Thugs in the Plant World

At TreeFest yesterday I saw a lot of emphasis on the thugs of the plant world in the Lower Mainland. These are often plants that have come from somewhere else in the world and, being planted in gardens, have decided they like the soil and the climate here very much and they will just push everything else out and take over.

One handsome bully is English ivy. He has big shiny dark green leaves that stay green all year. He’s tempting to buy because he grows fast and covers ugly sheds, concrete walls and anything else out there that you’d like to hide. Unfortunately, he doesn’t stop when your unsightly shed or wall is nicely covered. He keeps on going, and he can grow up to 12 feet a year. Every year. He can shove his tentacles through the tiniest holes, then keep going mercilessly, right where you don’t want him.

Be warned! When you finally decide you’d better ‘do something’ he will be very hard to get rid of. His stems get thick and strong and they cling to walls and arbors and fences like glue. You can easily end up pulling a fence down before the ivy will let go. When you finally think you’ve got him all removed you’ll find he had put down additional roots you didn’t know about and all of them will start to grow new ivies.

So your dear little original ivy plant that was so small you could have fit it in your pocket has become a huge pile of garden debris that you have to get rid of. Don’t even think of dumping it somewhere. It will grow just as fast there and smother the native plants. Bag it, annoying as that is, and put it in the garbage or out for pick up with garden refuse if your municipality does that.

If you accidentally drop a bit, pick it up. Not just to be tidy, but because it will take root and grow and you’ll have to start all over again.

Another bully of the garden plant is lamium, sold as ground cover. It has small, silvery leaves and looks too small to be offensive. Don’t be fooled. It will escape from your garden and set off to rule the world, killing every native plant in its path.

Please, don’t be fooled by these bullies. When you are shopping for plants beware of tags that say “Spreads vigorously”. It’s a euphemism for “Plans to rule the world”. You are not just paying $3.99 for a little plant, you are setting a tyrant loose in your neighbourhood..

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One thought on “Thugs in the Plant World

  1. Pingback: Why did I grow that plant? | csmonitor.com

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