The Harder They Fall – and a Garden Book Giveaway

We have just emerged from a couple of weeks of constant rainfall, sometimes accompanied by strong winds. It’s been like living in a cloud forest, but without the exotic birds and insects. This is a situation that significantly raises the risk of someone in your household contracting IGS (Irritable Gardener Syndrome).

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Between the rain and the wind, the worst thing that happened in the garden was the toppling of the best of the three Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) that grow in the Driveway Border. This did make me pretty upset, as Mexican Sunflower is one of the flagship plants of our front garden.

The same Mexican Sunflower after being propped up. Almost all the Tithonia flowers belong to the second plant that’s in the middle of the Driveway Bed. 

Mexican Sunflower is a plant that has inspired me to go on at great length about its many virtues. However, like many fast-growing plants, it is actually quite brittle. And so it was hard to set back upright with twine and stakes without breaking off lots of stems, in addition to the ones that were already broken. So the resurrected Mexican Sunflower was just a fraction of its former self.

But being the good plant that it is, it started growing and putting on new flowers immediately.

Beyond the Mexican Sunflower, there was a lot of general flopping about. This was especially true of the Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba), Golden Glow (Rudbeckia laciniata), Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), and New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). These were leaning into the sidewalk and the grass paths that separate the borders of the front garden. Seeing this always makes me out of sorts.

Path between Driveway Border and the rest of the front garden -after stakes and twine deployed.

And so I made my way to the hardware store of a clutch of tall stakes and green twine. For some reason it’s important to my peace of mind that the paths around the garden (which, truth be told, are too narrow as they are) not be blocked by plants. It didn’t take too long to put things in order.

A few days later. Sorry that it’s a little hard to distinguish the Tithonia from all the other greenery around. 

Staking can be too obvious, and sometimes makes plants look like they are wearing an excessively tight corset. But this is not inevitable. I just try to take care not to tie plants too tightly, and to hide whatever stakes I use in the foliage of the plants.

Of course, what we’ve experienced is relatively minor irritation, as opposed to the devastation that can be wrought by floods, extreme drought, etc. I try to remind myself of this, with limited success.


On a totally different topic, I have an extra copy of a wonderful garden book to give away: Great Gardens of London, by Victoria Summerly. For a chance to win the book, you need to 1) live in the USA or Canada; and 2) writes Great Gardens of London in the comments section. Just add it at the end of your comment, or just write the name if you want the book and otherwise have nothing to say.

We’ll pick someone at random from among those who comment by Friday, September 14th.

64 Comments on “The Harder They Fall – and a Garden Book Giveaway”

  1. Oh no… Not the Mexican Sunflower! Your garden and in particular the Mexican Sunflower was a bit of sunshine for me during our dreary winter. However we have had half our annual rainfall this year so the day might come when you can sell your rain water!

  2. Sorry to hear about all your wind/rain, I would like some rain though. Am getting sore lugging jugs of water. Am always afraid of the wind, I grew tall sunflowers and after every wind I’m checking them out to see if they have collapsed. Only one so far but now it’s stems are growing up, so I’ll be getting flowers, too funny, no way could I set it up straight, 8′ tall. Would love to win Great Gardens of London, that would be an excuse to go see them!!

  3. With our drought this year, I have had less flopping especially with a lack of rain or wind to blow flowers over….this time of year though I see the flop even more as plants begin to die back….awaiting my asters which are about to burst. I think my IGS is from the lack of rain making my veg garden only half perform. Hoping your garden can stand for a bit longer for you!

    Thanks for the giveaway! Sounds like a great book so I am in…Great Gardens of London

  4. Thank you once again, Dr. Jason, for putting a name to yet another gardener’s ailment. I’ve got a mild case due to three days of rains, but it’s gonna get more serious as hurricane Florence heads toward the east coast later this week. Glad you got your Mexican sunflowers propped up again.
    Great Gardens of London.

  5. Oh I love Mexican Sunflower! I’m glad they held up and started producing for you again- the rains the past few weeks have been EPIC! Would love the book Great Gardens of London, would be a mini-vacation to read it! Thanks for the great giveaway!

  6. The key to sucess with my Mexican sunflowers this year seems to have been an early indoor start from seed and lots of early summer sun. I grow in large containers, and this year, roots grew right through into the ground, no staking required, first time ever! Great Gardens of London looks like a gorgeous book I’d like to own!

  7. Irritable Gardener Syndrome…that’s a good one! Lol!
    We could really use some of that rain here right now (I think it’s finally supposed to rain tomorrow). But I can sympathize with the frustration of too much rain and toppling plants too!

  8. I love the exuberance of your late summer garden. Your tithonias grow much taller than mine. Strong winds are the worst thing just now when everything looks so good. Hope your weather improves soon, IGS sounds very painful for all concerned.

  9. Sorry that happened to your beautiful Mexican Sunflower. I know you saved it, but as you said, it isn’t quite the same after that kind of damage. Our Black and Blue salvia suffered a similar fate in one of our containers, only water didn’t knock it over, an off balance toddler did. Sadly, it still haven’t completely recovered.

  10. I’m not writing the name because I do not need another book that someone else can enjoy. Brown-eyed Susan blooms with smaller but more profuse flowers relative to black-eyed Susan? Is it taller too? The flowers look the same, but I can not tell the scale of them.

  11. To paraphrase that famous line from Jaws, I think you’re gonna need some bigger stakes! Well, at least the folks on the eastern seaboard are going to need bigger stakes once Florence gets done with them.

    I’m just glad your rescue operation was so successful — at least, to my eyes. Part of the fun of flowers is watching them recover from the various insults they have to endure. They’re resilient, for sure.

  12. Definitely worth rescuing and maybe it looks more elegant with one or two fewer branches?! I had a tall tagetes knocked over by wind a week ago, but there was no resurrecting that … so we’ve been enjoying a couple of very full vases of rusty orange flowers ever since.

  13. My Tithonias fell over as well (central Indiana). I used to try and tie them up but due to their fragility I usually leave them where they land. I’ve found that even when the main stalk is bent in half and shredded a bit it is still a quite sturdy plant and will continue to grow and bloom. If the fallen branches cross a pathway I gently move them over a bit, out of the way.

    I was glad for the rain. My yard really needed it.

  14. Regardless of my staking efforts during 3 days of Central Illinois wind and rain, my sunflowers and Tithonisas were overshadowing my husband’s spring planted dwarf fruit trees. Therefore, the end of the season clean up has started earlier than I would have liked. I have been able to leave a few Tithonisas and zinnia for the butterflies still remaining though. Great Gardens of London would be a day dream book to pass the winter time.

  15. Your diagnosis of IGS (Irritable Gardener Syndrome) is spot on! I was wondering why I’ve felt so discombobulated for the past weeks and now I know why. Well, one of the reasons anyway! I like grass paths but at the moment it looks like all my grass is crabby. 😦 However, the Great Gardens of London book would definitely be a welcome armchair respite from the late-summer weeds-n-woe hereabouts!

  16. Hello Jason, sorry about your Mexican Sunflowers, I hope they recover and quickly grow back for the rest of the season. It was amusing to read about how you don’t like plants on opposite sides of a path to be meeting in the middle, there are several paths in my garden where you have to push plants out of the way to get through, they have no qualms about invading your personal space – in a nice way. I cut them back but they just grow back again.

  17. I have been having a lot of IGS this summer. Your staking and trussing up your plants went well i see. I hate that I missed your give away. I hope to get back to London for some garden touring. I would love to see what the book Great Gardens of London has to show. Did you and Judy do some garden tours there?

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