Three Goats in the Garden

Reading to the kids was something I really enjoyed. It was a nightly ritual until they hit around the age of 12. A story I especially liked when they were preschoolers was The Three Billy Goats Gruff (“Who’s that clip-clopping across my bridge?”). Last year it hit me that I already had two “goats” in the back garden: Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus) and Dwarf Goat’s Beard (A. aethusifolius).



The eldest and largest (and tastiest, as the story says) of the Billy Goat brothers is represented by A. dioicus. Goat’s Beard is about 4′ tall in our garden but I always have to give it some support to prevent flopping. The flowers are kind of like Astilbe on steroids.

DSC_0542A Midwestern native, it likes shade and prefers moist, rich soil.

DSC_0670For the middle Billy Goat Gruff I found this goat made out of rusted sheet metal.

DSC_0628Here’s a view from the other side. That’s Purple-flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus) to the right.

DSC_0634Finally, for the smallest Billy Goat Gruff we have Dwarf Goat’s Beard. This non-native makes a fine ground cover in shade.

DSC_0643The flowers are nice enough.

DSC_0646But low mounds of ferny foliage are this plant’s biggest selling point.

DSC_0624So we’ve got the three Billy Goats Gruff, now how about the troll? Well, this fellow above seems pretty trollish. He’s surrounded by White Corydalis (C. ochroleuca) on his left and Yellow Corydalis (C. lutea) on his right).

DSC_0627The troll and the Middle-Sized Billy Goat Gruff are eyeing each other warily.

Now all I need is a bridge in the proper scale. Everything I’ve found so far is too small or much too big. Any suggestions?

37 Comments on “Three Goats in the Garden”

  1. In my early-gardening, zone-defying period, desperate to find interesting plants for my then-shady space, I tried growing goat’s beard in my coastal Southern California garden. Needless to say, it wasn’t any more successful than my attempt to grow herbaceous peonies in a climate that never really experiences winter’s chill. I’ve adapted to my climate since then but I continue to admire goat’s beard (and Astilbe, which is difficult to grow under water restrictions). I think your troll and goat look just fine in their stare-off over a sea of green.

  2. Lovely scene you’ve set! I don’t know that story, but trolls always fit into fairytales well. I think you need a drawbridge, so you can raise it when you need to get through with the lawnmower! ๐Ÿ˜‰ By the way, I have a tall Aruncus dioicus which was here when we came – in the full sun! Seems to do fine and doesn’t flop until well past flowering.

  3. I remember that story. Your goats are all darling. I am glad they can’t gobble your garden. The troll has a clone in my garden. I don’t know where you can find a bridge. I believe a wood worker could build one to your specs.

  4. I loved that story when I was younger, my dad used to read it to me. Your goats are wonderful, especially the new metal one, fab troll too! Oh yes….you certainly need a bridge now, maybe get a carpenter to knock one

  5. I’m a fan of rusted metal art too and love the goat. Trolls, though, I’m not so sure about. I have one in my garden as well, that’s been worn by the weather, and I’m still not sure if I like it or not. They remind me of demons for some reason.

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