Ministry of Controversy

What’s Invasive? Telling People What They Can’t Plant In Their Yards

IMG_2398 My country yard.  So arrest me.

I have very strong ideas about how a civilized society behaves.  A civilized society behaves like Paris, where the mangiest dogs are allowed on the banquettes in finest restaurants on the assumption that everyone, including the pooch, understands how to conduct him- or herself properly.

A civilized society behaves like my urban neighborhood in Saratoga Springs, NY, where the neighbors don’t entirely understand why I have hens, but put up with the squawking and even give me a friendly hello in the morning anyway out of a general spirit of tolerance. 

A civilized society makes the fewest rules possible. If it’s not hurting you, it’s fine for me to do it.  A civilized society is dubious of authority, humorous, and unafraid.

The world of plants is not civilized. I was shocked a few weeks ago, when I wrote about one of the most beautiful moments of my year–the blooming of the flag iris around my pond in the country–only to be called irresponsible for celebrating an invasive plant. Never mind that there is no sign of a problem on my property, though the flag iris have probably been there for 80 years. Never mind that almost all pond plants are potentially invasive, including waterlilies. Is somebody proposing that we do without waterlilies? Because if that is the case, I think I resign.

The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia even includes hemerocallis fulva, the orange roadside daylily, on its list of problems. Hemerocallis fulva is just so graceful, with its long stems and small, cheerful upfacing trumpets, that it makes driving around my part of the world in July a total joy, and I hate driving. 

One of the great delights of a country landscape is the naturalized plants
like these that thrive by themselves and form a piquant bridge between
the wild and the cultivated. But nothing that is not at least a little thuggish naturalizes.  Should our world therefore be nothing but weeds and overbred, super-fussy garden plants?

Naturalized daylilies are easily controlled by mowing if they get out of bounds. I’ve got them everywhere in my yard, and have noticed no spreading whatsoever. This is not purple loosestrife, which when established, simply cannot be pried out of the ground–not in my part of the world, at least. 

Take a look at this list of herbaceous plants reported to be invasive. It includes all kinds of old-fashioned garden plants like hollyhocks, geraniums, several veronicas, lilies of the valley, even several clovers. I don’t know how aruncus dioicus escaped censure, since it’s seeding itself everywhere in my yard. Isn’t every plant that grows easily from seed potentially invasive? 

Maybe you consider this list informative.  To me, it suggests a profound paranoia and lack of trust. It is the product of a culture I don’t want to join.

My feeling is, if it’s invasive in your yard, get rid of it. If it’s not invasive in mine, be quiet.

Here is how the Center for Invasive Species And Ecosystem Health defines the problem: “Invasive species, if left uncontrolled, can and will limit land use now and into the future.”

Exactly right. That control is called gardening. So the problem is not the plants, it’s people who neglect their land. But nobody who is reading this site is neglecting his or her piece of property.

So can’t we just be adult and admit that, as Michael Pollan pointed out in his brilliant first book Second Nature, the battle for an ungardened landscape has already been lost?

We’re not going to restore our pre-Columbian ecosystems, no matter what, for myriad reasons, including the size of our population and all that carbon we’ve been spewing into the air since the Industrial Revolution. The plants that are native to your area may well be struggling because of all the things we’ve already done to our environment, so planting “natives” may well mean planting something native to another ecosystem anyway.

Can’t we instead be as civilized as your average Parisian mutt and stop barking at each other?  Let’s face it, unless you have a staff of half a dozen taking care of your yard, every garden needs at least a few thugs just to take up room and do what they do best, which is add a brutal vitality to the scene.

Posted by on July 16, 2009 at 6:17 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.
Comments are off for this post

95 Responses to “What’s Invasive? Telling People What They Can’t Plant In Their Yards”

  1. JW says:

    A-men. Having bought a 150-year-old house in Syracuse about year ago, we are still discovering what comes up here as we try to organize organic beds the groundhogs won’t eat and fight some ground away from the Japanese knotweed. There are lovely sweet-smelling yellow lilies and pretty purple spiky things whose names I don’t know, being from another part of the country. I want them teased out from the weeds so I can see what they’ll look like given a chance to thrive, not killed off, regardless of whether someone else thinks they should live or not. Is suspect the purple spiky thing might be one of the “invasives” you refer to. Don’t care. It’s pretty, and it grows here, not were I come from.
    Jane

  2. Holly says:

    Uggg. I hate it when there is too much interest in how I do my stuff.

    I have the yellow flag iris and I love it! It does beautifully in my sometimes-under-water-backyard. I also have white loose strife that I keep under control by ripping out what I don’t want.

    and then there is the snow-on-a-mountain. Most people hate it, I have the variegated flavor and although I rip it out freely, I don’t do that everywhere as it makes a pretty border that can be mowed over and comes back.

    I like to grow things that *grow*. I want flowers but I have a wicked bad combination of swamp-behind-my-house and clay soil that discourages some of the less hardy plants. My ground is often soggy and I never ever ever have to water back there. So things like roses that are not considered to be invasive simply rot and look awful.

    I’m with you….leave me alone, I’m not hurting anyone with my choices and who made them the Garden Police anyway?

  3. naomi says:

    Whereas for you yellow flag is not a problem, here in NOLA it took me several months to eradicate (it was pushing out the native irises). And, I’m sure bananas and elephant ears can safely be grown in your yard, while here it took almost almost a year to dig up all those bananas, which weren’t even tasty. The elephant ears, well, I do what I can. Pentas have taken over my lilies but perhaps this year a freeze may come and push them back so the lilies can thrive for a bit. But I’ll never plant Queen Anne’s Lace, nor a few others which I can’t keep to my yard – if a gardener can’t restrict it, don’t grow it.

  4. 'nora says:

    Preach on, sister.

  5. Julia says:

    I’ve found that pretty much everything I grow in my British garden is considered highly invasive and a noxious weed in the USA. Some of my most recent acquisitions include Lygodium japonicum, the climbing fern, Salvinia auriculata, a floating fern, and Saururus cernuus, the lizard’s tail.

    The UK has a very small list of invasive plants that we are not allowed to plant – giant hogweed, giant kelp, Japanese knotweed and Japanese seaweed. Everything else is fair game!

  6. rainymountain says:

    What is invasive in one part of the continent is well-behaved even hard to grow in another. I am in agreement with you about civilised societies, Michele, and about our inability to go back to a pre-columbian landscape. Wherever humans have gone, the most invasive species ever, they have taken plants and seeds with them either by intent or inadvertance.

