Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The In & Out Game

This post is not about cats wanting in, then wanting out, then wanting in again, but about plants that leap the garden wall. Because we are in the middle of a wild area where numerous animals might be interested in the garden and especially its plants (deer, hares, skunks - their specialty is digging up looking for grubs - groundhogs, etc...) the garden is all fenced in. There is a strong contrast between the inside, where plants face little competition, and the outside where it is the jungle. Not only are there plants that sneak in from the outside - as is to be expected, weeds will  seed themselves in, but, more surprising, are garden plants that move outside the fence to settle, sometimes very successfully among the weeds. I suppose, like William Kent, they "leaped the fence, and saw that all nature was a garden".

A billion buttercups eager to leap the fence and get into the garden

Some of the weeds that get to seed themselves in the garden are sometimes welcome, for instance this OxEye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum). When a plant decides, like this one, to grow just in the perfect spot, it is difficult to get rid of it, even if there are a million of the very same plant just outside the fence.

Chrysanthemum leucanthemum'
An OxEye Daisy that has defiantly settled in

Another example of an intruder is this buttercup (Ranunculus repens) which has been granted a reprieve until it finishes blooming, as it cheers up a rather boring shady border.

(Ranunculus repens)

As I said above, though, what is most surprising is that some garden plants leap into the fields and start prospering even when they have to compete with much more muscled plants. The best case in point is Sweet Williams. There are two patches of it outside the garden. Neither one was planted or seeded, and these patches keep growing from year to year. The flower-heads sport a more modest number of blooms than those of their garden brothers but, on the whole, Sweet Williams "beyond the pale" do better than the ones that are cosseted inside the garden.

Sweet Williams growing outside the garden

A small speedwell has also taken to the wild. We have several cultivars of that plant inside the garden (such as Veronica Waterperry Blue) but none that are exactly this blue. I don't know if one of these cultivars has hybridized on its own or if I simply forget we used to have it in the garden. Anyhow, it has also leaped the fence, and it grows scattered here and there on long stems, rather than clumping on short stems as all the cultivars in the garden do. No doubt the way it grows is explained by the intense competition.

Veronica sp.

My last example of a garden plant that has taken to the wild is a cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum). Inside the garden, the flowers are smaller, but much more numerous, and grow in a dome shape.

Geranium sanguineum in the garden
Even when this plant seeds itself inside the garden boundary, as it does once in a while, it remains similar to the mother plant (actually the two are the same colour - a trick of light makes them look different).

Geranium sanguineum that seeded itself in the garden

However when it seeds itself among buttercups, Queen Anne's Lace and other weeds outside the garden, the blooms are slightly larger, and there are only a few of them growing on tall lanky stems to weave itself through their neighbours to get at the sun.

The same Geranium sanguineum which has moved out of the garden to grow among  weeds where it survives despite fierce competition
At left the bloom of the plant outside the garden and the garden one at right

I supposed the conclusion to be drawn is that even plants do not accept boundaries and will leap the fence whenever they can!


  1. I've never seen cranesbill in a dome! My sprawls all over the place. Maybe the soil is too rich... Some of my plants have wandered next door to settle themselves in my neighbors garden but they don't seem to mind. If I were a plant, I'd move into your garden and never leave. :o)

  2. Interesting post, Alain! I do like the way that Oxeye Daisy is filling that little corner of your garden. I've had some Echinaeas escape beyond the fencing, and then the rabbits eat them down to the soil. Jacks in the Pulpet re-seed everywhere. Usually, I just let them stay.

  3. Fascinating observations Alain, you are fortunate to have such a diverse number of relatively inoffensive plants arriving in your garden, I am somewhat preoccupied with one particular weed at the moment Galium aparine or Cleavers which is mainly being carried in by our garden visitors such as squirrels, cats and badgers, I am almost wishing I had your fencing.

  4. Hello Alain, you might have to careful in that you don't let something escape that could cause havoc. In the UK I'm thinking of Japanese knot weed, which is so difficult to get rid of it's an offence to plant it or let is escape. There's also a water plant that I can't remember (marsh marigold?) that covers ponds and waterways and chokes out everything else.


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