Country Gardens - - Grassroots -

Thugs in the gar­den—some plants we choose for spe­cific pur­poses have an agenda of their own, and that seems to be to take over our gar­dens and then the North­west. Be warned and be vig­i­lant.

English lau­rel or cherry lau­rel (Prunus lau­ro­cera­sus), a broadleaf ev­er­green, seems a quick fix to a lack of pri­vacy. Na­tive to the Mediter­ranean, its spring spikes of white flow­ers de­velop into black berries, and when birds eat the fruit, seed is spread far and wide. Main­tain­ing a reg­u­lar prun­ing pro­gram will elim­i­nate the flow­ers and help pre­vent the plant from spread­ing through­out the gar­den and into nat­u­ral ar­eas.

In the quest to plant a gar­den with lay­ered in­ter­est, a var­ie­gated ground­cover sounds like a win­ner, but once es­tab­lished, bishop’s weed (Ae­gopodium poda­graria) can race through the gar­den. Also called goutweed or ground el­der, it pops up ev­ery­where, form­ing a dense mat that dis­cour­ages other plants. Gar­den­ers have been known to dig up en­tire peren­nial beds to get rid of it, and that’s re­ally all you can do—dig and pull, dig and pull.

The spiny dark green leaves and berried stems of English holly (Ilex aquifolium) are seen in North­west gar­dens as well as sunny for­est glens. It will—and does—grow any­where, caus­ing an­noy­ance in gar­dens and re­plac­ing na­tive plants in the wild. But rid­ding your gar­den of this thug doesn’t mean you must give up its or­na­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tics. Try Os­man­thus het­ero­phyl­lus, a shrubby hol­ly­like re­place­ment.

A charm­ing, trail­ing ground­cover, yel­low archangel (Lamium ga­le­ob­dolon) soon re­veals its dark side—it takes over any site, sun or shade, form­ing a dense mat that pro­vides nei­ther food nor cover for wildlife. Short up­right stems carry tubu­lar yel­low flow­ers. Only one cul­ti­var has been found to be safe: ‘Her­mann’s Pride’.

Bishop’s weed (Ae­gopodium poda­graria)

Marty Win­gate writes and gar­dens in Seat­tle, when she isn’t lead­ing a gar­den tour to Eu­ro­pean or North Amer­i­can des­ti­na­tions.

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