  7. It’s interesting to me that so many plants are forbidden, but so many chemicals and chemical combinations are not.

  8. El says:

    Frankly, I like all the “invasives” that have escaped as the Ghost of Gardens Past out here in my country plot. Mostly seen in early spring, they’re creeping phlox, blue hyacinth, snowdrops, Dutch iris, bearded iris, some odd tulips…and then ajuga has naturalized in all lawn areas. Considering it’s been 30-odd years since a flower gardener lived here, these things do herald a bit of joy for me, even if they show up in the most un-garden of areas. What’s the alternative? Well, native poison ivy, native creeping charlie, couch grass…

  9. Tatiana says:

    This sounds like an excellent gardening Libertarian manifesto. I only wish more people understood that their boredom and ‘friendly concern’ infringes on their neighbors right to choose. Luckily we’re not overly restricted here, but still – no chickens for us. Not for any valid reason, just an old rule enforced by people who assume the worst.

  10. Eh, invasives out here are apparently more noxious and less pretty. I’d rather try and keep stuff alive that I like than fight through knotweed, cheatgrass and variations on the theme of thistle. But this is the desert, so maybe I shouldn’t be gardening here in the first place.

    Just don’t come crying to me when somebody gives you some beautiful water hyacinth. Pretty and sturdy isn’t always enough in my book. But I’m not talking about irises and daylilies. Very few people are as responsible and sensible as you folks are about this stuff. We’re not living with Parisians, at least not out in my neck of the woods. These are people who think tamarisk is pretty so they’ll plant it in riparian areas to make them look nice. And we will never be able to get rid of it. But it’s so PRETTY. There comes a point, we have to assume some level of responsibility as gardeners and know that not everyone is as sensible as we are. Just go to Oregon and ask about the beautiful English ivy.

  11. Teresa O says:

    I would rather see tiger lilies and chickory coloring the roadside. Instead, the county and residents mow the ditches leaving behind a yellow/brown strip that runs along side roads. I’ve been known to put up signs that say, “DO NOT MOW,” because I find joy in Queen Anne’s lace growing with wild abandon.

  12. trey says:

    I agree with the tone of you article except for one small part.
    “…as civilized as your average Parisian mutt”? I don’t know if things have changed in the 25 years since I was in Paris, but it was quite common to find the “dog ends” of these “civilized” mutt’s all over the streets. People would allow them to do their business, and then just walk away, leaving it for someone else to step on.

    I found it quite shocking, but I suppose it’s not the fault of the dog, but rather the “uncivilized” owner. Maybe things have changed.

  13. A double hurrah for this post! I’ve often had similar thoughts. Poor butterfly bush is now drawing howls that “it’s invasive!” whenever I write about it. For some people, Buddleia davidii may be invasive if it escapes, but should everyone have to dig up all their buddelia bushes for that reason?

    I want to be responsible, but I’m not convinced that orange ditch lilies are a threat to the environment.

  14. David says:

    This was a really unfortunate post; and does a disservice to your readers. Supporting planting invasive plants seems like foolish attempt at justifying your plant selection and naiveté of the effects a gardener can have. Gardeners are responsible for the introduction of many invasive plants in this country that have caused significant ecological damage. In addition, the amount of resources and money for their control is astounding. Instead of trying to convince you, I encourage your readers to look at the many examples of invasive species and their impacts, there are plenty of resource available, from popular books (including two of my favorites, Gardening with a Wild Heart, Bringing Nature Home), to peer reviewed publications, or any number of websites pertaining to invasive plants, and plant and wildlife conservation.

  15. Katie says:

    I think a key to what you were saying might be found in the phrase: “on the assumption that everyone, including the pooch, understands how to conduct him- or herself properly.”
    Sadly, not everyone knows what they are doing. Oriental bittersweet may look lovely but I’ve spent days pulling it out of my dogwoods and shrubs. Why? It’s a tree killer.
    I suggest that folks who want to know more about the hoo-haw on native versus non-native plants read Bringing Nature Home – it’s an eye opener. Unless you think you’d enjoy a butterfly and bird-free world, practice intelligent, thoughtful, considerate gardening. No, there is no gardening police, but you (and we all) will reap what we sow… There, now I’m done ranting….

  16. arythrina says:

    I think you’ve hit on an important subtlety that often gets overlooked: “invasive” is not a categorical distinction: on or off, yes or no. There are degrees of invasiveness, depending on the cultivar, the climate, the gardening methods employed.

    I am, however, happy to see massive lists like the one you label as paranoid. More information is better: I’d rather be too conservative to start and loosen up later than allow a total thug to romp all over my yard without realizing it. Good gardeners should be consulting multiple sources. A truly free society encourages the spread of information – it’s in the diversity of opinions that we slowly hone in on truth.

  17. Susie says:

    I agree with you David. Some of us live in areas where invasive plants can easily go rampant & destroy native ecosystems…..amazing the nurseries still sell them.

  18. Wow. I’m genuinely shocked and appalled by this post, and I don’t think that’s happened to me at Garden Rant in, like, forever. Well, maybe that time Amy dissed houseplants.

    We’re not going to restore our pre-Columbian ecosystems, no matter what, for myriad reasons, including the size of our population and all that carbon we’ve been spewing into the air since the Industrial Revolution.

    Otherwise known as “as long as the noose is around my neck, I may as well jump off the horse” logic.

    Just because you and your readers believe themselves to be responsible gardeners who would not release an invasive into the wild doesn’t mean everybody could be trusted to do so. Also, tastes vary. I happen to think creeping Charlie is pretty, especially when it’s in flower. Can I move in next door and plant my yard full of it? You can trust me. I have a blog! So I am a responsible gardener!

    Perhaps if you were willing to put your money where your mouth is, and agree to pay some percentage of eradication costs for any plant designated invasive that escapes cultivation in your area. Maybe then. But “trust me, I’m a good steward of the environment” isn’t quite enough for me, I think.

    Also, El, FYI, two of your three “native” plants are actually introduced invasives:

    Couch grass (Elytrigia repens) is an invasive species native to most of Europe, Asia and NW Africa.

    Creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is an invasive species native to Europe and SW Asia. If memory serves, it was even deliberately introduced as an ornamental. (You still see it in the houseplant / container gardening books occasionally.)

    But I’m sure the people who brought it here really meant to keep it in check. (They just got really busy, and then one of the kids got really sick, and then there was the fire, and before you know it, whoops, it was everywhere. So, y’know, sorry, but hey: it wasn’t a pristine landscape to begin with, so no real damage done, right?)

  19. Squirrelgardens says:

    WOW…if it isn’t the turf police then its garden police.

    Love the post about chemicals in yards are fine…but watch out for the snow on the mountain.

    I live in the meatball shrub and white rock capital of the world….so no matter the neighbors will complain. Would miss the whining…..NOT.

  20. This is a difficult topic. No, not one of us can save the forest from garlic mustard (remember that post??) or eliminate the beautiful purple loosestrife from the wetland. When I choose to do without a beautiful, but invasive plant, I am sacrificing something for the sake of something larger. I will be perturbed by my neighbor’s refusal to do so.

