Perennials and People

In my early days of gardening, I planted trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), a rampant grower with beautiful deep orange trumpet flowers that I hoped would survive my horticultural errors.  I planted it on the sunny side of the barn where I could watch it from the kitchen. For months it climbed the barn, attaching itself to the board and batten so firmly that big storms hardly affected it. By August it covered about 400 square feet of prime sunny real estate (clear up to the weather vane), but it hadn’t hatched even one single flower.

The next summer, while vacationing on Fisher’s Island in Long Island Sound, I noticed a house whose split rail fence posts were covered with heavily-flowering trumpet vine.  I rang the doorbell and asked the woman who answered if she had any secrets to inducing trumpet vine to bloom. “Never let it grow up,” she said enigmatically, adding “so long as it can grow up a wall, it won’t flower.”

When we got home from vacation, painfully, I cut the vine off the barn and down to about six feet off the ground, and staked it away from the barn side.  Within days, I had flower buds and, so long as I kept it from touching the barn, it produced rollicking orange flowers all summer.

On rethinking, this odd connection — stunting growth promoting flowering — seemed an interesting metaphor for people.  Faced with a choice, we often take the most open path of least resistance, when what ultimately may be most satisfying to us, our “blooming” as it were, lies elsewhere, perhaps at the end of a struggle.

In the decades since this occurred, I’ve never been at a loss for connections between perennials’ behaviors and people’s.  The perennial that grows best (growth and flowering) under duress (Wisteria frutescens).  The most beautiful perrennials that also are quite poisonous (Aconitum napellus).  Perennials that luxuriate in water (Ligularias), and those that all but abhor it (Lavandulas or lavenders).  Many available through the growers rated on my favorite user-online-grower rating service,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *