It’s not that I’m not grateful that my Black Beauty lilies have so outstripped the three-to-six-foot range cited by my reference book that they now hunch over the seven-foot stakes I’ve tied them to. It’s just that I look a little foolish at present for having planted lilium regale behind them: three-and-a-half feet tall in their second year, nowhere near the six feet cited in the same reference as a sure thing. I look even more foolish for planting cimicifuga ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ way in the back row, since they are not even close to the five to seven feet cited in my books and can hardly be glimpsed behind the whole lily show. And the hostas sitting way down at my lilies’ ankles are just embarrassing. My garden now looks like my wedding photos, where the Goodells–six-feet plus and broad-shouldered–meet the Owens clan–everybody under five-feet six, most of them way under and a high percentage of small-boned couch potatoes in the group.
Elsewhere in the garden, I am enraged by a yellow baptisia that has been struggling along for two years at just 18 inches, sitting directly behind a coneflower that has shocked the entire family by growing as tall as my ten year-olds. On the other hand, I have a pair of purple and yellow baptisias that are as tall as my echinacea–and are blocking my view of one of my tree peonies, which despite dozens of books on my shelves that reliably inform me that the plant will reach five feet, has not yet heard the news. My tree peonies spread out at around two feet.
In theory, my many height-related problems are all correctable with a shovel. However, this kind of mass transplantation is best done in spring in my part of the world. Right now it’s too hot. Later in fall, the plants won’t have enough time to root in before the frost shoves them out of the ground.
By spring, however, I’ll have forgotten all about what’s blocking my view of what. And even if I do remember, I’m sure that as soon as I move the laggards, they’ll discover some hidden vigor and triple in size, forcing me to do the whole thing over again.
It often seems to me that perennial gardens have one very important purpose: making the gardener feel like an ass.