enough. Their cuteness teeters on obnoxious, until their dominating presence becomes completely unbearable. I can’t stand those kids and look to the parents and wonder what the hell they’re thinking.
Last night, I imagined that’s what other gardeners must be thinking when they see my front bed and the cute, soft, pretty little thug that’s swallowed the entire planting. Stachys byzantine ‘Silver Carpet’, aka Lamb’s ears, is my spirited child. Last night I ruled with an iron fist, and a pitch fork, as I began the arduous task of putting it in its place. Which amounted to three lawn bags full of lamb’s ear. Too much for my tiny compost bin to handle. My hands ache, especially my left one, from gripping and pulling but it was so worth it. And kinda therapeutic. I must have really been into it. My neighbor yelled to me from across the street, “Heather, what’d those plants ever do to you?!” Perhaps this is what exercising a little tough love in the garden looks like.
Before the arrival of the lamb’s ear, the bed was full of perennials. Most were overcome by this rambunctious bloke. By the current looks of it, you’d never know that somewhere deep inside this bed exist prairie dropseed, millenium allium, daylilies, monarda and an assortment of others which I won’t remember until I rediscover them beneath the lamb’s ear. Then we’ll become reacquainted and I’ll apologize for the little pain-in-the-ass that encroached on the rest of the more well-behaved mates. Discarding plants is still something I find very difficult. At the time, I reconciled the use of the lamb’s ear in the bed because 1. I had plenty, 2. I couldn’t say NO! and 3. Did I say I had plenty?
I admired this combination briefly before giving the lamb’s ear a swift tug. Did I hear the allium give a sigh of relief? Perhaps. I’ve since discovered a far better behaved lamb’s ear. Helen von Stein or Big Ears. They’re more or less the same plant. I have this in other parts of the garden and have yet to see it flower. It’s a wonderful plant that works well in the hottest, driest spaces. In fact, it thrives without being obnoxious.
We’re getting slammed with rain again which means my plans for redesigning this garden will have to wait a few days. But I’m anxious to divide the prairie dropseed and turn five plants into 10. It’s a great feeling to create from what already exists. Now that the space can breath a bit, I’m considering all the possibilities. There are so many.
Many of these “rediscovered” plants are common ingredients in the designs of renowned garden designer Roy Diblik, whose brain I had the opportunity to pick a few years back. He was very gracious. His book, The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden, has been in my personal library for several years and I’m working on a hybrid garden of sorts based on a number of his plans.
Now that the lamb’s ear is completely removed, I’m excited to start fresh. There’s something about starting over that’s both exhilarating and overwhelming. What to put where? Will they get along? Sometimes it’s best to just let them work it out. Unless, of course, a little tough love’s in order. In which case, I’ll be there, pitch fork in hand, ready to dole out a good dose of it.
Do you have a spirited child left unchecked? How did you handle it?