Monday, October 29, 2018

Four Plants I Love to Hate

I wrote an article for the Pocono Record about invasive plant species back in June of 2015. (Yes, the newspaper has published my monthly gardening feature for nearly four years now.) You can read that piece HERE. I explain how 'invasive' and 'aggressive' are not the same.  Aggressive plants grow fast and spread, but don't outgrow and overcome other plants as invaders do. I planted some when I started my gardens because I knew they would spread quickly; I'm embarrassed to admit that I wanted instant gratification. They say that with age comes wisdom, but it's a bit late now; I'm having difficulty eradicating some of these aggressive types. While I may love them, I find their bullying attitude extremely annoying.  Here are four in particular with which I have a love/hate relationship:

The first garden I made at Astolat, in 2005, is the one that I call 'Serenity.' Back then, it was in a great deal of shade. I read that lamium, a tough yet showy perennial groundcover,  was one of the best choices for shady areas. It has green and cream leaves and pretty pink or purple flowers that bloom in spring. The three or four plants that I put in that area quickly spread and became the expanded carpet you can see in the picture at the beginning of this posting.

The common name is deadnettle; I prefer Lamium
Lamium maculatum 'Shell pink'
Lamium with purple blooms in the Horseshoe Garden

The stems of lamium root in the ground where they touch. It is not difficult to pull them out, however, and new plants can be moved easily. I often add them to planters -- a great money-saver. At the end of the season I reduce the number of plants in each bed quite drastically; I cut back the remaining ones in the spring. I remove any that are encroaching on other perennials throughout the season. As I said, they are annoying thugs.

I often add lamium to container plantings

Gooseneck Loosestrife
I fell in love with gooseneck loosestrife when vising a homeowner's garden while on an open-gate garden tour. I especially loved how it attracted pollinators. I purchased just two plants: one for the cottage garden and one for the circular bed that later became the Horseshoe Garden. The two plants spread rapidly by underground roots, particularly in the round garden that was constructed with layers of organic matter in the lasagna method. Eventually, I had the plants removed, with great difficulty, from that bed. You can read how this task was accomplished HERE. I kept the stand of gooseneck loosestrife in the cottage garden, being careful not to encourage its growth by adding compost.

Gooseneck loosestrife, Lysimachia clethroides, is adored by bees

I enjoy the mass of white flowers in the summer. They provide rest for the eyes from the colors of the traditional cottage garden plants. I spend time, however, pulling out those that invade the space of others.

Gooseneck loosestrife and phlox 'Bright eyes'

Morning Glory
Morning glory is a beautiful annual vine that will rapidly cover a trellis with its heart-shaped leaves and pretty, trumpet-like flowers. Gardeners who grow this plant know that it will freely seed all over your garden if allowed. As a result, one of the most time-consuming tasks is deadheading. When the flowers close in the afternoon, if not removed, they are replaced by berries filled with seeds. The mature berries fall to the ground where the seeds take root. I've found, to my cost, that as a result morning glory vines can take over the garden if left to reproduce at will.

Morning glory Ipomoea purpurea
A morning glory vine even twined around my potentilla shrub

This season I neglected the deadheading task due to travel and weather. I know this means that next spring I will need to look for the numerous seedlings that will pop up, and must pull out as many as possible.  More work than I want.

But morning glory vines are beautiful ...

Vinca Vine
I'm not so enamored with vinca vine although it is a  classy-looking evergreen groundcover with sweet blue flowers that bloom in spring.  Vinca minor and vinca major should not be confused with annual vinca that is not a vine. This last season, because of favorable weather, I think, my vinca vine spread more rapidly than usual and began to effect other flowers in the border. It began to crowd-out my beautiful hyssop and some miniature roses, greatly reducing them. When I tried to pull some of the vinca out, I found the roots too firmly attached. (It doesn't help that I am losing upper-body strength as I age.)

Periwinkle, Vinca minor
Hyssop with vinca vine around its base
A well-established and difficult-to-remove groundcover

I feel guilty for wanting to remove this thug because it was planted by my mother-in-law before the garden was mine. She loved her 'periwinkle' and wouldn't understand me trying to eradicate it. As an organic gardener, I wont use chemicals. I'm considering using the solarization method next year.  I'll let you know how that works out.

I wouldn't recommend any of these four plants to new gardeners. I planted the first three many years ago before I knew anything about gardening in America. There are better behaved alternatives, requiring less upkeep, that I will be glad to suggest to anyone who would like to know.

Do you have a love/hate relationship with any of your plants?

Pamela x

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  1. I grew 'Grandpa Ott' Morning Glory probably 15 years ago. I am STILL pulling up seedlings every spring. Crazy!

  2. Same here ! Vincas and mostly morning glories . Have vinca spreading underground and morning glories showing sooo invasive they were wrapped around everything in one of my beds and found their way to two other areas in the yard. Now Deadnettle ,I like cause they are easy to pull out and will give some needed ground color. I sure do understand how much wasted time is spent pulling out unwanted invaders. Oh, we have Caroline creepers that keep coming back and English ivy because our neighbors don't give a hoot.

    1. I'm spending far too much time controlling these thugs.

  3. They're all so pretty, it's just a shame that they vie for world domination. I made the mistake of planting a perennial sweet pea in a walled bed, I've tried to get rid of it at it's a real thug but it's back year after year and even pushes its way through tiny gaps in the wall loosening it further still.

    1. It seems aggressive species are pandemic. I feel guilty for planting some of them, but I'm not alone.

  4. You just named four of the very same plants that plague my garden! My problem with the Vinca was that it grew beneath a Rose of Sharon, which would drop spent flowers into the groundcover and self-seed like crazy.

    Two other thugs that I can't seem to get rid of are chameleon plant and maypop vine. Unfortunately, they've both survived my one and only attempt at mass eradication via chemical means, and I'm not willing to till up the entire front garden, so that means a lot of editing.

    1. Sorry about your Rose of Sharon. I'm going to try solarizing my vinca next season. It is the most destructive of all my aggressive plants.

  5. I grow my morning glories in pots up on my porch. They are descendants of a plant that my son brought home in a paper cup to me for Mother's Day in 2006. Almost all of the seedlings that pop up on the ground below get eaten by the woodchucks. I purposely grow Lamium up in the shaded lasagna bed precisely because it does spread and nothing eats it (so far!). Obedient Plant though! Now that's one I have some regrets about!

    1. What a good idea to grow morning glories in pots. I have obedient plant but didn't mention it in this posting as it really hasn't given me too much trouble. I pull some out every year though.

  6. I have several such thugs in my garden, including cypress vine and 'Pride of Barbados.' They reseed readily and profusely. It's impossible to keep ahead of the seeds. Fortunately, any volunteer plants that I don't want are easily pulled out and disposed of or shared with others - if they are willing to put up with thugs.

    1. I am reluctant to give my thugs to others, as that is how I acquired a couple of them to my regret.

  7. Your vinca is here too. I pull kilometres from the garden when we moved in. Now it is only metres, but, it's still there.
    Today I suddenly realised that the sage bush had eaten a pot of Hypoxis - so that got pruned in half.

    Plants come in two types. Will it ever grow more than the 10 leaves it has had since I planted it? Or will I ever catch up with it??

  8. Morning glory is one of volunteer in our garden. Growing it once in 2015, and having volunteer almost all year long.

    1. Morning glory in Indonesia? I find that amazing, too.

  9. Some of these thugs behaved reasonably well in the cooler Aberdeen Summers. Mind you, I was never a fan of Vinca