Impact or Invasion? My Love ’em or Leave ’em Plants

I’ve just been admiring a swathe of euphorbia amiglioides ‘Robbiae’ with its acid yellow flowers and glossy leaves glistening under a light drizzle. I say admiring, which is my immediate reaction, but really I should be asking myself why it’s there at all, as over the years I’ve made quite a few attempts to get rid of it! This plant, for all it’s aesthetic attraction has an indefinite spread and as such it’s very easy to lose control of. I planted it originally with a small clump from my mom’s garden and it now pops up all over the place, clearly self seeding as well as utilising its very effective root creeping ability.

This got me reminiscing over my years of gardening, and it’s true to say that I still have to control an impatient streak in my nature that sees me adopting a quick impact strategy when planting. I am particularly mindful of my very early days and the planting of houttuynia cordata in a long deep border – within a year it was popping up at an alarming distance from the original position. Or the sumach tree that suckered to a circumference of at least 2 metres and indeed continued to do so long after the tree was removed. Then of course there was the water mint; bees absolutely love it and so it is a worthy addition to the pond-side, but in a very secure, monitored pot! I planted several of them to cover an area quickly, but it spread rampantly with frenetic speed along the border and into the lawn – again, it took several years to completely eradicate.

Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’ – oh dear! A lovely plant for foliage, and it certainly forms a decent clump quickly, but to me its an absolute monster and seems to be impossible to eradicate. I planted a small clump in an extremely dry, free draining area of our garden (because I love it’s luscious colour), thinking it wouldn’t thrive and therefore be easy to control – think again, it ran wild and I took it out 2 years later. Unfortunately several years later, it is still emerging each spring. In Wales, the previous owner had used it effectively near to the river bank, but it had spread far further than the 0.1-0.4 metres indicated on the RHS plant finder and when we attempted to reduce it, we discovered that it had originally been planted in a large bucket – which it had long escaped. It continues to pop up all over that particular border, even through a clump of hosta!

Here it comes again! (lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’)

But the very worst mistake I’ve made was to allow ivy to grow over and to 2 feet above our fence – an effective screen and every year sparrows, blackbirds and robins nested in it. Unfortunately, its strong and vigorous stems and branches destroyed the fence and eighteen months ago, it had to be replaced and the ivy removed – it didn’t half leave an unsightly gap (and the new fence hasn’t filled it to my satisfaction, I’m now impatiently waiting for the newly planted mixed evergreen hedge to grow)!

So – are there plants with these challenging habits that are worth keeping under control because of their value in the garden? Of course there are! In spring, I love the pulmonaria officianalis growing at the back of our pond – I didn’t plant it and I’m unable to identify its variety, but it spreads quickly and indefinitely over the ground with gnarly dark and dusty stems. However, after flowering, it is easy to regain control if you just leave a few small clumps for the following year – but I mustn’t forget, or the hellebores and anemones planted in the same area will be completely swamped!

Then there’s persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’ This clump has been living around the pond for as long as I can remember – it’s a bit harder to control than the pulmonaria, but so worth it for its spring flowering – and cut back, it will flower again later in the year.

Moving onto rampant self seeders, I love the easy self seeding alchemilla mollis, (it looks fabulous planted with geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw) and hardy geraniums are a stalwart in my garden. But both need to be kept in check and unwanted seedlings removed when tiny or before you know it, there’s an invasion! Although I do love geranium x oxanianum ‘Wargrave pink’, it does pop up everywhere, as does Geranium macrorrhizum, with its strongly perfumed leaves.

To make life a little easier and undoubtedly more colourful, I’ve recently started planting non-seeding geraniums which they have a longer flowering period as an added bonus, ‘Rozanne’ and ‘Patricia’ being favourites.

geranium ‘Rozanne’

I don’t have any confidence in my ability to control my ‘quick results’ impulsiveness because I have such an impatient temperament, but every mistake is a lesson and so I’ll just keep trying!