Thursday, May 21, 2015

Saving the World one Garden at a Time!

Saving the World one Garden at a Time!

What Not to Plant!

Lots of plants will overrun your garden-FYI-plant that mint in a container, not in your garden! But here are four of particular concern.  None of them is native to Canada. All of them have the potential to escape from your garden and can outcompete our native plants and reduce biodiversity. Because of these "escapees", many native woodland plants are now highly endangered. Imagine Ontario without Trilliums, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, ferns, trout lilies and Mayapples! Because they don’t nourish any of our native animals, insects or birds, invasive alien plants create "dead zones"-- places where you won't see or hear animals or insects. You can find these villains on lists titled: Most hated plants! Top Ten Most Unwanted! And the saddest thing is they are all available for sale at your local garden centre!

Bullies of the Garden-Don't Plant These!

  • Bishop's Weed/Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) I get lots of people asking how to remove this plant and unfortunately, I don't have good news. It's a challenge to remove as its root system mingles with other plants. If you leave even one small part of the root (rhizome), it will grow back. It's an OK looking plant, but really nothing special, so it surprises me that so many people have it in their gardens...including me! (removal is a work in progress...) 
  • Aegopodium podagraria-trust me, you don't want this plant!
  • Periwinkle (Vinca minor) This is a deadly beauty which has taken over local natural areas. Sure it has pretty blue flowers and glossy foliage, but check out the forested area near Albion Falls in Hamilton, ON and you'll see it carpeting the forest floor. Native trilliums sure can't compete with it and this puts biodiversity at risk. Definitely not cool!
  • Vinca minor-pretty but a villain in disguise
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix) Your dreams of ivy covered walls or fences will turn into a nightmares when you see the brown mess that emerges in spring or when it kills your trees or tears your fence apart! 
    English Ivy winter kill on fence-definitely not attractive...
      English Ivy killing our fence!
  • Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) Sure it looks sweet and innocent but when you consider that it is toxic to dogs and cats and Internet posts say "attempts to contain it may not be successful", you can bet it's more Magneto than Pollyanna. Don't fool yourself, you will not be able to control it!
Image result for lily of the valley
Lily of the Valley
Magneto-you really can't contain either one...

Plant These Instead!


  • Goldwell Veronica has gorgeous delicate golden tipped foliage, bright blue flowers and is attractive all season long. It forms a low tight mat and tolerates heat and drought once established. Clip or mow it after flowering to maintain an especially dense and compact habit. Attractive to butterflies and deer & rabbit resistant. Likes dry soil; divide in autumn. Height 10-15 cm 4-6 inches Spread 30-45 cm 12-18 inches

Goldwell Veronica
  • Amsonia 'Blue Ice' is a selected seedling from A. tabernaemontana which is native to North America. It has blue star like flowers and the leaves turn a golden colour in fall. Plant it in full sun/part shade. It is deer resistant. Give it room to expand rather than trying to divide. Height:  12-16 Inches Spread: 18-24 inches
  • Amsonia 'Blue Ice'
  • Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) or the garden strawberry (Fragaria X ananassa) are super easy to grow and make a nice groundcover which spreads easily. Give them full sun. Some varieties have pink flowers.
  • Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is spring flowering, grows in colourful mounds and comes in a variety of colours. Give it full sun and well drained soil. Easy to divide and transplant.
  • Image result for Phlox subulata
    Phlox subulata
  • Phlox stolonifera ‘Sherwood Purple’ with deep purple-blue flowers is ideal for any moist, shady area. It combines beautifully with spring-flowering bulbs of all kinds; clip immediately after blooming to encourage a dense low habit. Easily divided in early fall.
    Phlox stolonifera under a walnut tree in May
  • Perennial geranium (Geranium maculatum) likes sun to partial shade and dry to moderate sand or clay soil. The small flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds and are deer resistant; summer long blooming; 30-60 cm tallImage result for Geranium maculatum
  • Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) has soft green heart shaped leaves. Don't buy the one with shiny leaves as they are a Chinese species and not native; inconspicuous but beautiful maroon flower; spreads slowly;  part shade to full shade; moist/wet soil; good for rain gardens; drought-tolerant once established; 15-20 cm tall; deer-resistant; Native peoples used the plant for seasoning (like a ginger substitute and for its medicinal properties (digestive problems, coughs, colds)
    Wild Ginger

Vines to climb fences or walls

  • Goldflame Honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrotti) is a native, well behaved vine, evergreen in winter with stunning tubular flowers that bloom late spring to early fall and are a hummingbird magnet. :-) Some varieties are also extremely fragrant! It will grow in full sun to partial shade and likes moist soil. Do NOT buy the Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) which has white and yellow flowers as it is considered invasive.
    The honeysuckle on the right is 2 years old. Photo taken mid May
    Hummingbirds love the bright tubular flowers!
  • Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris) is a gorgeous climber with larger glossy foliage and large white flowers which are attractive to birds, wildlife, and bees. It is slow growing and prefers partial to full shade and moist to well-drained soil. You can easily propagate by ground layering. Simply lay a branch on the ground, cover a few of the woody parts with soil; put a rock or small brick on the covered sections; the plant will grow from the exposed shoots; water well until new plants are established. 
    Climbing hydrangea on a brick wall-stunning!
So that's it. You have a choice-plants that attract birds, butterflies and wildlife-or plants whose best option for removal is to put a For Sale sign in the front of your house. 

The Ontario Invasive Plant Council has a Grow me instead booklet with information about invasive plants and suggestions for alternative plantings.


  1. Great post Claudette. You gave some great alternatives.

    1. Well I believe you are the one to inspire me with those alternatives! Thanks Patty!