Whether you’re a fresh gardener or an expert, you’ve planted something that you came to regret – a lot. It may have been the pretty flower, the ‘friend’s’ recommendation or the label that lured you in but eventually it became a monster. A recent discussion on Facebook, Venni Gardens revealed a long list of bad memories. Here are some of the worst with suggested alternatives.
Vinca (aka Periwinkle): Ground cover with glossy dark green leaves and pretty blue flowers – what’s not to like? Often described as a vigorous grower – wait, what! That word ‘vigorous” should be written in bold letters. What it really means is that this plant, if not totally surrounded by concrete, will attempt world domination. It will spread and cover everything in its path. That delicate peony you were looking for? – gone!
English Ivy Romantic visions of ivy covered, crumbling manors must have inspired our continued folly. Tough stems with suckers to attach to brick walls and destroy the mortar; climbing trees while smothering anything in its path. An aggressive grower that is tough to dig up.
Goutweed (aka Bishop’s Weed) Pretty pale green leaves, often variegated with white. The roots spread and it pops up in the oddest spots. I once spent 2 years on hands and knees, digging it out, searching for the little hair-like roots that would grow into more plants. And then a neighbour on one side was given some that she thought were so pretty and planted them along the fence. And the neighbour on the other side liked them so much she… you get the picture. I now have them popping up in my raised vegetable beds.
Alternatives: Tiarella, Trout lily, ferns, Mertensia, Sweet woodruff, Pulmonaria, Virginia waterleaf, Pussytoes, creeping phlox or a mix of all of these!
Vines (Vertical interest is always welcome – but NOT these thugs)
Trumpet Vine All those lovely orange flowers, ooooh! the birds and bees are going to love them you think, I certainly hope so because it will pop up all over your neighbourhood. One gardener even had one that grew up the side of a 2.5 story house and wormed its way into the attic.
Chocolate Vine (aka Akebia) One gardener planted this after seeing it at the Royal Botanical Gardens. (Proof that even the experts can plant regrets although they removed it completely when they discovered its true nature.) Lovely vine with delicate leaves that has little chandeliers of purple flowers. But it can pull over a fence and the vines will root and spread and spread and spread.
Wisteria – Images of flowery abundance dance in your mind BUT I have seen that in only one part of the world, the Mediterranean. Here in Ontario they grow and grow and pull down pergolas and topple quaint little arbours, rip the spindles right off your porch and keep on going with perhaps one flower, that bloomed for 10 minutes, on an April day when it was too wet and rainy to actually see it.
Alternatives: Clematis – almost all newer varieties repeat bloom. Planting more than one type can mean blooms from spring to fall
Mint Unless you plan to drink Mojitos from morning to night all summer long – plant mint in a pot.
And remember that if you don’t dead-head them, many flowers and shrubs will generously share their seeds. Some of us have found out the hard way that dill can go places you never thought and Rose of Sharon needs a hard pruning to remove ALL of the seed heads or you will have a grove of hundreds of little shrubs.
Since we have just celebrated Earth Day, here are some resources for pollinator friendly and /or Native Plants. www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca – ‘grow me instead’ https://www.hamiltonpollinatorparadise.org/plant-lists.html