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?
Labels: Plant rants