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.