Take Five: Plants We Regret

An interesting idea. It was suggested recently by Hoover Boo from her Piece of Eden blog that I create a post about plants we regret having planted. While regret is an emotion I like to move on from, it is worth sharing plants that for any number of reasons did not cut it here at Chickadee Gardens. We all have them, after all; that thug that gives you goosebumps wherever you encounter it. Red flags raise and you immediately share your experience hoping to shift na├»ve gardeners away from the mistake of their lifetime. The thing is, what's problematic for me might be fine for you. Now, I'm not talking invasives, those are a no-no for me, period. I'm talking about plants you wish you had never introduced to your garden. I rarely if ever talk of such plants, choosing to focus on successes and the pretty picture. 

I forget that it is worthwhile to remember mistakes.

I know I'll ruffle some feathers here, but every gardener and every experience differs, so I'll put it out there and present five plants we regret having at Chickadee Gardens.

Crocosmia was here. And there. One of the few plants that was here when we moved in and I see why, i.e., those evil little corms could withstand a nuclear blast. At first I made the mistake of digging it up and moving it around to other blank parts of of the garden our first summer here thinking it was pretty and, well, I like orange. Having so much ground to cover I thought it was a blessing to spread "free" plants around the property.

While I do like many cultivars (such as C. 'Solfatare' in the olive-green foliage in the center), Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora is not on that list (of which I'm sure this is). I regret planting it, or rather moving it, due to its invasive nature. It spreads by corms and seed and in heavy clay soil is a bear to dig out. Three years ago I dug it out wholesale, I thought. It took about three days of massive heavy, wet 30-lb. clumps of corms with soil attached into wheelbarrow-after-wheelbarrow. They were dumped in the chicken yard to decompose into an undignified death with the aid of scratching poultry feet digging for worms. They survived full shade, chicken scratching, no water and not actually being planted as they were just dumped on the ground. At least they have never really bloomed and pose no threat out there so I leave the clumps. 

In their original position, I have been faithfully removing it as they pop up regularly. It is one that will likely always be in the soil, as it had covered large areas of soil by the time we moved here. Also, in order to look decent, it takes much more water than what I'm willing to give it. In fact, it has outright completely turned brown in the height of summer with "regular" summer water. Large brown patches of this, which also become flattened and fall over, in the middle of summer, no, thank you. Bye bye.


Next on my list are Hydrangea macrophylla forms. The only real reason is summer water, if I'm honest. These were on the property when we moved here and FM really loves them so they stay. But every year they require water at least every three days, more in dry August and September. Who the hell has time for that nonsense? Hydrangea serrata, aspera, paniculata and quercifolia species are more forgiving, but all do like some summer water so not ideal for the dry summer climate in which I live.

Very pretty but so much trouble. Is it worth it? This year, despite the fact that they will not bloom if I do so, I'm cutting them back hard in a few weeks just to keep them small and not needing so much water next summer. I know that's blasphemous but the alternative of hundreds of dollars of precious summer water - is it worth it? For us? No, it is not. I haven't decided whether we will remove them altogether. We'll see how this summer goes and re-evaluate.

Nasturtiums are the country cottage quintessential flower, I know. I adore them for they evoke emotional connections to childhood and happy memories. I planted my share of nasturtium seeds around the veggie garden when we first moved here. They have since cross pollinated and there are now dozens of interesting colors and patterns growing here.

Here they are mixing in with pumpkins. Mind you, this is after I pulled out hundreds of seedlings. I am not exaggerating. HUNDREDS! Really.

They go everywhere and while I still find them charming, they have left thousands of seeds in the soil making certain they will be around for decades. I don't think I would mind so much except that they only look good for a couple of weeks then quickly become completely engulfed with black aphids and look terrible from that point on. It's disgusting, but I will likely keep them around here and there as I consider them "aphid traps" - that's the only plant they seem to go after. I guess I'm surprised how incredibly prolific these are, I did not expect such fertility. If I had to do it over again I would likely not add nasturtiums to my garden.