    Ecology and gardening are not the same, rather obviously I suppose. Ecology regards larger systems and study of plant, mineral, and animal life far greater than what an individual who gardens is typically capable of seeing in their yard.

    Aesthetics are rarely a good reason to dismiss ecological concerns. I like yellow over blue is really not good reasoning when it comes to Flag. Form follows function, but as gardeners we’re often seeking the reverse.

    We can dismiss the state of affairs, look the other way, and get all Individualist on Earth’s ass if we want. Or we can make compromises, ask ourselves what we can live without.

    The vast majority of plants we grow in our gardens are not a threat to healthy plant communities the world over. However, some are, maybe not in our neck of the woods, but as the bird flies and craps.

    Nature doesn’t seem to care much for native or not. The strong will go on, spread. Strength speaks for itself. But one thing we humans should have learned about strength is that it often comes with a price.

    Our self-awareness drives us to deeply consider the changes we have wrought over a short period of time in the Americas.

    I grow weeds from Europe and Asia (dayflower, smartweed). I grow dames rocket, an invasive mustard from Europe/Asia because my wife is emotionally attached to it (although she recently found a suitable alternative), I grow native goldenrods, asters, eupatorium, ferns. I grow roses and lilies, sages and sedum.
    On Weeds:
    http://nycgarden.blogspot.com/2007/10/our-weeds-part-1.html
    On Ranting about Invasives:
    http://nycgarden.blogspot.com/2009/06/my-brain-has-turned-to-kudzu.html
    On Finding Native:
    http://nycgarden.blogspot.com/2008/02/brooklyn-native.html

    No answers.

  21. Michelle says:

    There seems to be an underlying assumption among gardeners that a plant has to be from some far-away land in order to be pretty. And there is another assumption among gardeners that gardening should be free from research and ethical decisions. I am sad – this is the first time a post at garden rant has made me sad.

    Please come learn more about the issues surrounding non-natives and invasive species over at the Wildlife Gardeners forums: http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/index.php?referrerid=139

  22. Joseph Tychonievich says:

    The whole issue of invasive plants has been hyped to a huge degree in a way not supported by science. A few invasive species are demonstrably incredibly destructive, such as kudzu in the southern US, but even the infamous purple loose strife has little evidence to back up its bad image. Hager and McCoy (1998) published a review in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation that concluded: “We traced the history of purple loosestrife and its control in North America and found little scientific evidence consistent with the hypothesis that purple loosestrife has deleterious effects.”
    It is time to be more reasonable and enjoy lovely flowers without guilt.

  23. Deb says:

    Do no harm. Its a doctor’s motto and should be a gardener’s motto also.

  24. Michelle says:

    Also, for those of you who believe you can perpetually contain colonies of invasive plants in your yard: when you lose your job and forclose on your house, will you diligently kill all of the offending plant? And then revisit each year for however long it takes to kill every seedling left behind from those plants?

  25. Deb says:

    There is a great book, “Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants” published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that is available for those who would like to replace their invasive plants with something better.

  26. Deirdre says:

    The invasive lists may be too generic. Things that are invasive in one area may not be invasive elsewhere, but if something is invasive in one’s area, it is selfish and short sighted to plant it saying that one will keep it under control. As El points out, thirty years after the flower gardener is gone, the stuff they planted is still there in her garden. The thugs will outlive the well meaning gardener.
    Yes, there is no going back to pre-columban ecosystems, but an ecosystem of alien species without whatever biological controls that keep them in check in their homeland will mean a great dimunition of the native fauna. For instance, many species of butterflies are dependent on specific host plants for reproduction. When the plants are displaced, the butterflies will disappear.

  27. MrILoveTheAnts says:

    I can’t stand people with your attitude on life. You’re growing plants that undermine the work conservationists and don’t care because the damage being done isn’t happening in your yard.

  28. Town Mouse says:

    In a civilized society, we are considerate. I would not let my dog poop on the sidewalk, and I would not plant things that easily escape into the wild or my neighbor’s garden.

    If the plant can be contained, why not? For example, I have a water lily in a wine barrel, 1/2 mile from flowing water. But otherwise, I’d advise caution. Most importantly, I’d like to see nurseries stop selling highly invasive plants for their region.

    And I hope everyone picks up after their dog (and cat, for that matter).

  29. Michael says:

    What a selfish attitude.

    Yes, it’s your yard, but when your plants escape into the rest of the world, you are responsible.

    What gives you the right to permanently alter the landscape off your property, so that future generations won’t see American plants? Nothing. I hope more invasive plants will be actually banned, not just on a “list” that nobody cares about.

  30. Kristin says:

    I like your message – if it’s not invasive don’t bother it. The creeping charlie though, is a constant struggle in my yard thanks to an unprofessional electric company who did some terrible things between my neighbor’s yard and mine. The orange lilies you talk about – my husband likes them and my mom still calls them “ditch lilies” because that’s where they grow! My husband has this idea of digging up “wildflowers” on the side of the road (I know, bad idea), but I have this feeling that they’ll take over the yard. I’m the only person in my neighborhood who allows clover to grow in my yard – if only people knew that it’s actually good stuff! We also have animals, so we’re careful how we try to eradicate the offending weed.

  31. I’m not sure I would like to use the term “American” plants. This is about something bigger than nations. Ecosystems have their own boundaries, so what are plants’ political attitudes anyway?

    I am interested in watching this conversation. I wonder if people responding would split down the middle or lean one way or the other. My intuition is that people, all told, would lean toward “heck, I’ll grow what I want.”

    But I long for reasoned compromise.

    I sure hope I have not been hoodwinked by many a conservationist over the years, telling me that the forest or wetland is in danger from this or that, as someone has previously suggested.

    Are the native ecosystems in danger or not? Let’s put that science together, because I feel that most of us who garden and are concerned feel they are responding to the science, not just speculation based on visual observation.

  32. Katie says:

    ^ I have that book, and it is great!

    Everything is invasive somewhere.

  33. Oh, sorry. But one more point:

    “So can’t we just be adult and admit that, as Michael Pollan pointed out in his brilliant first book Second Nature, the battle for an ungardened landscape has already been lost?”

    Yes, that statement is right. The battle for an unmanaged landscape has been lost. The answer is MANAGEMENT. That includes pulling plants from parks as well as yards.

  34. Everything is invasive somewhere.

    Oh really? Are you sure about that? Would you care to bet money on it, maybe?

