I wish I’d never allowed these five plants a home
Sure, weeds are a pain. But weeds are something inflicted upon us, through no fault of our own. They are nothing compared to those spectacular great planting mistakes that you have no one to blame for but yourself.
Oh yes, weeds may get you down with their persistence, but they don’t make you feel like a clueless, naive fool every time you go into battle with them. Nor did you spend good money acquiring them.
No, the biggest planting follies in my garden are entirely of my own doing – with more than a little help from the cheery plant catalogues. For their relentless optimistic euphemisms definitely played a role. By time I learned that for ground cover, you must read rampant weed, for fast growing you must read thug and for robust you must read completely indestructible, ever – the damage was long done.
So just as I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that dying my hair black was a really really bad idea (the bath will be ruined and your eyebrows will look weird), these are the tips I would give my less experienced gardening self, should time travel ever allow it.
Younger me, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to plant…
Crocosmia Lucifer - a beautiful thug with world domination on its mind
Oh crocosmia, how deceptive your apparently fragile charms. How splendid your red flowers. No wonder my early visions of the garden featured bold rifts of sparkling scarlet. And yet how soon you abused my generous hospitality. Like a particularly socio-pathic house guest from hell, once I realised just how comfortable you were going to make yourself, the battle was already lost.
My fight with this plant is well documented in this blog (and has already resumed for 2012). Yet despite repeated weekends on my hands and knees, several broken spades, bleeding hands and bucket after bucket of rock hard giant corms, these thugs are going nowhere.
And the things they never tell you about this plant – yes the flowers are pretty for about a week. Then the leaves turn to brown scrappy strings – and the corms get so huge and dense so quickly you can forget about planting anything else in the same space.
“Don’t plant it at all, ever” says my time travelling self!
Sigh, no one at all to blame but myself on this one. Afterall, the clue was clearly in the name. Quick – oh yes. Thorn – too bloody right! This plant does make a good hedge, so it is not completely evil like Crocosmia. It keeps out predators, and although I haven’t tested it, I’m sure if you have a problem with roaming grizzly bears, elk or maybe even elephants, this will surely keep them at bay.
Unfortunately it doesn’t just prick you with its thorns, it violently stabs you. And because it is so quick (yes, I know, its in the name…) it needs regular pruning so chances of being stabbed are high and its alleged flowers and berries never appear. I’ve had to give up composting the prunings and now burn them in situ for my own physical safety.
It is far too thorny to even think about removing – but boy I wish I’d picked the beech or hornbeam for my hedge!
Time travelling Vicky says “it’s cheap for a reason!”
Pyracantha – yellow berries
The flowers and berries don't offset the serious thorn power
It has never lived up to its promise of appealing to the birds – they refuse to touch its yellow berries – and even the bees are snooty about it, much preferring the horribly stinky cotoneaster which flows around the same time.
All this plant is good for is growing quickly, some pretty berries and savage thorns – not a particularly unique niche, and one filled by other more agreeable shrubs in my view.
At least so far it hasn’t been that hard to remove (at least if you exclude all the bleeding).
“The birds avoid these and so should you!” is the back through time advice on this one.
Lovely in isolation - shame they don't stay that way
These blue and white flowering plants are like those hapless teenagers who advertise their party on Facebook. You love them in isolation but that feeling is hard to maintain when 200 thuggish friends are rampaging through the garden. You wish they’d just learn to behave responsibly.
Vigorous, self seeding, shady loving, hardy, prone to flopping over in wind and rain (which we have on the odd occasion here in Scotland) – they also have the annoying habit of going straggly after flowering and seem to deliberately harbour colonies of couch grass in their roots.
I don’t remove all of them – the bees love them and they are pretty – but I do regularly have to purge great swathes from the borders as they soon choke everything else. But at least they don’t have thorns, poison or rock hard corms…
“If you must use these (really wouldn’t delphiniums be so much nicer?) keep them at the back of the border and don’t let them get out of control. Good luck with that!” says my wiser time travelling self.
I can only apologise unreservedly to my entire neighbourhood for introducing this one. Especially as it prefers my neighbours’ gardens to its own and is making a full on invasion along the street.
A fine yellow stemmed plant – and a real bargain at that! Poor innocent me! I now know that I did everything wrong when planting this (I didn’t contain the roots, I planted it far too close to the fence). Unfortunately it’s way too late. Sorry about that… The canes are useful though, right?
My time travelling self says “seriously, don’t plant this – you may have to move, in shame.”
So there’s my top five! Periwinkle, lily of the valley, marjoram, epimedium, red dogwood, achillea – count yourself lucky you didn’t make the list too. Only your usefulness and charms make the pain of keeping you at bay worthwhile!
And if by chance you’re still thinking of planting Crocosmia Lucifer – I beg you, don’t do it ;-)