Columbines, rather Aquilegia (probably A. vulgaris), make my teeth grind. One day a well-intentioned friend said, "Hey, Tamara, go pull up some of those seedlings. You'll love them. Help yourself!" - and I took about two plants. Now there are hundreds. I don't even like them, I don't know why I planted them in the first place. They seed everywhere and get powdery mildew. Plus, their evil roots are a pain to dig up. They seem to persist no matter how much I think I have successfully removed them.

Bad, blurry photo which was likely subconscious on my part as I don't want a pretty picture of them. OK, I have a few Aquilegia formosa, our native columbine that I adore. It is a polite seeder with only a couple here and there in the woodland garden. I also have A. 'Black Barlow' which is quite fertile but not as bad as these. Plus, I like the color and form. Forgive me, columbine lovers, I cringe every time I spot new plants in the garden. I'm talking 300' away from where they were first planted. They even grow under my deck. Under. In fact, a friend visiting the garden mentioned that plant as being gorgeous above all others in the garden. An under-the-deck plant. **sigh** I think I cried a little when I heard her say it.

Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' is one I actually dedicated a whole blog post about removing I regretted it so much. It came, a small demure bit of creeping sedum, as an extra on a pass along plant from a friend our first summer here. I thought "Oh, there's that Angelina....kind of pretty, I'll leave it and see what it does."
 It quickly overtook large areas of the labyrinth garden apparently while I was asleep at the wheel. I still, a few years on, find bits hiding among the basal foliage of rudbeckia. This is a sneaky, can't-kill-it sedum that spreads like wildfire in my garden. Also, the color is not my favorite. It looks sunburned. I regret allowing this to spread at all. I'll be paying for this one for a long time.

Honorable mention - Rosmarinus officinalis 'Huntington Carpet' (OK, I know, it's now classified as salvia but I'm not ready). I love this plant, I really do, but I have my doubts as to whether it's really 'Huntington Carpet', which is supposed to be a prostrate form of rosemary. While it does kind of cascade down, if I let it it would get 3' tall, not 3 inches. What I regret is that I planted this and let it get established while it continued to grow in a form I did not want. I wanted a ground cover, a true cascading low growing groundcover to spill over the (obscured) ledge of this part of the garden. I should have taken it out after its first year and replaced it with Arctostaphylos uva-ursi or kinnikinnick. The trouble is the latter is so painfully slow-growing that to do it now would take years for it to catch up to the rosemary and would be smothered in the process. Now I have to take a hedge trimmer to the rosemary every year as my punishment. Live and learn.

So. A variety of plants for a variety of reasons that do not please. OK, let's start the conversation. How about you, what have you regretted planting?

Here are a few runners-up:

- Strawberries - they need to be in containers, not in the ground - trust me.

- If you don't love orange, never ever plant Eschscholzia californica. I happen to love them and they are native wildflowers, so they stay.

- Calendulas are pretty but boy do they multiply by the thousands like California poppies; I love them.

Carex comans, too. I find seedlings of these all over the place, luckily they have almost no root mass so yank out very easily, and I do love them.

Alchemilla mollis is evil - it was here when we moved in and I quickly set about removing it. Seven years on I still find seedlings that are difficult to remove from heavy wet, clay soil. I would like it if it were not so aggressive here, but it's terrible.

- Drumstick alliums seed everywhere but when little are easy to remove from unwanted areas.

Tetrapanax papyrifer is poised to become a forest if I don't watch it. Good thing I love it.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting, we love hearing from you! And thank you for the great blog post ideas, they are wonderful, especially in the middle of winter where I can peruse my library of photographs for future blog posts. Keep them coming!


Comments

  1. I think it's great that you posted this! Important things to know. So helpful... would have even been more helpful five years ago when I first started mucking about in the garden, but hey. ; ) Maybe I would have avoided THREE of the five you've featured! Hehe! Live and learn.... : )

    You know my situation with the hydrangeas; still trying to decide what to do. (I think I'll give them one last year, just to be kind.) My crocosmia hasn't really spread at all... but I'm getting really bored with it so it might go anyway. I actually like columbine and mine haven't spread. But, yeah, the powdery mildew issue. : (

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    1. Thank you Stephen. Live and learn, you hit the nail on the head. That's what this is all about for me - learning.

      Whatever you decide with the hydrangeas, it will be right for you. They are lovely where you have them, but if summers of intense heat persist, well. A lot to consider. Cheers.