  35. Carole says:

    I am thrilled to see so many comments citing Doug Tallamy’s important book, Bringing Nature Home. This book should be read by every homeowner and gardener because it makes an excellent argument about why native plants are so important to the wildlife species that are so impacted by our actions. See my response to this article here: http://www.conservationgardening.com/cbrown/2009/response-to-whats-invasive-telling-people-what-they-cant-plant-in-their-yards.html

  36. “Protect our right to choose”

    This argument and the comments remind me of another subject that gets people all fired up, on both sides. For me that other subject is black and white. I can’t be swayed to see the other sides opinion. On this one however I do understand. The English Ivy in Oregon was mentioned in an earlier comment. It’s horrible and out of control. The Butterfly Bush seems to be taking over the world in some areas. You can be a responsible gardener but you still have no control over the seeds that birds take away and “plant” elsewhere. I am battling both bindweed and bishops weed on my small urban Portland lot. I hate them and wish I could talk to the person who planted them. On the other hand I am growing Horsetail Rush…known to be horribly invasive (I do have it in a container). There are grey areas on both sides of this topic and hate it when I fall right in the middle unable to fight for either side.

  37. I’m loving this post and the reaction. Speaking from over the pond I’m sure if you could take your grey squirrels back then us English gardeners would happily come over and weed out your ‘invasive’ plants. In the meantime, relax, there are bigger issues out there. After all, you’ve got a lot more space to invade than we have.

  38. Bob Vaiden says:

    I think you need to rethink your post.

    The destruction of native landscapes to invasive aliens is EXTREMELY troublesome, and you have no right to “write off” entire American landscapes because YOU don’t want to be bothered by the responsibility.

    Day Lilies DO cause problems if they are planted in the wild or just let go…we used to have beautiful native Lilies (and Irises, Orchids, Gentians, etc)… almost all gone now, except for what few natural areas remain.

    Dames Rocket is another problem (but, of course, not for those who don’t CARE!). Lilies of the Vallies invade woodlands, and do other plants.

    Destroying what Woods, Prairies, and Wetland we have left is NOT a legacy to leave our children… and I oppose it utterly. YOU may be willing to allow it…I won’t!

    You have an ABSOLUTE responsibility to the land around you. Maybe “jumping on” fancy Flags is a bit misplaced (I was surprised to hear that), and in a garden setting many alien plants do no harm…

    BUT…a CONSTANT problem is the person who moves next to a forest preserve (for the nature!), and then proceeds to introduce every alien nursery plant available, filling the woods with invasives.

    Of course…the thousands of man-hours (and money) required to fight such intrusions are others’ problems… not theirs! Plant and forget…

    I have spent thousands of hours undoing the damage done by others…

    …And if you can’t garden responsibly, then plow it under, plant grass, and mow it. You’ll probably do the least harm that way.

  39. Michele Owens says:

    Bob, how are lawn grasses any less invasive than the rest of this stuff?

  40. Jo Ann says:

    “Also, for those of you who believe you can perpetually contain colonies of invasive plants in your yard: when you lose your job and forclose on your house, will you diligently kill all of the offending plant? And then revisit each year for however long it takes to kill every seedling left behind from those plants?” Michelle

    I find this remark very insensitive …forget the plant issue. Right now me and my husband are working our asses off to keep our home some folks were not so lucky. For those of you who have lost your jobs and your homes I wish you good luck in rebuilding your lives … from one gardener to another I for one will not hold it against you that you did not plan head for your foreclosure and job loss and went ahead and planted that fill in the blank plant. Godbless

  41. Jay says:

    The word now is “opportunistic,” not “invasive.” Everything is invasive now, the word is meaningless by this point. We’re invasive. Humans.

    Thick, impenetrable brush is nature’s way of returning some humus to the soil. Native is better, sure, but what are you going to do by this point? We’ve cut through the forests to make superhighways, creating new ecosystems where the forest no longer exists. To remove non-native plants we must remove ourselves and our traces first.

    Anyway, I like the “let me do my own thing” slant of your post.

  42. Bob Vaiden says:

    Lawn grasses may not be much of an environment, but lawn grasses in most areas don’t do very well without water, fertilizer, and other care. A swath of lawn is not a natural habitat…

    And most people can mow… a lawn may be virtually dead, but it’s not very biologically invasive.

    Personally…I’ve obliterated most of my 1 acre lawn, and I have a fair number of garden plants (as well as about 150 species of native plants)… but I wouldn’t plant invasive aliens (or even some invasive natives! Some are too aggressive (or nasty) for yards).

    A few years ago someone planted teasel just a few blocks from our restored prairie (!!!). Can you IMAGINE a more IRRESPONSIBLE act?

    And then folks complain about native violets in their lawns…

    Sigh… it’s a totally backwards world.

  43. Val says:

    People wouldn’t have to tell each other what to do if nurseries weren’t still selling stuff they have no business selling.
    I got the point of the post–live and let live and all that–but I have to line up with the criticizers, being that I’m facing a lifetime of clipping English Ivy that comes through BOTH of my neighbors’ fences, and I’m allergic to its sap!

  44. mary says:

    Ha! THIS is what I love to see on Gardenrant! Go Michele!

    Gardening with native plants for the sake of encouraging wildlife seems a little like going vegetarian for the sake of animal rights. Vegetarians have to decide whether or not they should eat shrimp and wear leather; and ecologically-minded gardeners have to decide if they should be ripping out plants that can seed around.

    Vegetarianism is an admirable lifestyle, but don’t get all in my face when I wanna tuck into my cheeseburger or seafood salad.

    And I think it’s great if you want to garden with 100% well-behaved native plants, but don’t spew about my “IRRESPONSIBLE ACTS (!!!!)” because I have a patch of orange daylilies in my yard.

    Give me a freakin’ break.

  45. Beth Sethi says:

    Refreshing post. I have a butterfly bush in my yard which my dad keeps telling me I need to get rid of because it’s “invasive.” It’s definitely not invasive in my yard – I cut it back every fall. Still I wonder if birds eat the seeds, fly over the forest and deposit them, only to have native Oregon forest destroyed by my beautiful butterfly bush. For now it’s staying but I do wonder if it’s more invasive than I think, just not in my line of vision.

  46. Old Kim says:

    Who’s gonna be the judge and the jury. I just got kicked out of a trailor park in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Drive 100 miles to have peace and quiet and your surrounded by freaks that have generators to watch TV. Kid sounds are great. What’s up with selfish people like me telling them no generators allowed.

  47. Bob Vaiden says:

    “Still I wonder if birds eat the seeds, fly over the forest and deposit them, only to have native Oregon forest destroyed by my beautiful butterfly bush”

    That apparently is happening in some areas…but I don’t know the spreading mechanism.

    If y’all haven’t read “Noah’s Garden”, I highly recommend it! A major part of the problem is that folks don’t KNOW what they’re missing!

    So much of our landscape has been replaced by “Europe”, that people think Queen Anne’s Lace and Chicory are prairie flowers! They think that Day Lilies are native (and where are Turk’s Cap and Michigan and Canada Lilies, and others?).

    In Chicago, a man rushed out to stop a prescribed burn…he had grown up with the beautiful shrubs in the local forest preserve… Buckthorn!

    It’s the same everywhere…people proclaiming “this is the way it’s always been”… when it’s only been like that the last 100 years or so…

    Can’t remove a destructive dam! (“that lake has always been there!”)

