Monday, June 19, 2017

Decluttered Deliverance

paeonia 'Buckeye Belle' 
On a whim, in a bookstore last winter and presumably with a Christmas gift card to burn, one of the books I purchased was Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I've read several such books by several different authors because ProfessorRoush occasionally goes on a "declutter" spree, casting away debris like a sinking hot air balloon that is trying to stay aloft.

It occurred to me, reading Ms. Kondo and in my winter mood of being angry at the garden's performance and its Rose Rosette Disease epidemic, that "tidying up" could be applied to my garden.  Take, for example, the primary question Ms. Kondo wants all of us to ask ourselves for every possession; Does it bring you joy?  "Lift or touch each thing," she asks of us, "and ask if it sparks joy."

'Buckeye Belle' at upper right, did bring me joy this spring, more than I could imagine, its smoldering dark red blossoms luring me again and again to that corner of the garden.  She's a keeper in my garden and I would make sure she is in my next garden.  Not so much, for instance, 'Folksinger', RRD-infected, and never among my favorite roses.  So, this spring, I really didn't mind at all when I shovel-pruned 'Folksinger' during a massacre of RRD-infected plants.  Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' brings me joy.  Overgrown 'Rosenstadt Zweibrucken' does not.

The "KonMarie Method" also recommends that we declutter by category, not by area.  I followed this advice to the best of my ability, but I've also strayed
at times.  Early on this year, I did  "tidy" by category, removing first the roses that were infected with RRD, and then other plants that were simply in the wrong place, or that I simply didn't like.   My most recent efforts, at pruning roses, weeding, and general gardening chores, have all been by area, however.  This week the large daylily bed was weeded again, and the strawberry patch was tidied.  Next week, I've got my sights set on my "viburnum bed."

"Let go of the what if's and somedays."  This admonition  by Ms. Kondo is both easy and hard.  Plants that require a constant effort or struggle to keep alive, the "what ifs," are relatively easy to eliminate because they remove themselves from the garden. But  I'm tired and frustrated with plants that don't perform in my garden and I'm now quicker to remove those that don't.  And I've wacked back a number of overgrown plants this year. I had already started this practice last fall long before Ms, Kondo arrived in my psyche, removing some large overgrown junipers from my front landscaping.  I've felt better, more joyful, looking at that spot every day this spring.  In broader terms, though, I have trouble removing "somedays."  I don't often throw out old tools, boxes, and other paraphernalia because I've learned, as a husband and father, that life recycles our needs for many things and I don't like buying things twice, or worse, three times over.

"Respect my remaining stuff."  As it applies to plants, I need to spend more time embracing plants that do well here in Kansas.  Daylilies, hollyhocks, irises, viburnum, peonies, all are valuable and they should be divided and spread around my garden.  I've resolved to mark my favorite daylilies and divide them every year, until they're everywhere in my garden.  I vow to allow every native Asclepias tuberosa and Black-eyed Susan that volunteers in my garden to remain.  Who could possibly not respect a Black-eyed Susan that seeds itself in random areas, never needs water, and brightens up the summer border?

But if it's a thug, I promise, out it goes.  This spring, I've removed every clump I have of Helianthus maximilliana.  Some of you may remember a previous post I wrote that extolled their virtues, but time has taught me better.  'Lemon Yellow' and 'Santa Fe' turned out to be monsters, towering over and shading out everything around them, and self-seeding everywhere in the garden.   They're beautiful and they bloom like crazy in late fall, but if I let them go for 5 years, they would completely take over my garden and head for the horizon.  I've been pulling up seedlings everywhere last year and this year. far from the original two clumps I planted.  They will even self-seed in the native prairie grass and survive there, with all the potential of becoming noxious weeds.  So I will smite them down with great vengeance and furious anger, and declutter and deliver my garden from their zealous growth.  And truthfully, all the smiting about this spring brings me satisfaction, circling me back to Ms. Kondo's prime directive.  Yes, Ms. Kondo, it brings me joy.  


  1. Hello Professor Roush:
    Buckeye Belle is indeed one to keep! How long have you had her and how long was she in the ground before she bloomed? My peony has been in the ground for about 7 years, sustains an incredible load of snow every winter, comes up promptly in the Spring, but has not bloomed once. I am wondering what the problem is; I don't want to transplant as I have heard that is not a good idea.

    1. Mine bloomed the first year after planting, but was at least a two year old plant in the pot because it was good sized. I've had her 3 years I think. I've read they won't bloom if planted too deep or in shade but that's just hearsay.


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