Survivor Plants, or Pests?

When my wife and I bought Happy Acres, it was populated by a lot of perennial plants that we loved. I’m talking about things like irises, daffodils, sedums and peonies. We soon discovered we had 25 (or more) different varieties of bearded irises, including some lovely older varieties that are hard to find these days.

this solid blue iris came with Happy Acres

this solid blue iris came with Happy Acres

this two-tone iris is one of my favorites

this two-tone iris is one of my favorites

sedums blooming in autumn

sedums blooming in autumn

At the same time, there were a few plants that had been overdone in our opinion. Like hostas, for instance. Mind you, I love hostas, but there were all of two varieties planted, and they were everywhere.We had the variegated Albo-Marginata, and we had Royal Standard. That was it. And, there were dozens of each planted all over the place. No bluish hostas, no golden ones, no big leaf ones – just those two types. We dug up scads of them and gave them away, and we still had too many!

digging up and splitting the Royal Standard hostas

digging up and splitting the Royal Standard hostas

Also, there were Stella de Oro daylillies planted all over the place. I love daylillies but Stella has been overdone in my opinion. In our area, it’s planted everywhere around town, to the exclusion of other interesting varieties. And that was the only daylily planted here. Breeders have come up with hundreds of different daylily varieties, but we only had Stella. In its defense, it is deer resistant, tolerant of shade and drought, compact, and blooms for a couple of months. Which is a good thing, because we still have lots of it!

Stella d'Oro daylily

Stella de Oro daylily

Another plant we had a lot of was a pink flowered primrose (Oenothera speciosa, I believe). It was planted all around our patio behind the house. The patio had to go when we had our screened porch built, so we naively moved some of the primrose to another place. That was when we discovered how invasive it could be. It spreads by runners, and grows just about anywhere. We decided to get rid of it, because of its invasive habits. As it turned out, six years after we moved here, the primrose has persisted. We can’t get rid of it! This patch of it is near where the original deck was situated. It’s growing in pretty much pure river gravel!

pink flowering primrose

pink flowering primrose

In one respect, I have to admire tough plants like the primrose and the Stella daylillies. I’m no big fan of plants that have to be babied and coddled – I’m thinking of things like fuchias, or gardenias. And now I suspect someone will tell me about their prize gardenia they’ve had for 30 years, but every one I ever bought was covered in spider mites about a month after I brought it home. Even hybrid tea roses are too much trouble for my tastes, though I do have friends that grow dozens of varieties of them. Our rose plantings are limited to two R. rugosa types that we are growing for their hips. They also don’t need spraying or pruning, and they have lovely flowers all summer. What’s not to like about that? Rugosa roses are considered invasive in some habitats, but not our area, where they are mostly well behaved.

rugosa fruiting hips

rugosa fruiting hips

Purple Pavement rose blooms

Purple Pavement rose blooms

Another borderline invasive plant I have tried to get rid of is the Jerusalem artichoke. Or should I call it sunchoke, since it is neither from Jerusalem nor is it an artichoke! Whatever you call it, I planted a couple of tubers in one corner of our vegetable garden back in 2008. Then I discovered that while I love the taste of them, my digestive system cannot tolerate them either raw or cooked. So I dug them all up, or so I thought. I’ve dug them up a couple of times, and still they persist! I should have known better, but it didn’t stop me from planting them. Oh well, at least they have cheery yellow blooms this time of year that I can see every time I walk in the garden gate. And the flowers have a scent that reminds me of cocoa. Too bad the tubers don’t taste like chocolate!

sunchokes in bloom

sunchokes in bloom

closeup of sunchoke flowers

closeup of sunchoke flowers

On a positive note, one tough plant we have that is pretty well behaved is astilbe. We got these white flowered plants from our friend Barbara, who helped move them from her place to ours. She had already moved them twice before, from her in-laws in the Northeast to Virginia and then on to Indiana. Despite the fact they were moved in the heat of August, and looked quite hopeless shortly thereafter, they have taken off and thrived ever since. That’s my kind of survivor plant!

these astilbes are survivors

these astilbes are survivors

closeup of astilbe flowering

closeup of astilbe flowering

That’s about it from me on this subject, at least for now. So what about all of you out there. What are your favorite survivor plants, or pesky plants you sort of admire despite their invasive nature? I’d love to hear about them!

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5 Responses to Survivor Plants, or Pests?

  1. Daphne says:

    Hostas may have been overdone, but I still love them. And I hardly consider them pests as they behave nicely. They don’t spread. They don’t self seed obnoxiously. We have a strip along the driveway that really has no soil, is about 12″ wide, and is on the wrong side of the fence so gets no sun. I figured nothing else would grow there. So far it has even killed some hostas, but I have two varieties that have survived so I’m going to split them and plant the whole strip (which isn’t very long) in them. One is a white variegated one and the other green. I wish the blue had survived. Technically it is still alive, but it just isn’t healthy.

    Another one of those survivors is the black-eyed-susan. I love them to death and they are just everywhere. And they do self seed obnoxiously sometimes. I have one anyway. I hope it controls itself.
    Daphne recently posted…Catching UpMy Profile

  2. I have Four O’ Clocks, nasturtiums and Mexican primrose growing rampant in my yard. They self seed and die off during the winter months. I tried at one point to get rid of the Four O’Clocks and gave up. My yard is a study in “Darwinianism.” Anything surviving my miserly watering schedule gets to stay.
    Lou Murray’s Green World recently posted…Two months of harvestsMy Profile

    • Dave says:

      And I have trouble getting nasturtiums to even grow here! I have a friend who lives in MA and she was given a start of some orange trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), which she coddled and babied to get to grow. Here, it’s a noxious weed you can’t get rid of!

  3. Mike R says:

    Most of my flower beds are in the shade and I know that hostas will always grow in them, but I want other plants too. Finding plants that will thrive has been a challenge. A native plant that is very common here is Sassafras which seeds abundantly along the banks of the pond. When I mow the banks once a year it smells like root beer.
    Mike R recently posted…AugustMy Profile

    • Dave says:

      We have sassafras here too, quite a bit of it actually. Our astilbe loves the shade. And the deer seem to leave it alone.

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