27 January 2009

Plants We Love to Hate

Our friend Stuart of Gardening Tips n Ideas (and founder of Blotanical) had a delectable rant about a recent encounter with plants he doesn't like. Well, actually he calls them his most hated plants, because Stuart is not one to mince words. His posts, coupled with the recent arrival of assorted catalogues of garden porn, and coupled further with our recent discussions in the blogosphere about signature plants and desert island plants, prompted me to think very carefully about plants I hate. Or dislike heartily. Wouldn't have in the garden or in containers for any reason.

There really aren’t very many of them. But there are a few which set my teeth on edge—in MY garden. I might like them perfectly well in YOUR garden, especially if they give you joy. I’m all about supporting others in their gardening passions, after all. But some of these plants are on my don’t like list because familiarity breeds contempt, and when something is overused (petunias) it will induce a little eye-rolling in me.
So what’s on my bad plant list?
Petunias. Petunias annoy me for a number of reasons. They’re messy, with their sticky, smelly foliage. Many of them need deadheading and fussing with in order to keep them looking great. The striped ones make me cringe. They bore me when I see them in unimaginative white plastic hanging baskets, a profusion of Purple Wave or anemic yellow or red white and blue. If other plants are combined in the container, I like them fine. But if I never see another purple wave type petunia, that would be fine with me. Conversely, I LOVE other members of the same family, including Callibrachoas, which I faithfully put in containers every summer, along with a mixture of other annuals. I didn’t say my likes and dislikes would be necessarily logical, did I?

Cleomes. I have never grown these and never will. The smell of them is the first thing I don’t like. They smell like skunks, and while I happen to like skunks roaming wild (cats, being smarter than dogs, don’t chase or bother skunks, and I don’t mind the skunks aerating the grass in our yard while seeking grubs), I don’t fancy having them living in the house with me. I don't like their flowers, their growth habits, their tepid colours. Blech. So many other plants that are much more interesting. But again, if I saw them in YOUR garden, I'd probably like them. So long as I didn't get too close.

Impatiens. (see photo at top of post) I don’t hate impatiens. I just think they are seriously overused, especially in shade gardens where there are all kinds of other options for flowering plants. I DO like the New Guinea impatiens with colourful foliage, or the newer varieties with different coloured flowers (like yellow). Ironically, I also love the wild jewelweed (touch me not) and even Policeman’s Helmet although it can get weedy, because hummingbirds and other pollinators like them both. And just recently I saw a new-to-me one that cracks me up because of its botanical name (I. niamniamensis). I may need to grow the Congo cockatoo (photo above) because it’s pretty cool.

Most begonias. I have a curious relationship with these gaudy flowers. My father grew them in a rock garden when we lived in St. John’s, Nfld, and I thought they were fantastic back then. And they somewhat resemble other flowers that I do love: roses, camellias, pinks and carnations. But I really dislike them. They have no fragrance, and yes, I know lots of other plants don’t either.

They’re messy, dropping those huge flowers as soggy browning clumps. And the less flashy ones, the wax hybrid? Boooooooorrrrrriiiiiinggggg. The only begonias I do like are the Rex types with their gorgeous foliage and minimal (if any) flowers.

Goutweed. Interestingly, this is the only perennial flowering plant in the list. And hands down, this is a plant I do utterly hate. I’ve waxed on and on and ON about it in the past, have had articles published about my disdain for it and my wars with it. My theory is that when the world ends, due to nuclear holocaust, global warming/freezing/insert disaster here, or whatever, there will be three things still existing on planet Earth. Cockroaches, clumping cat litter, and goutweed. Whether you call it by its botanical name (Aegopodium) or variously bishops-weed, snow-on-the-mountain, goutweed, ground elder, it’s a bad bad bad plant.

It’s not so bad when it’s in its variegated form, where a less-than-full leaf of chlorophyll is kept down to a dull roar. But when it reverts to all green—and it will—it takes the bit in its teeth and goes madly off in all directions. Bad, bad, plant. Have I mentioned that I hate it? Especially since I’ve found it in wooded areas where it’s overrunning native plants and covering great swathes of ground. And my contempt for nurseries that SELL it knows no bounds.

I hope this isn't a negative sounding post, and again, I stress that I'd like all of these plants (except goutweed) in other people's gardens or containers, because obviously others like them or love them and plant them for those reasons. So you can have my share. I didn't touch on shrubs or trees because I think they warrant another post. Not that there are many on that list either.

Now, what's on YOUR list of Not In My Garden plants?


