Saturday, June 28, 2008

Do You Want These Plants? Are You Sure?


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!

Love-In-A-Mist (Nigella damascena)


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!

22 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

A very good post about these over exuberant plants Kylee. I hope it helps many bloggers. I could add a few to the list. I wish I could get some of those daisies going. I really like them. I wouldn't mind to have to pull a few of them out yearly.

Hootin' Anni said...

Wow...very pretty. ALL of your photos! The cat is pretty too.

My Green Thumb photos are shared today...stop by if you can.

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Kylee,

You left a comment at Carol's, so I came over to see what was invasive in your garden... Central Texas has its own set of plants that are awful - like Asiatic jasmine.

My mint is all in containers - not because it was invasive, but because it dies when planted in the ground.

My obedient plant is barely alive this year - but in looser soil with some water would be a problem.
BTW the "obedient" plant refers to the flower, rather than the roots. Flower arrangers discovered that you can nudge the florets horizontally and change their position on the stalk ...the florets will remain there, thus are obedient.

Those little violets would be a nice surprise!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Nancy J. Bond said...

My daughter found out about the spearmint a couple of summers ago...it finally overtook most of her tiny veggie plot and it's easy enough to pull up, but not so easy to get rod of permanently. Everything in your gardens looks very lush, though. :)

Barbee' said...

I enjoyed your post very much and the smiles it brought to my face.

Teresa said...

I had to chuckle. All of us gardeners have those plants that we thought we would love that are now the ones we curse. I tore out Ribbon Grass last year too. You should add Bishop's Weed to the list too and how about Cranesbill Geraniums? I still have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with both those plants.

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Morning glories are taking over the garden here. Nice post.

Shady Gardener said...

Oh, Kylee! I just planted Obedient Plant last summer. It looks Great, right now! I've planted it in their own little round bed. I'll keep an eye on them though. Perhaps I'll use the flowers as cut flowers... just in case they threaten to reseed. ;-)
Thanks for the warning!

Cinj said...

I love those plants, but some of them are a pain to contain. Yarrow are a real problem in our yard. As long as they don't crowd everyone else out though I'll keep them. You should see the sea of daisies I have growing wild. I'd love to pick some and bring them inside to arrange with some peonies but the darn cats would eat them up.

I had to laugh when you said if you can't grow these think of another hobby.

Bob said...

We spoke of daisies some years ago, and we shared photos in Cheers. How can you NOT get daisies to return? We did, not a single daisy remains in the bed that now features our Wisteria.

Crafty Gardener said...

I have some of those over exhuberent plants. The obedience almost have a garden of their own now ... it is a dividing garden between our front and the neighbours. I let it grow and mow it down as it spreads into the lawn. Violets I curse and I'm always pulling them out. So many plants will get so big if you let them. I have a garden freecycle group and I'm forever giving them away.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

I hate obedient plant as I do artimesia 'Limelight.' Got rid of Limelight, but still have Obedient plant. I think it is interesting what is invasive where. I don't have a problem w/my spearmint in the ground. I just rip up parts of it. Also, violets are not a problem for me either. However, the first two are a nightmare.~~Dee

Cindy said...

Your picture of Love in a Mist is so pretty! I wanted to grow those in my new garden this year but haven't gotten around to sowing the seeds. Plant them once and you'll never have to plant them again! Nice post, I didn't know obedient plant was like that but I do now!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

What a great post, Kylee. I have some, um, overzealous self-seeders in my garden, too. But I kind of like seeing where the 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth and atriplex hortensis will pop up next. And both are edible so I can take revenge by eating them! lol.

The one that's really starting to kill me is my bronze fennel. When it first sprouts it is the same color as the dirt... so they're usually pretty big by the time I notice them.

Frances, said...

Thanks Kylee for the warning. I have removed several of those guys over the years, but have yet to even make a dent in the violets, even after years of digging them. We love the nigella here also, it is very easy to pull any unwanteds and the foliage is distinctive enough to be recognized. Do people really give violets to others?

Frances at Faire Garden

themanicgardener said...

So sad, so funny, and so true!
--Kate

Kim and Victoria said...

You only have TWO clumps of daisies???? That's amazing. I do love the flower but am always pulling them up now when they threaten to overtake everything else.
I agree; nigella is a great re-seeder. Always happy to see it.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Holy Cow - you've got almost all of the bad guys I fear - you're only missing Aegopodium & Vinca. My mom & I fought mint for years b4 finally vanquishing it. I'm still trying to get rid of the Chasmanthium. When I got it, I hadn't heard about its prolific seeding. Live & learn.

Outer Banks Mom said...

MINT! Seems someone out there is always trying to give me more mint! LOL I politely say, no thanks, I have my fair share. Or sometimes I'll take it and give it away.

Connie said...

I heard that Obedient plant was so named because as a cut flower, when you bend it into position in a floral arrangement, it is supposed to stay there. I have never actually tried it to see if it works. It is not as obedient in the garden, but I think it is so pretty, I put up with it.

Modern Mia said...

Thanks for the tips. Now I need to look for some Nigella and Shirley poppies.

Diane said...

Coreopsis is the one I struggle with. I spread the seeds everywhere in the garden every year, and yet the only place the seedlings succeed is in the cracks of the sidewalk. Silly plants!

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