Breaking up with plants is hard for me to do. I find myself coddling too many for too long, but this year is different. With one of the rainiest springs/summers on record, everything is overgrown and I am overwhelmed.

In a few weeks it will be time to divide my irises, peonies and hostas, but I have a feeling I will be doing much more than merely dividing plants. So many others are out of control as well: tall phlox, primrose, hollyhocks and groundcovers, just to name a few.

I used to think such perennials would eventually simplify my life, freeing me from the never-ending tedium of pulling weeds and planting annuals. But after all these years, that really has not happened. Weeds still find their way into the ground cover and I still find myself filling in with annuals.

I once heard Paul James, Tulsa’s "The Gardener Guy" (who was host of the HGTV show Gardening by the Yard) declare, “The most important time spent in the garden is the time spent not gardening.”

Oh how I wish I could achieve that balance of having both a beautiful garden and time spent not actually gardening!

Who doesn’t want instant lush beds? But it’s easy to see I’ve planted things too close together. And I’ve planted some things that are too big for the spots they’re in. Who isn’t occasionally disappointed with a plant’s performance? Yet I try again and again to coax it along. And who isn’t disheartened by the powdery mildew covering leaves after so much rain or those bulbs rotting in the wet clay soil. Who doesn’t tire of deadheading, or of fighting new growth where it doesn’t belong? Who doesn’t want to try a new cultivar, especially one with brighter blooms or better resistance to insects and diseases?

All those reasons: plants too close together or too big for the spot; disappointing performance or prone to disease and insects, or simply being a fickle gardener who wants to try something new, are justifications for breaking up with plants.

So this fall I am determined to let go, to simplify, to divide and conquer, so eventually I can spend more time wandering around my landscape without always carrying clippers and a spade. Wouldn’t it be nice to just carry around a glass of wine?

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