Less Garden Space = More Garden Work

When you don't have as much sunlight to offer plants that crave lots of it, they exhibit characteristics that you can live with, like excess height as they reach toward the sun, and fewer blooms. Unfortunately, over time, they can also suffer damage. For example, in an exceedingly rainy year like the one we've just had, plants' roots might remain wet for too long, which leads to fungal disease.
'Elsa Sass'
The lowest spot in my garden rarely is host to standing water. And when it is, it's only for a day or less. Plants that grow in this space, which is approximately three feet wide and six feet long, include lawn, Ajuga, ornamental Oregano and Siberian iris. It also included the peony 'Elsa Sass'. One of the latest of my peonies to bloom, Elsa is a gorgeous white fragrant double that I knew should be moved.

So what was stopping me? Not enough space and too much work. In my garden I can't just plant things. First I have to make room. Add to that the recommendation (for very good reason) to avoid planting peony roots in spots where other peonies have grown, and another level of difficulty is thrown into the mix. 'Elsa Sass' was planted in fall of 2007. It didn't start blooming until 2009. By 2011 I knew it should be moved in order to perform better, but I put it off because finding a new spot for it would take some serious maneuvering. Digging. Moving. Finding an empty space was easier to do when I had a brand new plant. I told myself Elsa was doing okay for now.

During the height of peony bloom season, looking south toward the woods.
Peony season begins; facing the "girls' yard," fenced off for the dogs.
In my lifetime, I doubt I'll grow all the plants I'd like to. But, as the saying goes, I'll die trying. This attitude, which I'm sure many other gardeners share, leads to a crowded garden. There is no room for slackers, especially those that come up without a fight.

Because I purchased two new peonies and divided another, I'm once again yanking plants to make room. This year it's the Baptisia.

I planted the hybrid 'Purple Smoke' in spring 2008. If I had any truly sunny spots in my garden and the Baptisia were planted in one of them, it would by now be just over three feet in diameter. But since my garden has no such space, this Baptisia sprawls over a diameter of six feet, even though I've given it support.

Don't get me wrong, I really like this plant. It's a great peony companion, as shown in the photo with peonies and Allium. It's just that it is taking up some really valuable real estate and lounging over its neighbors, which are definitely failing to thrive in response.

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' makes a great backdrop for any color of peonies.
So I've removed the supports and cut it back. But I'm not having much success digging it out in the traditional method using fork and shovel. I've left the Baptisia for last, after spending hours ridding a small area of Convallaria and Lysimachia clethroides. This pushy pair, AKA lily of the valley and gooseneck loosestrife, should never have been planted, and I can only take credit for adding the lily of the valley. The loosestrife was already there courtesy of the home's former owner. I've been trying to obliterate it for 14 years.  But that's a story for another time.

I think I will probably leave it until spring. For now, I'll attempt to sever its roots, which I've found several feet away from the plant, evidence of its ability to thrive just about anywhere. I've read that it can be successfully divided, but with a root system like this, I'm not certain I can. For now, I'll be resting up and lifting extra weight at the gym to prepare.