    Remove invasive day lilies from roadsides and prairie? (“destroying beautiful wildflowers”!)

    Remove invasive brush? (“ruining my forest preserve!?)

    Restore milkweeds and other native plants for Monarchs and others? (“Who cares? …never see them anymore anyway!”)

    As Sara Stein wrote, if we don’t “know” Monarchs (or gentians, lobelias (anyone know what our native lobelias look like?), lilies, etc…), then we won’t miss them when they’re gone.

    And most folks already don’t know that they exist…

    A few years ago, I met an old, conservative farmer at a workshop. He was ranting about public land (there shouldn’t be any…a waste of land!).

    I mentioned that our native ecologies needed permanent landscapes…that they were tremendously complex biological machines that required MANY years to interweave and form…

    He said: “you mean them weeds???”

    So… I took him to the prairie for a one hour tour…showed him the towering Compassplants, the Penstemon, the Spiderwort, the Prairie Clovers…and all the diverse complexity of the Tallgrass Prairie.

    The next day I drove him to the local nature center…where he bought almost $100 of wildflower guides. A few months later, he emailed that he was restoring about 3 acres of prairie on his farm.

    You just have to make people aware!

  48. Todd says:

    As said, this is all very complicated.

    The nandina somebody planted on my property years ago is well behaved, but at a nearby nature preserve where people want to see native plants and flowers, guess what seeds the birds drop all over (besides chinese privet)? Nandina.

    Its very difficult to have any place near urban areas
    free from all sorts of invaders that may be well behaved in my yard, and theres probably nothing to be done about it besides killing it where its not wanted, within reason.

  49. donna says:

    I have planted all my thugs in a death match against each other. It’s great fun watching the rue, the mint, and the Mexican primrose fighting it out!

  50. Wow! You’ve opened the proverbial can of worms with this one Michele.

    As usual, some of the comments are hysterical, which appears to be a common response amongst native plant enthusiasts. Maybe we all need to take a deep breath or two.

    Here’s a little Australian story that might bring a bit of perspective on the topic. A year ago I purchased an ornamental grass from my local garden centre, only to find out later that I had been mistakenly sold Mexican Feather Grass. Nassella (syn Stipa) tenuissima is a Class 1 declared weed in my country, which means that it’s illegal to grow, and the biosecurity officers appeared from everywhere once they found out I had it.The plant was removed immediately, the surrounding plants and mulch also removed, and my property was quarantined. To date the quarantine has lasted for 9 months, despite not a single seed germinating.It can continue indefinitely, at the government’s discretion.

    In other parts of the garden I’ve got eucalypts germinating in droves. Many of them are close to the house, and if I let them grow, they’ll have potential to either drop limbs, fall over during a storm, or ignite like a fireball during a dry summer.

    Is anyone appearing at the front gate asking me to remove them? Nope. They’re native plants, and the mere fact that they originate from the same continent I inhabit makes them OK. In fact, I could plant a forest of weedy native plants if I chose, and no one would bat an eyelid.

    Call me cynical, but the whole native versus exotic debate seems to have more to do with nationalistic fervour than it does a genuine concern for the environment.

  51. Kim says:

    Great post, Michele. Interesting comments. THIS is why I read Rant.

  52. JW says:

    Michelle, I certainly wish whoever planted all that knotweed on the best hill for gardening on my lot because they didn’t like their then-neighbor had mada that commitment! But now we’re dealing with it, and I don’t believe a little purple spiky flower or a pretty lily is going to be nearly the horror show that the knotweed has been for us–and will forever be. Be moderate–have sense. Calm down.

  53. JW says:

    (Previous post directed at the Michelle who posted that we should all consider what we must do suppposing we lose our homes and must return regularly to rid the garden of seeds and sprouts, not to original poster.)

  54. Sharon says:

    Here in landlocked Illinois, I had a patch of gorgeous purple loosestrife in my garden, left by prior owners. I loved it and was quite surprised once I did the research on it’s invasiveness to wetlands. Did that make me run outside and rip it out? Of course not. I do see it growing along the rivers and can understand the concern. Still. Speaking as a layperson, ecosystems change, don’t they? And really, how “native” is the landscape in which we live? I’m all for preservation and growing native plants (most of what’s in my sun gardens are coneflowers, russian sage, rudebekias, baptisias and sedums), but come on. Call me selfish, but is growing so called “invasives” in the average home garden really going to end the world as we know it? Let’s find some balance and humility. I live with creeping charlie and violets in my lawn (thanks to a neighbor who cultivates the violets as groundcover – yes, it’s annoying, but it’s *his* yard, after all), and I eradicate the bindweed in my garden. Live and let live.

  55. Curmudgeon Geographer says:

    I’m sympathetic to fighting invasive species. But I think the problem with any of these invasive “lists” is that far too many list plants that are invasive somewhere in the US without telling us where the plant is a problem and where it is known to grow without issue.

    So if I live in the Minnesota, is planting celery really invasive here? I can’t plant spotted dead nettle because it is invasive somewhere else in the U.S.? Or ajuga? Or vinca? Is it possible for a plant to be a groundcover and not be invasive?

    Give me a list of invasive by regional climates, otherwise telling me something is invasive somewhere in some unnamed county in the US is pretty close to meaningless for me.

  56. Bob Vaiden says:

    “Call me cynical, but the whole native versus exotic debate seems to have more to do with nationalistic fervour than it does a genuine concern for the environment.”

    You couldn’t have made a more absurd statement.

    Perhaps you need to do some more reading on the subject?

  57. Curmudgeon,

    I think this is why we have state-wide invasive lists, not nationwide lists. States have their own councils and there are other local organizations that also produce lists.

    I think the best thing is education. If any of us go to a local nature preserve and see our garden plants in the woods or wetland, maybe in large numbers, that will tell us what we should be thinking about limiting in our local ecosystem or garden. If its a problem plant, and you seek out natural areas, you’ll see the problem plants there. But after the ID, the visual, we often need trained people to tell us how it is hurting the ecosystem. Obviously, many are not yet convinced. More work needs to be done.

    Sharon, I think we’ll find the ‘humility’ in recognizing that WE humans cannot easily see all that matters. We cannot easily see the slow step by step changes, only the after-its-too-late changes. We have blind spots. We understand that ecosystems are of value, but we also recognize that HUMAN want and desire is sometimes at odds with a healthy world. WE ARE NOT IN CHECK. A component of this is that we must continually check ourselves, our behavior, our effects! We are out-of-sync, out of balance. It is pathological to have to worry about such things, but it is our world whether we want to consider it or not.

    I understand this, as a hypocrite, as a person who plants, who loves all life, native to regions or not. But I won’t draw a line in the sand over aesthetics, over plant choices. I will do the right thing, ultimately, when it comes time to make these choices. I will make sacrifices because it is important to me to recognize something quite a bit larger than myself, my wants and desires. We’re not talking food here.

