Friday, April 24, 2009

Plants That Annoy the H-e-double toothpicks out of me

After working in the garden this afternoon for several hours I feel like talking - calmly, serenely - I promise no screaming or shouting - about plants that annoy me. Specifically plants in my own garden.
Plants I - we - have added with every good intention.

Lets start with a common misunderstanding that I think often happens.

Picture this - You're at the nursery. You've seen a plant which you think you now love and must have. You decide to inquire with a Nursery Worker concerning where you might locate said plant. Nursery Worker looks at you - perhaps out of the corner of their eye. Perhaps with a slightly odd, questioning glance. Then the Nursery Worker proceeds to say something like: "That plant likes to spread."

You are not daunted by that information at all. For you are a seasoned gardener. You've been around the garden bed a few times yourself after all. You can handle a "plant that likes to spread." In fact, you prefer them. The more the merrier, you think. "Free plants" is the main thought that enters your frugal head.

Off to the register you sail with three specimens of your prize.

Let's check what really happened. The Nursery Worker was being polite. What she/he really wanted to say was, "I wouldn't touch that plant with a ten foot pole. It will wreck havoc in your garden. You will rue the day you ever laid eyes on it. It will live and thrive in your garden long after you are dead. Run. Run and never look back."

But Nursery Workers are not paid to tell us the truth. Or perhaps "That plant likes to spread" is their code for "No, no, no, not ever!"

(I work in a deli. What do people think I mean when I say, "That's not my favorite salad?")

Onto my list:

1. Euphorbia myrsinites (Myrtle Spurge, also known as Creeping Spurge or "donkey tail")

It's a pretty plant, I'll give it that. And it pulls up fairly easily. If it would just stay put!
But that will never happen.

Let's take a look at it in my garden.

Here it is looking nice and pretty and innocent.

Now let's see it strangling our cacti.

That's right. There are cactus plants under that mess.

2. Euphorbia cyparissias 'Fens Ruby'
*sigh* Fens Ruby. Such a pretty name. And an attractive little plant, too.

Here it is with some creeping phlox.

And here it is with some greggi tulips.

Seems OK, right?


Looking at this photo I could almost like Fens Ruby again.

I might as well.

It's not going anywhere soon.

3. Goldenrod 'Solidago L.'

I don't know if I can describe how much I now hate this plant. Because it refuses to die.
We haven't resorted to any lethal poisons because there are so many plants near it we want to keep, including a stand of aspens.
We've dug it up. We've pulled it up.

It wouldn't be so bad if it just kept coming back up in the same spot. But it's spreading all over the garden. And I don't know how it's managing to push itself up in every little spot it can find.

Here is what it used to look like. (not my photo)

Here is what I'm constantly pulling up now.

I hate it.

Let's move on.

4. I have a love/hate relationship with Golden Hop Vine (Humulus lupulus 'Aureus').
We bought it to provide a screen on the back porch.
It certainly does that.
But it likes, loves, to spread around. All around. Everywhere.
I'm always pulling up baby hop vines. And the adult plant is loaded with little tiny stickers. Not pleasant to wrestle with. Which it constantly needs because it grows so darn fast.
I've heard it referred to as a "garden thug".

For now we're keeping it.

5. Hollyhocks, alcea.

What's not to like?

Well, I do like them.

That's why I put up with them.

But they also like to spread. And that spreading wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so deep rooted. I don't like hollyhocks growing in the front of my garden beds. They're too tall. Digging them up is the only option when they land in an unwanted area.

6. Morning glory, Convolvulaceae

Love them. That's why I put up with them reseeding like crazy.
I spend, well, not hours, but plenty of time, sitting in one of the garden paths pulling up little seedlings that land where they don't belong.
But I'm willing to do so because I love the look of a morning glory vine. They really are 'glorious' in bloom.

7. And finally, Nigella, Love in a Mist.

I really wouldn't want to be without these wonderful annual reseeders. I'm actually glad they reseed so freely. Just wish they wouldn't do it in the paths.
Oh well. At least they come up easily.

I'm sure there are those gardeners who will look at my list of annoying plants and laugh. For one reason or another. Perhaps they were just as foolish at one time. Or perhaps they'll chuckle because they avoided such certain disaster and consider themselves older and wiser now. Or it's possible they will peruse my list and say, "I've never had a problem with that!"

Anything is possible, after all, and it's a big world, with different hardiness zones and levels of precipitation.

Do you have any annoying plants in your garden or are you Mr/Ms Zen and love them all equally?


vuejardin said...

I hate Goldenrod 'Solidago too :P ...way too much work to pull those unwanted plants.

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

cactus STRANGLERS are sweet looking too... at the end, the toughest will win... ~ cheers! bangchik

tina said...

Well I just love this post. I agree with you on some. Especially that goldenrod! I find it everywhere and it is a mess to get up-such long runners everywhere! I do have the creeping myrtle but it has not spread. Maybe too much shade. I'll watch it though. Hmmm, what would be my most annoying plant, I guess right now it is violets. I still can't believe I planted those little sweet purple things and now they've taken over my lawn!

I came from over Dirt Princess to check out where Bilbo is going next. It has been fun tracking him. I'll check back once you get him.

Barbarapc said...

Great post. Loved the action shot of the donkey tails taking on the cactus. I've had a bit of success taking solidago out with a shovel, then sitting on the ground and sifting out all the roots - keeps them under control for a couple of years - find they like to hang out next to the phlox paniculata, where I always manage to miss a stem or two.
p.s. Those shots with the Ruby Fens are almost worth the aggravation of the plant. Almost.