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  2. I love these kind of posts because everyone has such different experiences with plants and "plants of regret" is very personal. It's fun and surprising to compare notes! For example, I have been trying to get Angelina Sedum (and Sedum album too which is usually known to also be an aggressive grower) and Drumstick Alliums established, but am having no luck because of rabbits. They eat them to the ground until they weaken and disappear. At my old house in Vancouver where I had a small yard, Labrador Violets were my biggest regret and I've read the only way to get rid of them is to move. Even then, if you bring any plants with you, you will still have them! I've been diligent in removing any tag-alongs I find here, but since this is a significantly larger garden, they may not be as much of a problem anyway. Because of the huge volume of weeds and invasive plants I constantly battle, almost any aggressive ornamental is practically better. But I better be careful with what I say about that, lol! There are lots of plants that I have planted that haven't worked out-- mainly due to critters above & below ground eating them, but they are not regrets, just a learning curve on my part. No matter how much you research a plant, sometimes you just need to to try it and see. But so far, I must admit, don't have any plants I regret planting in this garden. But I'm sure that will change as time goes on since this is such a new garden. Ask me again in a couple years... :-)

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    1. Gina, you are so right. Everyone has different experiences as we can see from the variety of comments here. See, critter damage is a whole other level that can keep plants either under control or sadly from ever coming back. I hadn't even thought of that!

      Labrador violets - that was on my list, I include it now. Yes, you even gave me a few pass along plants and from that soil they were introduced here. At first I thought them charming and maybe you had given them to me intentionally (and I forgot I planted them....) - but after you sounded the alarm I have been eliminating them. They still pop up from time to time, but I think I hopefully got to them in time.

      Your situation is completely different from so many other gardeners, what with so much acreage, that you have a strategy and so far so good. Hooray for that!!

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  3. Our climates are so different. Plants that turned into thugs in your garden, like the Crocosmia and Aquilegia, have stubbornly refused to survive in my garden. But I also have plants I regret. I recently spent considerable effort pulling out Symphyotrichum chilense, a California native that went berserk the one year we had substantial rain, and then looked like crap in years of little rain. While I dug up a large area to remove its creeping rootstalks, I expect I'll be pulling out pieces for years to come. I also regret the Asparagus ferns I inherited with the garden, which are virtually impossible to remove and are routinely spread to new areas by birds. There are others but those 2 are at the top of my list.

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    1. It is so interesting, isn't it, Kris - what rain and sun will do to promote or deter any particular plant from thriving. Thank you for sharing your regrets, even natives can be overly aggressive and cause heartache as you have illustrated. Those aster rootstalks - they do creep.

      Asparagus ferns, see - I don't know that we've ever even seen any growing here in a garden setting as they are houseplants. So interesting! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. My experience is similar to Kris's. Much of what is invasive in your garden would die in our hot summers. In fact, I tried planting Alchemilla mollis several times and it never lived.

    Sedum 'Angelina' survives here, but it's never lush until it gets extra water.

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    1. Aah, the super inferno hot summers you have Gerhard would indeed prohibit so many of our thugs here. Do you have any plants that you regret having planted - either because they spread or for other reasons?

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  5. Same same. I so regret planting any crocosmia in my garden. Especially with my rock mulch, they are impossible to eradicate. As beautiful as they are I am slowly eliminating them — I hope. I haven't had a big problem with sedum Angelina so far, but I can see how it could get out of hand very easily. Another one I wonder about is Delosperma 'Fir Spinner'. It loves to grow and spread, both in Portland and Astoria. I think I can eliminate it pretty easily if I need to, and it makes a great evergreen ground cover. And the deer like to munch on it, so there's that. I have plenty for them to have their way with!

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    1. Crocosmia in general around Oregon seem to love it. I hope your elimination efforts are successful.

      I think the Angelina sedum was just in a super happy sandy site that it loved a little too much. Truth be told it's in one other area that gets a lot of shade and heavy wet clay and it just sits there. A lot has to do with placement.

      Interesting about Delosperma 'Fire Spinner' - I do have that and it spreads but so far has been contained into one fairly small area. I'll watch it, though. Deer like it? Why I am I not surprised?

