Monday, June 16, 2014

Reluctant invaders





My favourite nursery is Grange Hollow, a business run by a mother and daughter team. Not only do they have nice plants, but they are very friendly and always have time to answer questions and give advice. The nursery setting, an old farmstead, is beautiful. Two summers ago I was looking at Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis) growing on the nursery property. They had it for sale, but they warned me it might be invasive. As you know, most nurseries will never tell you that a plant is invasive. They will sell you goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) as a low maintenance ground cover, without telling you that you will probably never be able to get rid of it or that it is likely to take over your whole garden in a matter of weeks.


Blue Star Creeper



I bought the Blue Star Creeper, planted in between the stones in the path and waited for it to take over. It did not do much. In fact, it died the first winter - so much for invasiveness, I thought. However, I bought it again last year, and this time I planted it in a sunnier spot where it seems to be thriving. It has already started to self-seed. I do not mind invasive plants on the paths between the rocks as they actually reduce weeding. This is what I have noticed with creeping speedwell (Veronica repens) and Mazus reptans.  They squeeze between the stones and stop many less agreeable things from getting a foothold. They offer the added bonus of producing flowers for a few weeks. The speedwell blooms first and, as its season ends, it is followed by mazus.
 
Creeping Speedwell above and Mazus reptans below
I am also experimenting with another invader - Kenilworth ivy (Cymbalaria muralis). I have long grown it in shady areas, and it is very easy to control. However it would appear it can put up with a lot more sunshine. I got a new plant last year and thought that it had also died in the winter (another reluctant invader), but I was too hasty. It just came up later than I expected, waiting for warmer days. It even has already self-seeded in one spot. I hope it does the same job as the Blue Star Creeper does  in slightly more shady spots. My theory is that if it can get its roots under the stone, it will survive in sunny spots. 
Kenilworth Ivy

Kenilworth Ivy

19 comments:

  1. Hello Alain : )
    I too appreciate garden staff telling me if something might be invasive. Many times I have had to learn that on my own of course. I also like creeping plants that push out weeds and act as a living mulch for the garden .. if I have to pull some out it isn't a hard task .. creeping gold jenny is one that I use .. and a stone crop that can really run but again I just yank it out if it tends to get too friendly with my other plants.
    These varieties you have are very nice ! .. I bought some erodium reichardii , 3 of them and placed them in patches of the sun strip I have .. those little pink flowers have stolen my heart .. I had erodium before but I too like you should have planted them in the sun for them to survive the winter.
    Live and learn right ? LOL
    Joy : )

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    1. Erodium are lovely. I have had them but they do not last many years here. Like you I pull out Creeping Jenny by the handful. As for stone crops, they are all over the place. However I like them a lot and they are easy to control.

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  2. I do love visiting independent nurseries where I can be certain that the plantspeople will tell it how it is. At least we can then make more educated decisions about our purchases. Blue Star Creeper is a pretty little thing. No wonder you fell for its charms.

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    1. Thank you Sarah for visiting and leaving a comment. Independent nurseries are more rare around here but they are really worth the detour. At this same nursery (Hollow Grange) I was admiring a calendula in the fall, the owner got me a paper bag and gave me some of the ripe seeds at no charge. You go back to such places!

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  3. I have thought of planting Mazus reptans in open spots on my paths. Didn't know about blue star creeper. Does the Veronica take shade?

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    1. I don't think it can take much shade. I have it in full sun. A superb little creeper for shade is Corsican mint (Mentha requienii). It is very low (not higher than the Veronica and prefers shade. Apparently it is the mint they use to make creme de menthe (the liquor). It has a lovely smell.

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  4. The front "garden" is built on a good deal of back fill. I'm finding little plants like these very useful just to take over before the weeds do.

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    1. Many of them are plants that will be weeds in many gardens (see Sue's comment below) but behave well on back fill and poor soil.

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  5. The Kenilworth ivy isn't easily controlled in our garden - I rue the day we planted it. Any tiny piece left grows quickly. I just can't get rid of it.

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    1. I expect we can control it because the soil in the paths is very poor and it is a very dry garden. Actually, I rather doubt Kenilwoth Ivy will do all that well unless it is in a fair bit of shade. The Isotoma though looks like it will be a real winner.

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  6. There are nice persons also in the world. Nice to hear about the nursery lady.

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  7. Hi Alain. Goodness, I thought my garden was a challenge but yours very much more so. It has been fascinating to read about the history of the house and garden, you two don't do things by halves!
    I know what you mean about planting potential invasives in the battle against weeds. I have been doing that too, with things like Persicaria. Maybe I will regret it in a few years but it's more attractive than the alternative - any cleared ground here weeds over almost immediately in our relatively mild wet climate.

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  8. I know just what you mean when planting for ground cover, some of it just doesn't know when to stop! Certain plants I will never be able to get rid off, some should come with a government health warning !

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    1. Sometime they are even plants that come with a recommendation. A friend of mine got a cranesbill that turned out to be terribly invasive. Fortunately, with the years, many invasive plants begin to find their match. For instance garlic mustard now seems to be losing ground in forest floors it had completely swamped a few years back.

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  9. Hi Alain, I always find it funny when I get in plants that are known to be vigorous but in my garden, they sulk, die, or are overwhelmed by surrounding "planting". I managed to do this to a clematis montana, of all plants!

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    1. There are so many variables involved that it is understandable many don't make it. I wish I could grow clematis montana but we are too cold for it (not too cold though for clematis alpina which is just past its prime here).

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  10. Grange Hollow is a nursery I have yet to visit. It is always fun to find a new source for plants.The Blue Star Creeper is pretty and knowing it is invasive gives you the advantage of a head's up. Creeping Speedwell is a personal favourite.

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  11. It is a bit far for you, but if you ever are in the area of Owen Sound, it is worth a visit (the closest village to it is Chatsworth). Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment,

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  12. All your creepers look very pretty. We have a deficit of stones for building paths around here, something I'm enjoying after trying to dig on the escarpment!

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It is always nice to hear from you!