    And in the end, I can still plant my roses, sages, sedums, and what not.

  58. Sorry about the italics, me html not so good.

  59. Curmudgeon Geographer says:

    Has anyone collected these statewide lists of invasives? Got some links to share?

  60. sowbug says:

    Oooh, touchy subject, this one.

    I think there’s room for judgement here. If you know what you’re doing, and you know what to watch out for it might be ok to have semi-invasive in your hard. But as an advocate of eco-responsible gardening, I’ve educated more than one neighbor on why a single honeysuckle plant in my yard is a threat to natural habitat around our city: the birds carry the seeds far and wide; on my bike ride into work it’s practically a monoculture of honeysuckle along the bike path. (Honeysuckle is a prime example of why the statement “if it’s invasive in your yard, get rid of it. If it’s not invasive in mine, be quiet” is a little dangerous.)

    Controlling and removing invasives/possible invasives is right inline with Michael Pollan; it’s gardening.

  61. Amen, Michelle! I’m not your side.

  62. chuck b. says:

    Rather utopian and naive, Michele. Of course, you try to be a provocateur. But Paris as a model of civility? Please.

    “Isn’t every plant that grows easily from seed potentially invasive?”

    Potentially? Why the slippery language? You know better.

    Foxglove grows very easily from seed, but if the landscape is not watered, the seedlings will not live to produce more seed. Therefore, not invasive.

    “Potentially”? It depends.

    I feel treated with contempt when someone who has the intellectual capacity to draw out a reasonable argument stops short of doing that and delivers merely polemic instead.

    Thumbs down.

  63. Scott R says:

    native plants help feed and house local critters and help me feel connected to the natural history of where i live. humans have changed the earth indelibly but can think and choose to enrich and diversify or impoverish their localities. nature will make do with what we leave it after we turn off the bulldozer, but it may not look pretty to us in the end. seeking humility in our relationship with nature seems a reasonable and practical idea, and may allow our children to see the next century. not just, “is it pretty”, but “how many other species does it allow to live” might be a good question to ask in choosing the next species to plant. a little more work maybe, but a lot more interesting result. my hope is to see and hear far more in my yard than just the marauding hordes of house sparrows that attend the bird feeder next door. finally, i want to say thanks for all the interesting posts and for the freedom of discussion that we can all share. and thanks to garden rant.

  64. Layanee says:

    Love it when passion fills the air.

  65. mb. says:

    if I read this right your garden is in NY & the plant is listed as invasive by a center in GA. I am guessing the zone difference is a big part of why you are not having trouble.

    I am in the process of cataloging wood specimens collected from all over the world in that last century & often find notes saying invasive for plants I never thought of as invasive (mangoes are a real problem in Ecuador for example) & useful (kudzu is perfectly OKay in Japan) depending on the place but also the time.

  66. Frances says:

    Me too, Layanee. Now I know the Japanese privet that fills my neighborhood and was thought to be the best plant ever when it was planted is invasive and an exotic, as is the Japanese honeysuckle, bush and vine types, but did someone say the violets are natives? There are two sides to this issue. The nearby Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a wildflower preserve, is having quite a time weeding out the non natives to save those who were there first. Or were they there first, who can tell for sure what was there first, and is that the criteria? What is first*, anyway? What if the insects and critters have adapted to the exotics as food sources? Does that happen? And does that make everything okay?
    *(I wanted to add who’s on first, but thought it too light hearted for this serious discussion. )

  67. Bob Vaiden says:

    Frances… Most native plants have been here many millions of years; all the rest have been here at least since the Ice Ages, when they would last have been able to cross to North America.

    However… a vast number of plants have been introduced in the last few hundred years. They do NOT “fit into” the “ecological machine” of North America… AND they came without their predators. Imagine introducing a bunch of random bytes into your computer’s programming… the results will probably be a “crash”.

    Some aliens outcompete native ecologies. Purple Loosestrife completely replaces our native wetlands plants; nothing eats it! It might as well be made of plastic… The result? A vast diversity of plants and animals wiped out in whole areas.

    Many introduced plants CAN be eaten by native species, and many introduced plants don’t represent a problem…but I doubt that any native animal species have yet evolved to adapt to the new species. It takes time…

    Violets certainly are natives… there are MANY species of violets…there may be other species in Europe. However, plants like Milkweeds and Goldenrods are all exclusively native to North America…and there are MANY species of each, of which few people are even aware.

    We have an amazing diversity forming an incredibly complex tapestry…and it’s being ripped apart in many places.

    And it’s happening with OUR plants in other places! If we all are not careful, our children will live in a terribly impoverished world.

  68. Bob plants do not move by land bridges alone. They are designed to disperse themselves in numerous ways. They can move on the wind alone, attached to feathers and fur or riding in digestive tracts. Water and soil movement can take plants to new places. It is often their nature to be hitch hikers and modern man is the ultimate traveler.

    Pandora’s Box was opened when man first emerged out of Africa. The only thing that has changed is the speed of travel. Today plants and animals can hitch hike on airplanes and container ships unknown to us. They can arrive in packages and crates all in the name of free trade. World wide economic collapse and a devastating drop in human populations is about the only thing that is going to prevent a more unitary global environment.

    I lived in Hawaii for 20 years, the extinction capital of the world. Nothing and I mean nothing native was a dominant player in the ecosystems along the coast and up to certain elevations on the volcanoes. Nature proceeded to create new ecosystems with the ingredients it had at a pretty rapid pace. Every year it seemed some new insect arrival to the islands would break out in plague proportions and in a couple of years nature found balance mostly on its own.

    Plants like Japanese Honeysuckle, Chicory and Queen Ann’s Lace have naturalized. They are now part of the ecology. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle.

    Humans may be able to preserve tracts of land held in a state of the past by sustained, direct and involved management. These can act as incubators and nurseries for plant and animal diversity. Nature however is a power far greater than us and once things have changed in the slightest by what ever method, it is usually beyond our control.

  69. It is not the responsible gardeners who I have issues with; it’s those irresponsible birds. The nerve!

    Some responsible gardener nearby has a Ampelpsis brevipedunculata, Porcelain Berry.

    Oh, the purple berries in the fall, with their porcelain finish are, oh so desirable – in someone else’s garden.

    It is also a particular favorite for some wildlife. The honey bees love it making it impossible to remove unless you get up before the bees and the birds like to feed on the berries, as well.

    Then the birds, being birds and all, like to fly around and do their business. Their business drops in other people’s gardens making more of this pretty berry.

    This pretty berry vines and veaves all over the vulking place. In my garden, it is sucking out it’s lifeblood. H.

  70. I think if you install bamboo or other invasive in your home garden that you should have to disclose it to future buyers as a liability and so on down the chain of owners. That way at least they are forewarned – too many groves have gotten away from 3rd generation owners.

