Big Foot



Hubbard Hall Plant Sale April 26

Is this just a northern gardener’s problem?  Where we’re constantly trying to fit a full-sized gardening experience into a half-sized growing season?

Or do those wonderful Texas gardeners, too, wind up stomping on their half-emerged perennials? 

Here, stuff is not always identifiably up until early May. But I’m inevitably forced to step into the bed and plant earlier than that. The catalogs always ship things in April, and Hubbard Hall, the amazing Cambridge, NY arts center, always holds its plant sale fundraiser before the hostas have even shown their noses. 

The plant sale is a particular problem.  First, I’m out there tromping over everything, trying to dig up stuff to contribute. (Pretty clever–you get to shop an hour early and snag the unusual stuff if you contribute plants. Of course, this year I put my tray down for an instant, and when I returned, somebody had swiped the uvularia right off it. Next year, I’m hiring a caddy.) 

Then I wind up tromping over more perennials, trying to get the dozen things I’ve bought into the ground. Last night, I turned around and realized I’d decimated a Sarah Bernhardt peony. I’m ambivalent about peonies in general, but not Sarah Bernhardt, who is very tall, very double, and a very interesting silvery pink.

Of course, some gardening books actually tell you not to make perennial beds deeper than three feet, so you can reach in without stepping in. Ridiculous.  There’s no such thing as beauty, proportion, or wretched excess without risk.   


  1. Hmm, I don’t know if Austin gardeners have this problem. My own garden is a mix of evergreens, ornamental grasses, agaves, and herbaceous perennials, which never quite disappear entirely. I cut them to the ground or to a few inches in mid-February, just before the spring growth starts, and many of those keep a little rosette of leaves all winter, marking their spot, so to speak.

    In fact, rather than crushing a dormant plant or two, my biggest worry when working in the garden is not getting stabbed by an agave or prickly pear. I lean over to weed certain areas VERY carefully.

  2. How many emerging, asparagus-like, lily shoots have you stomped, Michele? An average perennial can stand up to a couple tramples–but with lilies, once you crushed the top, you’ve crushed the flower buds. I have one bed now that absolutely cannot be entered for any purpose–a real pain!

  3. I have been the death of at least three or four lilies so far–last night, trying to get rid of the violets in my flower bed, which are a pest, I yanked out a really big shoot.

  4. I hear you, Michele. I’m busy mapping the plants in my garden so that I won’t stomp on/dig up or otherwise decimate those slow sprouting treasures. Also I will put stepping stones in place when everything is up for the same reason. Where brown, earth-coloured lily buds are surfacing I am putting temporary white plant labels.
    But isn’t it lovely now the snow is gone and spring is busting out all over.

  5. Three feet! How in the heck can you garden hedonistically if you limit yourself to just three feet everywhere?!!! Sheesh.

    I don’t know that I have lost anything by tromping around in the spring, though, I admit. Everyone ships stuff in April but I just pot them up a size if need be and leave them on the side of the house until I’m ready for them.

  6. 3 feet ? Oh…. that’s how much lawn we’re supposed to leave? 🙂

    “Hackety-hack, it’ll come back.” (Usually) . Just have to lean to walk on the sides of your feet.Maybe practice with a game of Twister, before going into the garden? Better luck next time. 🙂

    ‘Sarah’ is gorgeous, and among the best for fragrance. One of my favorites

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