Sweet woodruff

“Inner discipline leads to a happier existence”

HH the Dalai Lama

As I look up the steep bank I can see that the sweet woodruff has spread yet again. Its Latin name is Galium odoratum – the ‘odoratum’ because it has a sweet scent that increases as the plant wilts or dries out. You can use it in pot pourri.

Just please, don’t do what I did – use it as ground cover. It’s sold as a ground cover and, at least in this part of the gardening world, it fulfills its job description. It would happily cover the entire neighbourhood given the chance.

It’s such an innocent-looking plant. It is a bright green with whorls of leaves surrounding the stem and a delicate white flower. It grows to about six inches in height. But in spread – limitless. I’ve spent countless hours trying to remove it as it poked between paving blocks and snuggled close into bushes.

It sneaks along on little underground runners and clumps of it come up obligingly in your hand. Aha! Got you! Nope. There’ll be another clump poking up right there in a couple of weeks.
It’s not the first time that I’ve thought that planting a ground cover would make my garden look pretty in a hurry. I’ve bought ajuga on the same principle and wound up with almost a monoculture of ajuga. It’s an attractive plant but enough is enough.

And don’t get me started on Houttuynia cordata – Houttuynia. It is supposed to like boggy ground. Ha! It grows everywhere, the drier the better. Again it’s a pretty plant with leaves shading from red through green to cream. Its stems are red, growing to about eight inches and it has a little white flower. Everything about it is sweet and dainty. But it’s a thug. It will eat up every bit of space you have then, like woodruff, die and look messy all winter.
Now there’s other plants that die and look messy in winter. But not in the quantity these guys do it. They’re greedy to spread.

Discipline? They’ve never heard of it. But then , they’re plants, why should they be disciplined? They follow the dictates of their genetic make-up as best they can in the garden they’re stuck with. We have choices – will I buy this plant or that plant?
The plants themselves have no say in the matter. You never hear them screaming “I don’t want to go home with you! I want to grow in Mrs Smith’s garden, over on Main Street! Put me down!”

But I had the choice. Maybe I should have had the discipline to let the garden take its time developing and not been in such a hurry to buy plants to make it look pretty right now. Then I would not be spending so much time digging out plants that have expanded to become such unwelcome guests.

The thing about discipline is – it doesn’t stick out its hand and wave to get your attention.
“Hey! Discipline point here!”

It sits quietly hoping you’ll think a little more deeply and get down to the essential nature of the issue. Are you buying plants for a pretty garden right now or for a well-planned garden for years to come?

That inner discipline, taking a moment to consider the real issue rather than the immediately attractive, is what will bring the happiness of contentment. It’s what will bring you the respect due to a good gardener.


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