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  6. Oh yeah, I love this kind of post. I spend my winters pulling out plants I regret. For me #1 is Elaeagnus. Such pretty silvery leaves, fragrant fall flowers for the pollinators. Oh, and inch long thorns. The more you prune it the harder it grows and the whippy canes tangle and climb trees. I will win this war, if I don't get too decrepit for the work. And then there is nigella. I threw some seed around right after I moved here while waiting for other things to grow. It spread over the whole yard and comes up as a green mist in everything I grow. I heard it's hardy to 50 below. I am winning that war too. And yes, the columbine!! Those roots!! I bought an excellent shovel that comes to a point and look forward to eradicating it too. It's really very satisfying. Especially when I'm mad about the news.

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    1. Oh, Barb! Eleagnus, those thorns. Uggg..I had no idea it was so vigorous, good luck with your ongoing battles.

      Nigella is another good one - it is a spreader, making SO MANY seeds. Those roots on the columbine, I'm glad you know what I'm talking about. They just don't want to come out of the soil. Little buggers. Good therapy, digging out columbine. Good luck!! There's a lot of news to be mad about these days so hopefully that's extra fuel for you ;)

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  7. None of the plants you name would be problems in my Nashville garden. In fact, I wish Crocosmia was happier here! Instead, I am hating on the Vincas (major and minor), Ajugas, Allium tuberosum and yes, believe it or not Hellebores! If my back were stronger I would be out there digging them all up as often as I could!

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    1. Hi Gail! That's so interesting. So many plants that you love and can't grow we have issues with here and vice-versa, I'm sure. We have some overlap, though - Vincas I do hate also. They are borderline invasive here (they might be listed as such, actually) - my neighbor has it on his property in the back 40 and it spreads onto our property and is so bad. I get the shivers when I see people plant it, so we have that in common.

      Ajuga - that can totally be a thug. Alliums too can be overly happy and hellebores - I've seen them multiply by the millions in the gardens where I worked and they can become a monoculture if you let them. Thanks for sharing your frustrating plants!! Cheers.

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  8. Bye bye Hydrangea macrophylla! Life is too short to spend it watering those guys! Here's something that I just can't figure out—and don't be jealous. Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' will not take hold in my garden. No matter where I try it, it struggles. I guess I should be happy about that!

    As for what I regret...putting bamboo in stock tanks. I wish I hadn't done it. Also, I did a (kind of) similar post awhile back looking at what I planted that future owners of my garden will curse me for (http://www.thedangergarden.com/2020/03/what-have-you-planted-that-future.html)

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    1. Aaah, excellent post, Loree. And I love the angle you present - what future owners will curse you for. Oh boy, I often wonder what will become of this garden once I'm 6' under.

      Anyhow, I'm glad for you the Angelina isn't a problem. Your cramscaping ways have paid off with your potential thugs! See, every gardener's experience differs.

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  9. Like some here, I have tried keeping Crocosmia going. After our Fling to Portland where there were tons of hummingbirds at Joy Creek Nursery all over the Crocosmia, I wanted it!!Some has come back in my yard, not worried about it becoming a thug.
    I knew better but planted some Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia. Took a good deal of time to pull up. Ajuga is another mentioned above that I have all over, with only myself to blame. I won't even bring up the mountain mint- but the pollinators love it.

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    1. That's so interesting, Janet - that it has behaved for you. What cultivar do you grow? I think a lot of the cultivars do fine and aren't such thugs, it's just the one I have that is the thug for sure.

      Oooh, creeping Jenny - FM calls it "creepy Jenny". We've made that mistake in the old garden. Oy. What a lot of work to get rid of it. Mountain mint - I have that too - and it hasn't done a thing. Isn't that interesting?

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  10. It is always interesting to me to read where people say that their plants spread. I can barely keep them going much less spread. I guess I am cursed because I live in the deep, deep south where it is hot & humid.

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    1. Oh, Sallysmom, surely there are some plants that thrive in the hot and humid? You have my sympathy for sure, that's a difficult combination.

      Anyone have any suggestions for Sallysmom? I have no experience with hot and humid.

