Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Plant or pet?
Closeup of the salmon-pink bloom of the red yucca
Pondering a few changes in the garden has reminded me of something D always says when I'm trying to decide whether I've reached the point of no return with one plant or another: "Well, it's not as if it's a pet." Sometimes I find it easy to agree with him and out that plant goes, sometimes dug up and moved elsewhere, sometimes passed on to a friend, sometimes into the yard waste bag (yes, I know. I should be composting).
But, as in so many other parts of my life, I rarely come to a quick decision. Usually I waver, considering all the possibilities. Sometimes I consider for so long that the plant finally dies and the decision is made for me.
Occasionally though the plant takes matters into its own hands (leaves?) and renders the decision even more difficult. A plea for survival? Who knows.
Last year I lost patience with the one remaining clump of red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) in the long upstairs bed. For the second year in a row it didn't send up even one bloom stalk. And it is an incubator for hackberries and Turk's cap. The seedlings spring up amidst the yucca fronds and are impossible to eradicate.
When I originally planted the L-shaped bed in 1995 I put in three clumps of the yucca (two one-gallon plants in each clump, I think). The idea was that the salmon-pink bloom stalks were attractive in their own right, and also that the rigid but arching stalks of the plant itself would add structure and give some winter interest to a garden made up mostly of plants that froze to the ground.
All well and good for a number of years. The clumps got larger and bloomed profusely. At some point, for reasons lost to memory, we dug up two of the three clumps. The remaining clump is in the long arm of the bed, between the Old Blush rose and the Climbing Pinkie on the steel tepee. The clump is about three feet deep and five feet wide, a substantial amount of real estate in my relatively small garden.
This spring I had every intention of pulling out the entire clump and replacing it with something new. I hadn't figured out exactly what that something new would be so I delayed removing the yucca. And then one day I noticed the reddish tips of several bloom stalks. And then more and more. All told the plant has sent up twelve stalks. The most ever, I think, and for no clear reason. I didn't fertilize it at all or water substantially more. We have gotten a fair amount of rain this spring and the pruning of the wisteria off the utility pole increased the amount of sun in that area of the garden.
So now I'm deeply conflicted. On the one hand, the yucca blooms are lovely, both up close with their yellow interiors and in a mass. And they are a hummingbird magnet. On the other hand the plant takes up a lot of space. And the salmony color of the blooms doesn't really mix well with others, particularly not the pink roses on either side. But the upright leaning stalks are an interesting companion to the wands of orange bulbine planted underneath (purely by chance; I'm sure I didn't give this a thought when I did the planting).
I think my real problem is an inability to get rid of anything that's blooming. I love flowers (although I have become more interested in foliage over the years) so a plant that's supposed to bloom but doesn't is an easy mark for me. But show me some flowers and I'm much less decisive.
What do you think? Should it stay or should it go? Or should I just procrastinate a bit longer?