Five plants I really regret

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

Crocosmia Lucifer and bee

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!

Quickthorn

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

pyracantha

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.

Polemonium

polemonium

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.

Bamboo

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 😉

13 thoughts on “Five plants I really regret

  1. My Bamboo is sunk in a Huge bucket and wouldn’t dare evade anywhere else now, the Crocosmia i have to agree on, i randomly found this growing in the front garden one year and now it is from one side to the other in sporadic locations, very pretty in one location but as you say only flowers for about a week or two and the rest of the time is just twiggy and ugly. the only thing i find with Pyracantha is that it keeps the neighbours at bay, the birds aren’t keen on the berries and neither are the bees (we have snooty bees too down here).
    The other dread i have is the neighbours Ivy which every year invades my conservatory and every year i have to take out all the windows from the conservatory and cut it down and remove any invading tentacles that have attached themselves to the guttering – waiting to see if i have successfully killed it this year, as last year i accidentally dropped a whole pot of root-kill down the side where it grows – shhhh.

    • Hello – good to hear from you! I too could forgive the Pyracantha if it was impaling people other than me – unfortunately I planted it right where I have to stand to trim the neighbouring Leylandii from hell. (Which makes my bamboo social faux-pas seem tame).

      Ivy invasions must be a nightmare – that stuff breaks houses – good look with your guerilla campaign against that lot!!

  2. Well, I don’t think I can condone this kind of negative horticultural talk – I say yes to crocsmia, yes to polemonium, yes to pyracantha, yes to bamb…….( oh ok, perhaps I’ll say no to bamboo ) However I agree with you completely about black hair dye – a horrible month that I do my best to forget.

  3. Thanks for the advice on crocosmia, as I have never grown it but have been enticed by the pretty pictures. There is an area of bamboo that has escaped a couple of houses away – I eye it often, wondering when it will get to me, and how I will keep it from taking over! At least I wasn’t the one that planted it!

    • Ah, clay may be the difference – my light soil is natural mix of sand and pure peat (if I didn’t live in the Highlands it would be a dust bowl, but our copious rain keeps it from drying out). Maybe croscosmia is less evil on clay…

  4. Nice post. I’ve had crocosmia for years. It does spread about, doesn’t it? Butterflies love it. It will finally grow corm on top of corm until they’re right on top and easily pulled. Oh! But those stolons meanwhile have spread it far and wide. Mowing will rid you of it. Mowing will rid one of a lot of things. I put rebar where I don’t want He-who-Mows to wander.

  5. I’m sure we could all easily come up with our own list of regrets, Vicky. The verdict is still out on whether Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ will make my list someday. I think I was vaguely aware that it was a “groundcover-type” geranium when I bought two divisions of it about a decade ago, but I wasn’t prepared for how quickly it spreads in all directions. The funny thing is that, as novice gardeners, we’re so happy when we get a plant that seems so happy to grow in our gardens!

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