  1. This is a fabulous post! I really enjoyed it, and you have a very dry sense of humour that I adore. Now I can't wait to read more! Cheers! :)

  2. I giggled at the end of your post when you tried not to sound negative. I am sure there are plants on a list of must never have for everyone. I will never forget the day I was showing my MIL the nice edging of alyssum around my knot garden. I thought it looked so elegant and in the round it reminded me of the moon. In other words I just loved the way it looked and she looked at me seriously and said "I hate alyssum it stinks". Ha... You just never know what people will think, or say, about what you might treasure.

  3. Hi Jodi, this is funny and so is Stuart's post, although from his, I really like celosia! From yours, none I care to defend, but the only one I dislike is the old fashioned petunia. As you describe the stickiness, my fingers started twitching trying to get unstuck! The waves are okay, although I do like the callibrachoas so much better. Funny how you and Stuart see those as acceptable, when in a year or two they will be as overdone as the wave petunias are now. Maybe you both just like to buck the older trends in search of the next new thing! HA

  4. I'm with you on most but I DO like begonias. Not a huge annual grower (though do have many favorites) I HATE marigolds, gaillardia and gazania (although some of the new varieties are not so bad). Now that I've shared, I'm sure to loose lots of friends :(

  5. Now there are certainly flowers that I don't like, but impatiens is not one of them! I love how they grow into huge mounds of nonstop color that never needs to be deadheaded. My home faces north, and I keep this part of my yard a bit more formal, so using a single color of impatiens here gives a more formal touch that we like. Now petunias, I hate. Ditto ageratum, snapdragons and begonias. Marigolds are stinky, and only go in my veggie garden.Hostas and heucheras bore me silly, and yet I have them both growing out front. Why? And I once grew a veronica that was quickly torn out, because it just would not stand up and be pretty. Most floppy plants are on my hit list.

  6. I'm with Frances on the Petunias - I HATE sticky fingers! One of my other pet dislikes is the verbena plant; if there were/are aliens, that's what their heads would look like. Yuck!

  7. I agree with MsRobin about impatiens. (Perhaps something in the name Robin?) Although not highly imaginative, they are the only plants I can rely on blooming steadily, profusely and without work all summer on the shady north side of my home. They are humble and perhaps overdone. But there's a reason they are so popular.

    Robin Wedewer

  8. The only flower I don't think you'll ever see in my garden is a rose but I never say never. I love cleome, but I prefer them in the bed away from the house.

  9. Petunias. They are so 60s. I remember when I was a child going with my mom to the nursery where there were tables upon tables of nothing but Petunias. I think I've made my point.
    Other plants I won't have - any thing orange and marigolds. I would say Vinca minor, but it already is in my garden, although I'm trying to do something about that.

  10. There are no 'right' and 'wrong' choices, just our personal tastes. I happen to love alyssum for its sweet scent, but scent like other senses is highly subjective, of course. And Joey, I don't think anyone would stop being friends with you because of not liking certain plants. I'm not crazy about most marigolds except for the fern-leafed ones, which are graceful and not so loud and in-your-face.

  11. Hi Jodi! Long time no blog...good to catch up.
    Carol in Mass

  12. Jodi, I agree with you on the petunias -- I had some beautiful red ones in containers last summer and they got so gangly, I eventually pulled them out and replanted with something else. And yes, I hate their sticky foliage. However, I have seen beautifully arranged beds with petunias cascading over rocks, etc. -- and I do like the great color choices. Impatiens, on the other hand, always does well for me in containers and baskets on my balcony, which only gets partial sun. and I love their bright colors. I can't actually think of a flower or shrub that I positively would NOT plant (other than gout weed!). I'm interested to read everyone's answers, though. :)

  13. Gomphrenas! I loathe their plasticky-ness. Plus the fact that they prickle when touched.

    Strangely, all the plants that you mentioned in your 'out, out, damned pot!' post are hardly ever seen here in Mumbai so I dont think I would mind seeing them in my garden. So let's exchange. You send me all the impatiens and petunias that you see and I'll send you all the vincas and marigolds or whatever else tropical passes your test! ;D

  14. Jodi, reading your post, I kept thinking OMG I grow all of those! And I do except ofr the goutweed.

    it is funny what we like and odn't like in our gardens. I won't grow marigolds. Especially those little orange ones with discolored leaves and that one puny little flower on top. Wax begonias are another that send chills down my spine. But mostly it's trial and error here. Some do well and I appreciate that-those that don't simply don't get a second chance.

    Fun post! Made me smile.

  15. OH ya'll have hurt my feelings so badly about the petunias and I'm faint with grief. I will fix you and just go do my own post about their beauty;) I don't like the ones that fizzle out for sure. I grow petunias on steroids.

    I like Cleome too and begonias. I agree that Cleome smells like skunks. I think tomatoes smell awful but I love to eat them. I love the smell of geraniums---they smell like grandma's house.

    I won't get over this petunia dislike you know. I'll get back. It's on!