Bek said...

Love this post! I'm still in the stage were the more the better. I love morning glories. My hollyhocks didn't grow last year. Who knows, maybe they come back this year like lots of other stuff I planted last year and didn't see anything of it until now.

Unknown said...

Does the Tiny Tim Euphorbia spread like that? Or is it called Tiny because it will stay tiny? I read Bilbo is on his way......I'm trying to keep up with him.

our friend Ben said...

Ha! Classic post, Victoria! (Loved the deli comment.) I plant my spreaders in my Cultivated Wild Meadow and mostly leave them to fight it out, though I do step in to curb the goldenrods, teasel, and tansy. I think your creeping phlox/'Ruby Fen' combo is just gorgeous! (But, er, where does the 'Ruby' part come in?) My most-hated spreader is true lily. Our home's previous owners planted these ugly orange monsters, and they spread faster than kudzu! Not even the consolation of attractive foliage to make them more acceptable. Ugh!

Rosemary said...

LOL , got quite a smile re your volunteers. Think I would keep the euphorbia over the cactus......One plant I was warned about being a spreader was goutweed, should have listened ......... That is one plant I would never plant anywhere . Hate it!

Unknown said...

My morning glory don't want to grow and spread, but I would love that!

Nice post, Victoria!

I have an Euphorbia Tirucalli, you can read about it here

But I have it in a pot, so it didn't spread, but it grows like mad, that's for sure! About 1 m. in a year.

Nikky said...

my garden is the lamest of lame but I completely enjoyed your post! As a novice in the land of gardening i know very little. An example would be that I always thought that goldenrod was a weed! shows how much i know! your plants are beautiful...even if they do spread!

Unknown said...

I'm still laughing - not because you have your hands full with plants you use to love but the wonderful way you wrote it! I really laughed when the first one came up and I HAVE IT!!! But you know I was laughing hysterically! I got it from my sister and I KNEW it was everywhere including making her driveway from gravel to Donkey Tail!!! But everything reseeds where she lives - not where I live. So far I still just have the 2 little patches and one in a pot I was gonna add to one of the others. Now I'm thinking I'll give it to someone. LOL
I also had hollyhocks but they never came back but the something Zebrina (they call a small hollyhock) comes back EVERYWHERE. We pull and pull and I give it away being honest telling the person that next year they will hav 467 of them and they still want it. Like Tina I took some little violas and same story.
I was warned by a neighbor when I proudly displayed a package of Morning Glory seeds - so I never did them but still think they are gorgeous. Shouldn't have worried now that I know how seeds and I get along! ;-)
Great post Victoria.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Great list! I have Goldenrod Fireworks...this is just the second year. It has space to go... will not EVER get some of those Euphoribias. Thinking about planting (scattering) Nigella seeds. I like the look, and have the space. Good post.

Anonymous said...

My personal most annoying is Apple Mint. It took me forever to get it out of my garden. I had to dig deep then feel around with my hands for wayward roots.
Another is Chocolate Mint. My mother planted it on the side of her driveway. The next year it popped up on the other side, and even IN the driveway. It was horrible!

Balisha said...

I once had a hops vine...we wanted it to grow on a privacy grew like crazy...Now, in a different house, I have a spot where I would like a I or don't I plant that rascal again?

Dirt Princess said...

Seems like plants always grow exactly where you don't want them to!

Seasonal Wisdom said...

Great topic. Invasive plants? Yeah, I know a bit about them. I've battled English ivy in two different states. First, I ripped it out of my California front yard, where it had grown since the 1950s into a waste-high mess housing who knows what type of critters. Then I removed it from my house in Idaho, where it was strangling trees. Almost bought that euphorbia (#1) this weekend at a plant sale Good thing, I hesitated.. . It's a beauty, but who needs the headaches? Thanks for sharing. Teresa

Frances said...

HA, very clever and the photos are gorgeous! Did you actually BUY the goldenrod? The nigella is quite the spreader, but oh so beautiful. Pulling all these guys out of unwanted spaces is a full time endeavor, but that's gardening! :-)

Matron said...

Yes they are a nuisance when you don't want them to spread or if you don't have the room for them to spread! BTW you can make 'hop pillows' they are a brilliant natural sedative and cure insomnia! sell them to your friends!

Ginger said...

Hey guys,
I'm still waiting on your address so I can send Bilbo your way! Please email me at


Ginger said...

Just got your message on my blog. I haven't gotten any emails from you - how strange!! I don't think the problem is on my end, but try emailing me at my other address just in case - Thanks! Ginger

Kathleen said...

That's why I've learned to ask people what they'd recommend (at deli's, nurseries, etc.)! Better choices come from changing the phrasing of things, right?!! Your photos are so pretty Victoria ~ it's hard to see anything as annoying when it looks so attractive. I know what you mean tho. I have Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' everywhere in my back shade bed. That stuff never quits!

rainfield61 said...

I have pink morning glory in Malaysia. Have yet too see any purple species.

Flowers are beautiful.

Genie said...

Now, see, I'm thinking I need a garden only planted with things that like to spread and that won't die. Then I might have a garden. I've never seen anything quite like that donkey tail, what a plant! Reminds me of those cactus people grow where they cut two different cactus plants and stick them together. The stemmy thing just doesn't seem like it was meant to be a part of the blossomy end at all. Now I know what to plant when I need to get rid of some cactus! I'm not a fan of cactus, not one little bit.