In case my impatience with the garden might be forgotten, I remind that new plantings in this garden must be crammed too tightly for the long term to satisfy my eye, or temporary placeholders must fill spaces. While many gardeners choose zinnias or dahlias, my choice to fill a void is often a canna with large, brightly striped leaves. A small, one gallon can grow to six feet and larger in one summer, so these are ideal for the role (Pretoria canna, below).
I will occasionally dig and store cannas, dahlias, and elephant ears for winter protection, but not dependably, so their low cost is greatly appreciated. The overwintering effort is minimal, and usually successful, but plants cannot be set back into the garden until May, so storage space required for six months is a discouragement.
While finding most advantageous spaces for plants is typically a long term effort, the canna provides more immediate feedback. One in loosely mounded soil in full sun grows at triple the rate of others in compacted ground, or with less sunlight exposure.
The tiniest of spaces in this garden are often filled by volunteer seedlings, as slender stems of Verbena bonariensis filter through shrubby toad lilies (Tricyrtis), or as sporelings of Japanese Painted fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’, above) appear in any uncovered inch of shaded ground (and between path stones). It is a larger matter when a seedling of ‘Tardiva’ hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’) squeezes between a tall fernspray cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fernspray Gold’) and a wide spreading paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha, below).
‘Tardiva’ will grow to fifteen feet tall and wide, so the small crack it has invaded will work for only a short time. An annual hard prune delays the inevitable, but by late summer I see that this is not a workable combination, no matter my willingness to encourage the garden’s wildness. I must not be patient to permit this lovely invader to bully its neighbors.