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  11. I think my previous comment did not work; trying again in hope this is not a duplicate. Happy the idea provided some blogging fodder. :)

    It seems like there are at least two types of regrettable plants: the ones that are thugs, fugly, or climate mismatched, and the plants that have many virtues, but that we for some reason planted in the exact wrong spot.

    In my garden Pittosporum tenuifolium and variants have long term shown this climate is too dry and the summer too long for them; and a perfectly behaved, serviceable Ligustrum japonicum hedge should have been one made up of the native Rhus integrifolia. The Pittos must come out, but the 30' long, 8' tall hedge will stay--too late to change it now.

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    1. No duplicate, no worries! See what you started, Hoover Boo? I love it! Thanks for stirring up the pot!

      You are right, there are different types of regrettable plants. Your hedge - wowza, yes, that's a beast. Much too late to change now. Sometimes we have to live with what we have. **sigh**

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  12. So interesting to see which plants are unwanted visitors. I have many of them but so far so good here in NE Alabama. The bane of my existence is the wild violets that look so innocent and darling when they bloom. They quickly develop their rhizomes and spread not only that way but also by those little seed pods that hide down next to the dirt and quickly repopulate areas that I cleared a few months before. I don't care if they are in the grass but they really seem to love the garden beds.

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    1. Oh, wow Barbara, I didn't realize violets spread by rhizomes too. Those seed pods - yes! What a nuisance! How quickly those little seeds fly across your garden soil. Uggg...good luck with those and thank you for sharing!

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  13. Ha! One gardener's disaster plant is another's treasure. If I notice a plant is too aggressive I remove it before it becomes a problem. I removed a Japanese wisteria while young (when I saw the neighbor's mature one lifting their fence...). I removed Crocosmia lucifer almost completely keeping just a handful for the humming birds. I grow a smaller variety of crocosmia in shadier conditions and it behaves well. Forget-me-not and Blue star creeper removed entirely. Alstromeria (left by previous owner) can't be eradicated. I remove Carex comans in favor of Carex testacea. Multiple years of effort to remove Acanthus mollie. SCARY. I grow a small clump in dry shade where it doesn't often bloom but it doesn't give my nightmares. Epimedium: I love this plant but some varieties are too vigorous.
    Your Nasturtiums is so pretty: a non-seeding annual in my garden :-D

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    1. Chavliness, it sounds like you are on top of your game! Good for you. A lot of hard work but worth it when you save yourself hours of backbreaking work in the future.

      Oh, Acanthus mollis - yes, that is on many people's "never plant" list, and is one that is nearly impossible to eradicate if you want to (at least around my parts). I have it in the garden and it's fine, so far so good - I mean I want it there. No seedlings yet after 6 years. What kind of Epimediums do you experience trouble with? I'd love to know!

      Want some nasturtium seeds? Hee hee....

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    2. Again, couldn't find a name tag; it may be Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'. Trying to remove some of it to maintain its size is a JOB. In your large garden with ample space it can amazing.

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  14. I would be willing to keep the crocosmia under control because the hummingbirds and I love the flowers so much, but our local deer (who I am convinced are supervillains in disguise) nip every last blossom off almost as soon as it appears. Not worth the fight for floppy foliage and a brief glimpse of red, so they are coming out this year.

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    1. Aah, yes, that is a consideration - gardening with deer! They do like crocosmia, don't they? I am sorry about that, you're right - not worth it - hopefully you have plenty of other goodies for the hummingbirds ;)

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  15. Duly noted! I haven't planted crocosmia yet in Tillamook, and was just rereading Hinkley's Windcliff and his huge regret at letting crocosmia have the run of the place. So now I'm warned off! As far as the LA garden, like Hoov and Kris, it's so difficult to keep stuff going that I don't have any real "regret" plants. I've pulled out some aggressive problem plants years ago, like arundo and feather grass, and others I've pulled like the lemon cypress were too big for a small garden. Right now I've got my sights on the Chinese fringe tree -- huge amount of debris that I won't be able to keep up with daily anymore. And since there's plenty of surrounding trees in the 'hood I'm tempted to replace it with a Bismarckia nobilis palm...

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    1. Oh, that Chinese fringe tree I've heard can be problematic. I was wondering if feather grass has ever been an issue for you. As far as crocosmia - on the Oregon coast they would certainly take over so I'm glad you are on to them ;)

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