When I started gardening for real, and Max's Garden was created, I accepted donations of plants of all kinds. It didn't matter what they were, I wanted them. I begged, borrowed, and nearly stole whatever I could get my hands on. Gardening was so new and exciting to me that if it flowered and had leaves, I wanted it!
Mom was cleaning out her garden, getting rid of a few things and dividing a few others, so she shared. And there was the garden club's sale where they offered plants from the members' gardens at a great price. I was glad for both and before I knew it, my garden was more than half full.
All was well, until a season or two went by. And then I figured out why many of the acquired plants were available for free or for sale at a cheap price. Things that are easily propagated don't cost much, if anything. They're like zucchinis - here, take some! There are plenty more where those came from!
The first to try to take over the garden was the misnamed Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana). Who named that plant anyway? Was it someone's idea of a cruel joke? The flowers are pretty, and the plants are nice enough, with virtually no disease problems like powdery mildew or pest problems like slugs. A rampant grower like this ... well ... just dig out what you don't want, right? Sure. But make sure you don't leave any little bit of its root in the ground, because that's all it takes to grow a plant.
Next was the Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea). What a pretty grass it is, with its green and white striping! Who wouldn't love to see that in their garden? I loved it, that's for sure, and it was such a great grower. So great, in fact, that just two years later, it more than tripled in area. This one spreads by underground runners - it's sneaky that way - kind of like the iceberg that took down the Titanic.If you really want this in your garden, it would probably be a good idea to plant it in a large container and sink it down into the ground. I still have it in my garden and I need to take my own advice. I'm really getting tired of ripping it out every time it has a growth spurt.
The next thing that grew REALLY WELL in my garden was the spearmint (Mentha spicata). I hadn't yet learned about mints and their proclivity for spreading. They're all like that. Every last one of them. But remember the Obedient Plant? Same deal here. Even the most minute piece of root will grow amazingly into a big healthy plant. But they do smell good.
I found the most beautiful variegated plant at a local plant sale a couple of years ago and was thrilled with it the first season when it grew well and formed a nice thick carpet around the base of the Japanese Fantail Willow. The cats love sleeping in the Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens), which hides them in its lush foliage. This one sends out above ground runners, much like strawberries do, and if you don't watch out, you'll have an entire garden of it. If you can't grow this then you might want to consider another way to spend your time than gardening.
Then there are the daisies (Leucanthemum sp.). Don't ask me which kind I've got, but Mom gave me a clump of them and that clump has turned into two HUGE clumps. I adore white daisies, which is probably why she gave them to me, but even I don't need THAT many of them. I couldn't tell you how they spread; I just know that they do and each spring and fall, I end up digging out several clumps of them in an effort to control the size of my two daisy spots. Nothing makes me smile more than to see those daisies in full bloom.
Now how about those self-seeders? Sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes it isn't. First, the bad news: Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). I love this grass with its herringbone seed heads, but I learned the hard way this spring that you do NOT want to let those seed heads dry and fall off. They don't just fall off, they miraculously spread themselves all over the garden. It doesn't matter how large or small your garden is, you'll find little seedlings in the nether regions and swear those seeds had legs.Now the good news: Nigella. It's such a beautiful annual and if you plant it once, you'll likely have it forever. It's a well-behaved self-seeder though and I've never found it outside of the immediate area where it's previously grown. Can I say that about Snow on the Mountain? No. Or Balsam? No. Those two have explode-a-pop seed pods and it's amazing how far those seeds can be propelled!
Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are another well-behaved annual self-seeder for me. I thought I'd collected all the seed pods from these last summer, but this spring, I found out I wasn't as good at that as I thought I was. They returned, in all their papery loveliness and that was fine with me. I just added the collected seeds from last year to supplement those that already were growing.
This post wouldn't be complete without mentioning violets (Viola sp.). You'd better love them a lot if you plant them, because they'll come up everywhere. They self-seed, much like columbine does, and the seedlings are easy enough to tear out, but if you're like me, you just let them go and bloom where they're planted. They're small, and a violet bloom is just lovely, no matter where it happens to surprise you.
There are many others, these supposed garden thugs, but these are some of the ones that grow here at Our Little Acre and they grow here because we want them to. Choose carefully what you want in your own garden!