Marty's Garden, December 1st, 2019


As gardeners we come across plants in nurseries which are new to us and which we like to try out. Not all those plants work in the garden. Sometimes the conditions are not to their liking with soil being too heavy (clay) or too sandy or the pH is not what they require. These plants linger for a while, decline and, usually, are dug up and discarded. Sometimes the placement of the plant is wrong; a shade lover in a sun-drenched garden, a sun lover in the shade; a drought tolerant plant in a wet spot or a bog plant in the driest part of the garden. If you have the correct conditions for these plants, it doesn’t take much time to dig them up and relocate them to an area to their liking. There they will settle in and become an asset to your garden.


But, occasionally, you come across a plant which you think will look great in the garden, you buy it and plant it and let it do its thing, only to regret it later. This year I have come across two plants in my garden which have done SO well, they are no longer welcome. First there is ‘Creeping Jenny’ or Lysimachia nummularia, also known as Creeping Charlie and moneywort. The Lysimachia family includes various members which are known as thugs or invasives, such as purple loosestrife or even gooseneck loosestrife. My two-inch potted Creeping jennies quickly settled in and covered soil in all directions by several feet the same year it was planted. It didn’t creep; it galloped everywhere. Granted, the chartreuse foliage looked pretty, but soon it went out of control. I spend days yanking it out and even now I come across small pieces which are popping up again. Next spring I will have to do another sweep to make sure it has been eliminated everywhere.


The second plant which will get the old heave-ho is Callicarpa dichotoma or Beautyberry. Without a doubt, this is a very pretty shrub. The branches arch and in fall are covered with clusters of the brightest purple berries. The birds absolutely love these berries and literally launch themselves into the shrub to gobble up the berries. Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, there are so many berries on the plant that the birds don’t get them all. Instead, those that fall to the ground (hundreds upon hundreds of them) very quickly germinate into small plants as soon as the weather improves in spring. They also quickly grow a root system which makes it hard to pull out plants only inches tall. Last spring I spent hours on hands and knees in the garden pulling out these seedlings, although at the time I didn’t realize my Beautyberry was the culprit. Instead, I actually got two more of these shrubs. Now that I have put two and two together (bright berries everywhere in my garden) I know I will be pulling seedlings for days everywhere come spring. And while I enjoy gardening and hope to continue doing it for years to come, I realize I don’t have to make my life harder each spring eliminating hundreds of seedlings. Instead I will be cutting down the shrubs while they still have berries clinging to them and throwing them out in the trash. Then, in spring, I will be digging up the root systems and tossing them out as well. Meanwhile, I hope the birds will forage for those fallen berries and make my life a little easier come spring. It is too bad, because this is truly a handsome shrub, but its propensity to populate earth with its offspring makes it ‘shrub non grata’ in my garden. Learning from experience, now there is a novel concept!