A long time ago, a friend gave me a three-inch pot of Sundrops, a perennial with vibrant yellow blossoms to add to my garden. Back then, I was always looking for contributions, and I loved the soft, eye-catching flowers.
I didn’t know then that the horticultural world considers the species “aggressive.” I prefer the word “assertive,” but however I editorialize, over the years, these plants have seeded themselves across the twenty-foot long ledge garden where I first planted them. At the start, I was excited when they spread. They filled in blank spaces in my adolescent patch, and trumpeted summer as they burst forth in late June.
When subsequent generations began to compete with my Creeping Phlox, the perennial geraniums (called Bloody Cranesbill…don’t you love that name?) and my Stella d’Oro lilies, I dug them up and tucked them into other places around the yard—where they heeded the call and went forth and multiplied. Once I ran out of room, I offered Sundrops to gardening friends…always with the warning, “You’ll love me for a few years, but after that, maybe not so much.” The last few summers, I yanked excess Sundrops from the soil, planted them in plastic pots, and set them at the end of the driveway under sign on which I’d scribbled, “Free.”
Now, before I go on, let me clarify that I love my Sundrops. Unlike other invaders, they have short roots which make them easy to move—and, if you needed a picture to convey the word “happy,” or to define the perfect hue of yellow—this flower expresses both.
However lately, I’ve realized I’m in trouble. The Sundrops are ready to bloom. As soon as the rain we’ve had the last few days passes, they’ll burst open. But now they have competition. Three years ago I went to a plant sale to support a non-profit in town. I bought one plant (called Jacob ’s Ladder, but that’s secondary to this story). Someone had likely dug it up from their garden, and the dirt they potted it in came with a couple of stems of Bee Balm (Monarda). I planted my purchase, unaware that under the right conditions, Bee Balm has the same creeping tendencies as the Sundrops. Now both species fight for space, and the ledge outside the kitchen window looks like a shaggy-haired kid, overdue for a visit to the barber.
A garden, more than many things, provides evidence of the passage of time. When we bought our house twenty years ago, none of our gardens existed. Today, the offspring of that one little pot of Sundrops fills four sizeable plots of earth and last weekend, I transplanted excess Bee Balm to two new locations.
In a messy way, the yard is lovely—but all these rampant blossoms climbing over each other seems a bit—excessive. So, as soon as the sun is out, this barber is going to climb out there with her trowel. In truth, I love my unkempt gardens, but a few lucky folks who pass by our driveway this weekend are going to get a chance to fill up their own.
Happy Weekend to all, and to all you fathers out there, enjoy your special day!