  16. Found myself nodding my head in agreement murmuring "yep!", "yep!", "yep!" as I read through each of your choices jodi. Your reasons for not likeing them was well thought out too. I really enjoyed reading this.

    @Frances - you're probably right about the callibrachoas. Sigh!

  17. Made me smile, I too ""hate" goutweed, cleomes, they do stink! and they have thorns, and begonias are just not worth the effort. I might have added horsetail to add to the goutweed section.
    Still love the brightness of impatiens under a large shady tree especially if done in white.
    For me snapdragons in a garden are a waste of time never seem to put on a good show.
    Like all gardeners , some plants appeal more than others that is what is so interesting.

  18. Uh oh....Anna's gonna get me for sure...;-) I should have stressed that I LOVE petunias when Anna gets her hands on them because she does awesome things with container designs. I just don't want any in my yard. And Frances, I think you're probably right about the callies, although because they self-clean their flowers and aren't sticky, they will never annoy like petunias do. (ducks head as flowerpot full of petunias comes flying at me from down in North Carolina....)

  19. LOL, Jodi--remind me to cover up part of my garden if you ever visit:) Like Beckie, I grow most of these except for the goutweed (and I'll be sure not to plant them now!). I don't like "ordinary" petunias, but I do like the double waves and some of the single waves, which have done well in my containers. I've cut back on the impatiens; I agree there are so many other choices for the shade. And the cleome--well, I do love it! Of course, mine is planted far away from the house, and I know better than to try to take a whiff of its scent. It reminds me of an old-fashioned cottage garden. I found a beautiful trailing begonia this year that will definitely be part of a container again. The only plant I can think of right now that I really, really don't like is the wax begonia, and I'm not fond of marigolds either.

    A fun post; I like your tactful way of saying you might like these plants in someone's else's garden:) It just shows how different all our tastes are and how individual our gardens can be. I remember last June posting some photos of my Stella d'Oro lilies and raving about them. Much to my surprise, so many of the commenters didn't feel the same way. I still like them, but they are certainly overused in commercial plantings, and I can see why someone would tire of them.

  20. Very funny post! Sometimes I'm tempted to rant on and on about the plants I dislike, but then I realize that most of them have a good use somewhere. And I'm trying not to turn into a garden snob who thumbs her nose at pretty plants just because they're common. People who spend less of their lives down in the dirt don't get so sick of petunias and the like. And isn't it good they plant something GREEN instead of more gravel? Regards, VW

  21. Great post, and I agree with you about petunias, mostly because when ever I've grown them they end up looking straggly. At a nursery before Christmas they were actually giving punnets of a new variety away, which I stupidly took and planted. They have now been baked and shriveled in the summer heat. Oh well. More natural mulch. My pet hate are standard roses, especially 'iceberg'. There are a plague of standard iceberg roses in Melbourne's suburbs.

  22. Jodi, In the short time I've been reading you I really don't think you could ever post negatively-even though you named most of my favorite plants:) boo hoo! It's okay, all true-even the stinky cleomes. We call them the cats whiskers-or rather the cat pee flower. P.S. I don't grow petunias either. They are a pain!

  23. I just told someone somewhere (!) that I love the whys, where, when and whats of other people's plants and gardens. So you can imagine what fun this post and the comments are for me!

    What do I dislike:
    Petunias... I can't figure out why folks want them, especially in a pot all by themselves.

    Begonias...waxy and unattractive...except, Angel wing begonia in a tropical garden and Begonia grandis. It is never mushy!

    Shrubs...Otto Luken laurels!
    Please enough of them already!

    On the other hand, I don't mind Cleome, but only in white!

    Thanks for asking!

  24. Well, I am with you on the Petunias, Impatiens, and Begonias, dont like them and wouldn't give them garden room - actually I think it is quite a lot of the bright "annual bedding" plants that I am not very keen on.
    Fun post Jodi

  25. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I see you are a cat lover too. Your kitties are adorable. Chloie was always a really feisty cat. Thats what made her so lovable. She always hated other animals. Never wanted anything to do with children either. She was an adults cat. She and our dog Alex got along well but thats due to their long life together. They just always tolerated each other.

    I cant wait to get started on her garden.

    I am enjoying your blog!

    Thanks again

  26. I don't like petunias either, mostly because they are so overused and are rarely paired with other plants around here.

    I do like impatiens, but I've begun to grow tired of the New Guinea hybrids. The African varieties look more interesting.

    And I'm not a fan of begonia flowers either, but I love the rex 'Escargot' variety.

    One plant I see a lot around here and am sick of is the liriope. It's not an ugly plant at all (the flowers are pretty), but it looks terrible when it spreads and takes over large areas. Like petunias, they seem an easy crutch.


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