Saturday, May 9, 2009

Not The "I" Word

It occurs to me that perhaps I've been unfair towards certain plants - let's not call them "invasive"- which display a certain spirited inclination towards reproduction. Via sexual or asexual means, these plants (let's not call them "invasive") spread themselves in an opportunistic fashion; the tiniest patch of bare ground given a why-not?-shrug and summarily inundated with cheap, plentiful seeds (I'm looking at you, little weedy violets) or subverted by runners and rhizomes with all the subtlety of a teenager's attempt at casual intimacy (that's you, bindweed).
But perhaps not all of these "opportunists" should be treated equally. Some are truly despicable (please refer to my Nightmare Weed post) but we should not let these cast a pall over all vigorous, sexually-enlightened plants (I'd still rather not call them "invasive"), some of which have undeniably positive aesthetic or structural qualities. Surely everyone has a few "self-seeders" or "naturalizers" (or whatever the euphemism du-jour is) which they are willing to unleash upon their garden with the full knowledge that many hands-and-knees hours will be spent in quarantine mode, futilely attempting to restrict them to one corner of one bed.
I realize I'm opening pandoras box here because in gardening, one man's treasure is another man's vile, loathesome weed the mere mention of which is wont to launch a tirade towards or physical assault of the mentioner. Therefore, I'll go first. These are plants towards which I will cast a blind eye in a client's garden, even if I have been more or less commanded to remove them. At the end of my day, there is just no cold ruthless blood left in my veins for these misunderstood gems (let's not call them "invasive", please).

  • Centaurea montana - LSD flower, as I like to call it, as in God must have been tripping if he made this. Fellow Blotanists may recognize this as my "favorite flower". No matter how much these spread throughout a garden and how hard they can be to remove, I always have to stop and stare when they are in bloom. Like some cerulean, radial sea creature that grew a stem and joined the Asteraceae, I never get tired of them.
  • Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora - I frankly don't care if these take over a bed; I just can't stir up animosity for something that blooms so brilliantly during a time of the year when many other things are tiring-out (here in the Northwest anyway). Plus, if you really do want to remove them, the corms pop out like they were just waiting for you to come along and grant them the pleasure of being ripped out of the ground.
  • Carex 'Frosted Curls'- I was initially alarmed by how quickly these self-sowed in a bed that I planted. The alarm quickly turned to delight when I realized that a plant chosen for its unique cool-green color and soft, mounded habit made an even stronger statement in greater numbers (plus it allowed me steal one of the seedlings for myself).
That's all for now, let me have it if you hate any of these, but you have to give me some alternatives.


  1. Invasive can be a blessing or a curse depending on the plant. Like you I have some I adore while others I'd wouldn't give to a neighbor I couldn't stand. (they would just find their way back)

    Top of the love list - Lily of the Valley
    Top of the hate list - Goutweed

  2. WiseAcre- Yes! Lily of the Valley is definitely on my list as well; I'd almost forgotten since not many of my clients have it in their gardens, but I only tried to remove it once before I decided that it deserved whatever space it wanted.

  3. I am currently living in a totalitarian state--run by Lychnis coronaria, Rose campion. It has taken over a perennial border and has blocked media contact with the rest of the horticultural world. Not even the Shasta daisies have been allowed to get a word in.

  4. I like Crocosmia X crocosmiiflora too. Frankly, I had to Google it to find out what it was (along with everything else in Latin in this post; alas I have a black thumb), but I'm not ashamed to admit I have a wanton love for all kinds of flowers that are considered pests. The guiltiest pleasure is dandelions. I can't help it, even as I hate them and tediously pull them up I think they're adorable, tasty, whimsical and I admire their tenacity as one would respectfully nod to a sworn enemy.

    I've probably doomed myself to gardener hell by saying so, but there you go. Another informed, witty post, Maranta!

  5. Daffodil- I feel like a Lychnis regime would be tolerable... pretty while in bloom and should the need for rebellion arise the oppressed could just run around yanking the dictators out by the handful.

    jennaxide- gardener hell is where all the cool gardeners go.

  6. I love Carex frosty curls, and most every other Carex I've planted. A slight bit of self sowing in my California garden. They play off other perennials and shrubs beautifully, in my humble opinion :)
    Callus and Chlorophyll ...what a perfect name for a blog!
    Alice aka BayAreaTendrils