Magazine article Sunset

Runaway Beauties: These Garden Plants Benefit from Corralling. (Garden)

Magazine article Sunset

Runaway Beauties: These Garden Plants Benefit from Corralling. (Garden)

Article excerpt

No sooner are you thrilled that a certain plant is thriving than it pops up unexpectedly where you didn't plant it. Then, before long, it has merrily spread its way through your garden.

Some reproduce themselves easily by seed, thanks to birds and breezes. Others spread aggressively by stolons (stems that creep along the soil surface, taking root and forming new plants at intervals). Eventually stoloniferous plants can choke out or smother their neighbors. Pulling or hoeing them barely fazes the plants; any stolons left in the soil just resprout. The upside to these lovely invaders is that they make good soil binders for slopes, and they grow where nothing else will.

The nursery plants listed on page 103 have aggressive tendencies that can make them nuisances for meticulous gardeners. Encourage the seed-spreaders where you want them, and pull up unwanted ones. You can restrain stolon-types by planting them in raised beds or in soil pockets surrounded by paving. Regularly dig out any unwanted shoots that do appear.

Runaways to watch

Savvy gardeners develop strategies for using runaway beauties to advantage, letting them spread only where they want them. Some plants, however, cannot be safely controlled. In some regions, plants introduced as ornamentals have jumped the garden fence and threaten to crowd out native species or choke waterways. Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), with pretty yellow flowers, and purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria and related species) are examples. A good source for information on invasive plants is the website for the Federal Noxious Weed Program: Native plant societies in many states also maintain lists of problem plants.

RELATED ARTICLE: Seed-spreaders

Forget-me-nots (Myosotis). True to their name, these demure little blue flowers refuse to be forgotten, persisting for years as they self-sow. Easy to pull where you don't want them.

Johnny-jump-up (Viola tricolor). This petite-flowered member of the viola clan is so loved, it's easy to overlook its habit of relentless reseeding. Easy to pull or hoe.

Jupiter's beard (Cenfranthus ruber). Self-sows prolifically thanks to small, dandelion-like parachutes on the seeds. Plant it in fringe areas; cut off old flowering stems to prevent self-seeding. …

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