Years ago (I’m nearly 70) my sister and I were enthralled by the girdle section in the Sears catalog. These instruments of torture were made of fabric, elastic, bone, hooks and who knows what else and were supposed to make the most matronly woman’s figure turn into an hour glass figure. From my eight year old’s point of view, they were intriguing. Why would anyone subject herself to that sort of treatment?

Well, these days I don’t see any of those girdles in the nearby stores, but the idea still lingers in, of all places, the garden. How? Well gardening is often about control, not of your own figure, except to keep in shape so you can dig and bend, but about control of plants. And so first of all I think of clematis, which certainly can sprawl by leaps…and out of bounds! Every year on the garden forums people ask what kind of trellis, obelisk, clips, tomato cages etc are best to use to contain their huge C.Betty Corning or C.Aljonushka. In my mind, these structures bring back the Sears image of the girdle!

Most of us have tried those short wobbly peony hoops to safeguard against rain disasters with our peonies, and some of us have expanded the notion and used them on other plants as well. Yes, that’s me raising my hand! I’ve used peony hoops on certain roses and even on ornamental grasses. A friend of mine has made her own out of copper to improve on the original design.

This year I experimented by investing in new large peony hoops that I actually found visually appealing. I needed to solve the sprawl problem with my Baptisia plants. The new restraining devices were used on Baptisia australis which mostly covers and hides the metal with its attractive fresh green foliage.

Here is how my Baptisia lactea (leucantha) looks today. It is a wilder baptisia, with less lush foliage than my blue and purple varieties. So far I think the experiment is working though. I’m just not sure I can rid myself of the girdle image…with a plant that should be natural and liberated. I think I like it better than last year’s droopy look. I’m letting you decide.


About fromourisland

Gardener, knitter, wife, mother of 2, grandmother, and lots more.
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6 Responses to Girdles

  1. Sue says:

    I remember my mother tossed one of her old girdles into the burn barrell (remember those) in the backyard once. It stunk up the whole neighborhood! Plant a few things around the base and you won’t even know that Baptisia is girdled. As a stand alone it does look slightly unnatural.

  2. Well, you know me the queen of staking and keeping things in their places. I like the upright stance but I agree with Sue about planting something, maybe a big nepeta, at its feet?

  3. Well now that there is actually room at the base, I have hopes for the Ballerina rose expanding closer to it. But a nepeta would certainly add to that combo I think! In fact I have (had?) 2-3 nepeta in a weedy patch somewhere. I should go look for those and move them if they’re still alive. Keep in mind ladies, that this is in my vegetable garden! LOL!

  4. Gayle says:

    I like the nepeta idea. I had issues with a sprawling baptisia before. It has since become compost, but I wish I had thought of the peony cage. We do live and learn!

  5. A girdle is certainly the image that comes to mind with that photo above! Perhaps some low growing plants to hide the bottom half. The top looks great. Flopping plants are so frustrating. While I no longer have to worry about summer rains demolishing my garden I do have strong ocean winds to contend with. Yesterday I spent an hour staking larkspurs that were flopping all over in the breeze.

  6. This afternoon I went out to re-evaluate the situation.. The bunnies had found Rose Ballerina and chomped off the buds and spit them out on the ground. FRUSTRATING! So the rose was caged for now. Not a pretty sight! I then located the nepeta and placed two clumps of it between the Baptisia and the rose. Watered it all and am waiting for everything to settle in. Just don’t know where the rabbit(s) are entering… More detective work needed.

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