In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
October, 2012
Regional Report

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As pretty as it is, forget-me-not is one of the plants I wish I had never planted!

Plants I Love to Hate

When I first started gardening, I was delighted by any plants that grew vigorously. I thought their strong, active growth was a reflection of my gardening skills. It didn't take long to discover I could have too much of a good thing, and my gardening skills had nothing to do with their inherent invasive nature.

I love most plants, except those that refuse to behave. My first experience with spearmint should have served as a warning about any plant in the mint (Lamiaceae) family, but as a gardening novice I didn't quite understand the connection between mint and carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans). Mint is an herb; carpet bugle is a landscape groundcover. I was shocked to learn both spread like wildfire and are nearly impossible to eradicate once established in the garden. Any remnant of the tiniest root left in the ground will happily sprout into a brand new plant. My advice is to do your homework and plant any member of the mint family in a container, not directly in the ground!

If I Could Do It Over Again, I'd Avoid These!
Another plant I wish I had never planted is forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica). Mine has sky-blue flowers and blooms early in the season, before most other plants have begun to show signs of growth. The plants are gorgeous while in bloom but tend to get rangy and full of powdery mildew after the flowers fade. As they die they scatter their seed -- far and wide on the slightest breeze. The seeds also stick to my shoes, gloves, and pants, so as I wander the garden, I inadvertently plant new ones in places I'd rather not have them grow. I no longer try to deadhead these plants. Instead, I pull them out by the roots before they set seeds and immediately place them upside-down in a paper bag to try and capture all the seeds. If I'm not extremely careful, the seeds escape onto the soil and I end up with new colonies of forget-me-nots the following spring.

I loved the bright yellow flowers of a little pot of creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) I found in a nursery a few years ago. I thought it would make a perfect trailing plant for my hanging basket. As the summer progressed it didn't disappoint, sprouting dozens and dozens of trailing stems, each full of brilliant yellow blossoms. It escaped, though, when I took the basket down and set it on my deck to give it a thorough watering and feeding. One of the stems got caught between the boards of the deck and when I picked the basket up to re-hang it, the orphaned stem fell to the ground beneath the deck. Out of sight, out of mind, I'm afraid. I forgot about it until the following spring when creeping buttercup began creeping out from under the deck. There's no easy access beneath the deck -- there's less than eight inches of clearance -- so I'm still cutting and pulling, five years later.

Balfour's touch-me-not (Impatiens balfouri) is another pretty plant that crops up where I least expect it. It grows about 3 feet tall and wide and is covered with beautiful flowers from late spring through the fall months. But the seed pods explode when the seeds are ripe, sending them with great force in all directions. Children love to cup a ripe seed pod in their hand and make it pop. The entertainment value is fleeting, but the scattered seeds have haunted me for years.

I still have some of these misbehaving plants in my landscape, but I've definitely developed a love-hate relationship with them. My advice is to research any new plant you're tempted to buy so you don't end up with surprises all over your landscape.


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