  71. George Ball says:

    You got guts, Michelle. Please
    come to Fordhook to see some gardens.

    BTW: Here’s my “thuggish plant” impression:

    “Stellaaa!!!”

  72. Michelle says:

    I apologize, everyone, my comment about foreclosure was in poor taste. There are a lot of good points being made on both sides here.

    Last year I had my heart set on planting bamboo – a very large, running variety. I went so far as to dig the hot-tub sized hole and purchase a weed barrier. What ultimately convinced me to reconsider was that even if I could keep the bamboo safely contained, there is little likelihood that I would still be the owner of my house by the time the bamboo produced seed in twenty or fifty years. Since my property borders on an estuary of the Charles river, I would be responsible for unleashing a devastatingly large, aggressive, and difficult-to-remove plant on protected wetland.

    It still frightens me that it would have been so easy for me to have planted that beautiful time-bomb. I’m still sad that I can’t have exactly the garden that I want, but as a result I have learned about a good many native alternatives, including some native bamboo. And instead of the bamboo, I made a play area for my son that doubles as a wildlife habitat, using a combination of native flowers and cultivated garden herbs. http://thecluelessgardeners.blogspot.com/2009/07/certified-wildlife-habitat.html I don’t think I would have been as happy with bamboo, ultimately, as I am with this!

    I wish that more gardeners would take the time to research the potential threat of what they plant.

  73. Michele Owens says:

    George Ball, welcome! And thank you for the laugh.

    And Christopher C, you are, as always, the complete voice of reason.

  74. It’s such a tightrope: Planting species that are adapted to where you live make sense so that you can minimize watering and other garden chores. But you don’t want them to suddenly take over the place either. Sounds like the best reasoning for natives. But most of us want at least a few things not from the local ecosystem.

  75. ketvalgal says:

    While I am a proud member of the California Native Plant Society, I take a more relaxed view of non-native plants in horticulture than many folks. An indepth look at any invasive or noxious plant list will show plants that are native to the area they cause a problem in (Iris douglasiana, Pinus radiata) as well as plants that are only problems in certain conditions (Iris pseudacorus.)Most plants will spread given the right conditions very few become widespread problems.

    There are certainly problem plants in certain areas that should never be planted. In my area, tamarisk, Arundo donax, bermuda grass are non-native, have high reproductive success and have high dispersal rates in areas with adequate moisture. Plants with low dispersal rates but high local tenacity like yellow flag are not much of a problem.

    My own garden is a mix of natives and exotics that are suitable to my climate. My attitude is that if it can make it over summer with no water and doesn’t swamp the other plants(I’m talkin to you orange clock vine and california poppy) it’s a horticultural gem. A lot of “natives” don’t make the cut. For instance Carpenteria, Iris douglasiana, Trichostema, Heuchera etc, etc have died multiple times for me.

    On the other hand native plant extremists will say that unless the native plants you want to plant were propagated from plants native to your certain microhabitat then, you are contaminating the genome of the “real” native plants. The definition of native plant is entirely relative. At what point do you decide a plant is “exotic”. Yellow bush lupine is “native” south of Marin County but “invasive” to the north of Marin.

    A close reading of the California Invasive Plant List shows that the vast majority of these plants are problems on disturbed areas such as overgrazed lands, road cuts and ditches. The problem is less what gardeners plant than the massive changes in the environment caused by humans. Nature is dynamic. Meadows become forest, ponds become marshes and nature continues on. We changed the conditions and now nature is trying to compensate. What we had is gone. Let’s try to appreciate what we have, like the honeysuckle or the Mexican fan palm that thrive in a harsh urban environment.

  76. Claire Splan says:

    Wow, for a minute there I thought Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo had stopped by to post some of these comments!

    And for all those who are moaning about how if only people would do research before they plant: Forget about it. Never gonna happen. Not everybody who wants a garden is going to become a total plant nerd. So nasty, thuggish plants will get planted. Deal with it. I understand they can become serious problems, particularly in and around waterways, which is why it would be better if we focused our limited resources on containing those problems and stopped trying to turn back the clock and calling it conservation. You can’t conserve something that already no longer exists. Are we going to lose species to invasives? Yes, we most definitely are. And the rate of species extinction is truly alarming. But more of that is the result of habitats lost to human invasion than plant invasion. I’m fairly confident that McMansions have killed off more species in this country than invasive plants.

  77. Prof CS says:

    I maintain an urban garden as well as a rural garden on the north coast of California. I also visit my son regularly on the Big Island of Hawaii. The damage done by invasive plants is PHENOMENONAL in both the Bay Area, the CA North Coast, and in Hawaii. I believe the ecological myopia of some of these posts must be due to the individuals not having an awareness of how one’s garden is but a small “blip” in time – when you die, how do you know that what you planted won’t explode into the neighboring regions as has happened in California and Hawaii?

  78. David Laurance says:

    OK, so I’ve seen plenty of invasive plants in the woods – I’ve worked for the last 2 years to rid my New Jersey yard of garlic mustard, which keeps coming back from neighbors, and I’m losing the battle with English ivy. But Irises? They pretty much stay where you put ‘em, so although some may be native to other continents, it’s hard to get too worried about them.

    Truly invasive plants are a problem. OK, so, follow the link to read about day lilies, and you find out how to identify them but no information about how fast they spread or how they stack up on the scale between irises and purple loosestrife. As the blog post says, we need to be responsible as gardeners. It’s a case of too much data, too little information, and way too much emotional baggage.

  79. Bob Vaiden says:

    Christopher…

    Chicory and Queen Annes Lace are NOT real problems. Amur and Japanese Honeysuckle ARE real problems, and will HAVE to be controlled in some fashion. I don’t find any tree seedlings under honeysuckle groves at all. Hopefully someone is researching this, but it looks to me as if honeysuckle-infested woods will literally disappear eventually. Even Maples don’t seem to sprout well, if at all. Certainly all Oak woods will vanish.

    As for plant migration…that has changed very recently. I quite specifically stated the situation in the past and present. North and South America have had virtually no contact with other areas since (and limited contact then) the last Ice Age ended…

    …which all changed about 400 years ago. You’d have to go back to the formation of Pangaea to find a “similar” situation!

    Aliens have done tremendous damage… they have destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars of western pasture, and clog power plant water intakes.

    Our main hope is preventing future infestations…and instituting biological controls (with all the risk that entails).

    European insects that eat Purple Loosestrife were freed several years ago…

    And…as far as I know… two weevils that exclusively eat Garlic Mustard are now released.

    And fire has some effect on Honeysuckle and “friends”… and perhaps some controlling insect will be found in Asia to “rope in” alien Honeysuckles.

    So we shall see…

  80. Plantanista (Maureen D) says:

    Wow! GardenRant- THIS is why I love you! To see such passion and genuine interest going into this dialog on invasive plants is so energizing!

    This topic shakes out into many, many subcategories, and a thorough and thoughtful examination of the subject would probably require many more GR posts and comments.

    I’ve particularly learned from Bob Vaiden and frank@NYCGarden.

    Many have called for more care in developing lists of invasives for particular geographic regions, backed by science, rather than wholesale exclusion of plants because they are invasive in one particular ecosystem.

    In California, a group of growers, landscape architects and designers, retail nurseries, the California Invasive Plant Council, California Native Plant Society, and others have joined together to prevent the introduction of horticultural invasives into the landscape.

    One result of our efforts, PlantRight.org is a great source for regional, scientifically supported lists of horticultural invasives to avoid in California. Over $80 million is spent in California alone to attempt to control invasive species. We are not talking about eradication, just drawing a line in the sand on the edges of our wildlands and open spaces.

    Consideration of the big-picture results of your choices is a worthy process for any gardener. With PlantRight, we have tried to make it easy and beautiful to make the right plant choices for California.

  81. Bob Vaiden says:

    Well, thank you… I’ve worked with native plants and landscapes for 40 years as a “hobby” (more a passion!:), and act as steward for a prairie, and a woodland\ savanna\ marsh (we just had a Sora arrive at our “brand-new native marsh”…still excited over that!).

    I don’t know how it will all “shake out”. Hopefully we will be able to stabilize our native landscapes…most aliens will probably just be accommodated (like chicory or blue grass), or just die out (a lot of introduced plants just don’t “make it” out there!).

    As for the others…fire, some weeding, education, biological controls… and maybe even evolution will come to our aid in the distant future!

    I suppose it could be hopeless, but the Nature Conservancy doesn’t think so, nor do many other environmental groups and land trusts, our own local “Grand Prairie Friends”, nor do millions of other people, so…

    As long as I’m here… I’ll keep working!

    Speaking of which… It’s a great day to work (and I’ve just retired, and will put in more garden time than ever!), so I’m off to the prairie now…gotta remove some Asian Bush Clover!

  82. Marie says:

    Well said! Thank you, Michele

  83. greg draiss says:

    Michelle:

    I am on your side. If you don’t like what I am growing stay out of my garden. The fact that anyone who moves a single rock in order to build a house can, by these morons, be called invasive.

    Incrementalism has crept into our gardens now!!!!

    Give these eco freaks an inch and they will literally take a “YARD”

    The TROLL

  84. Bob Vaiden says:

    “morons” and “eco-freaks”

    Typically childish name-calling by the ignorant.

    Grow up!

    You sound like the creationists declaring that the Earth is only 6,000 years old… Don’t bother THEM with that nasty science!

  85. Jody says:

    I’ve been pulling up what I call “weeds”….creeping jenny and queen anne’s lace. I love iris since it’s very happy and fuss-free. Where I live, the climate goes from extreme (100*) to extreme (-35*) so I am thrilled when anything pretty wants to grow on my place.

    Jody

  86. Brie says:

    Haha, bravo Bob.

    I’m horrified when I hear a coworker of mine (not a gardener, simply a homeowner) talk about how he doesn’t give a rip if Air Potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) is one of the most invasive and destructive plants in this region, he thinks it looks cool and he just lets it keep going more and more out of control year by year. He should at least eat the damn potatoes it makes.

    I do believe gardeners have a responsibility to choose wisely what they plant paying mind to its ecological impact. Of course we will make mistakes from time to time. The attitude I described above, though, that exists among many non-gardeners is definitely my number one gripe. It’s the same one that says “I’ll throw this can of gas and oil into the woods behind my house. Nobody will know, and at least I don’t have to take it to a disposal facility”.

    Heaven forbid we try to act responsibly in our only environment. How inconvenient and aesthetically offensive. Oh bother.

  87. Humans are the most invasive species on the planet and have caused massive ecosystem failures. We’ve got to eradicate them somehow.

    Seriously, here in Florida we have terrible problems with invasives from hydrilla and water hyacinths to Chinese tallow trees and Brazilian peppers. We’ve spent billions of dollars (both public and private) to lessen their distruction. Our invasive plant lists are by region within the state, but careless nurseries and big box stores still sell these plants, so the gardeners really do have to pay attention. We gardeners are the last hope.

  88. Benjamin says:

    There is no nature left. Maybe someone already said this but I–and likely th enext person–won’t likely read through this mass of comments. If naure no longer exists, we have no choice but to be gardeners, and once we stop being gardeners (or existing), what happens to “nature?” I guess th point is we are at the edge, or over it, when we have no choice but to be gardeners–to research our plants, our landscapes, our soil. That’s maybe too much pressure and hope gets choked out, by kudzu or something.

  89. Benjamin says:

    Bob–religion vs. science is a tired debate, imho. If you take Christianity as the ready example, so much is metaphorical–which doesn’t make it any less powerful for those who believe it is the literal, but even more powerful because metaphors are signs of hope, and hope is real and literal. Metaphor is the most powerful tool to create deep change in humans, which is why the best writing and art move us so much. Science informs and deepens religion, religion informs and deepens science. They are left brain and right brain, left lung and right lung.

  90. Bob Vaiden says:

    “Bob–religion vs. science is a tired debate, imho.”

    Tired, yes… But the debate is often not where you’ve placed it. My view, too, is somewhere near “science tells how; religion attempts to explain why”.

    The problem comes when folks who have fundamentalist views attempt to control the sciences of geology, biology, astronomy. That affects medicine, our ability to obtain resources, etc…

    As a professional geologist, I run into this nonsense at times… (“your conclusions based on years of studies violate Genesis. So you’re wrong… AND you hate God!”)

    One needs to know at least something about the subject… whether we are talking evolution, geology, or ecology!:)

  91. wow. what an asshole.

  92. Bob Vaiden says:

    Mature, thoughtful comment…?

  93. M.B. Allen says:

    Last spring a well-intentioned nature group removed all the “alien invaders” from a stretch of public land on the bay near my friend’s country cottage. Now, because of the soil disturbed in the plant removal, the entire area is choked with mugwort, a horrible non-native which previously had been held in check. The deer can’t eat it and are starving and ravaging everyone’s garden. It would have been much better if they had left well enough alone. True there were a few non-natives but they had reached an equilibrium with the other plants. Now there is a hideous mugwort monoculture.

  94. Nada says:

    Oh, this is why Garden Rant is good!

    On Justin Russell’s comment regarding Australian eucalyptus near houses – considering the increase in major fires in the last 15 years, most, if not all local government areas will allow you to have a clear zone around your house to protect lives and property. In fact, as far as I am aware, most guidelines encourage gardeners to not plant highly combustible plants like eucalyptus close to houses for this reason. Similarly, they allow clearing of existing trees for this reason, particularly if you are in a fire-prone district.

  • Follow Garden Rant

    Follow Me on Pinterest RSS