Have you got some plants growing in your garden that you actually kinda hate? We are not talking full-on weeds here, but flowers, shrubs or even trees that you actually bought and still tend, even though your love-affair with them has long since ended.
We Growbags certainly have, and here are ten with which we have what’s known as a ‘complicated relationship’, though as usual, one sister’s bête noire is another’s sparkly unicorn🦄………
Irises. I know what you’re thinking! How can anyone hate irises! And of course, I don’t really – they are an absolute joy in May, though I don’t much like how the squishy dead flowers drape themselves over the new buds. No, the problem comes later on. They insist on having their manky dried-turd rhizomes getting a baking at the top of the soil, so you can’t plant later-flowering beauties to disguise them. The leaves go brown at the tips, you have dig up the plants every 3 years or so and divide them.… honestly, it’s lucky that they have a great party-frock moment in spring.
Ivy. This is an easier idea to sell. It’s brilliant for an ecologically-aware garden, offering wildlife evergreen shelter, nectar, berries and probably a massage thrown in. But most ivies are SO vigorous, and generally hyper-enthusiastic about pulling down walls or swamping other plants the moment your back is turned. Prune it sternly in mid-spring unless you enjoy the sound of falling masonry.
Euphorbias. Okay, so I might be in ‘sweeping statement’ territory here because there are over 7000 species of Euphorbia in 218 different genera – annuals, perennials, shrubs and even trees. Whoa! I can’t hate them all! And of course I don’t. I grow several of them including E.characias and E.mellifera with its deliciously honey-scented spring flowers. My problem with them is two-fold: they are extremely free with their self-seeding, at least in my garden, and they have a very irritant, very nasty sticky white sap which drips all over the place when you are pruning. Wear gloves or regret it.
Crikey – irises, euphorbias and ivies all teetering on the brink of her room 101 …. Elaine’s not taking any prisoners today is she?
But there are other groups of plants that I also have a love/hate relationship with:
Persicarias. These drive me nuts … in wet summers they want to take over the world but a sniff of a drought and they collapse in a faint on the ground. If it wasn’t for the fact that on the rare occasion that the weather suits them they literally hum with bees they would all be compost by now.
Tree poppies. Here we have another battleground – it literally took 10 years to get a clump established, and then they went VIRAL in the border in one season. They’re being given one last chance on the naughty step with another delinquent, Saponaria, separated from the rest of the well-behaved class by several feet of hoggin and concrete.
Box hedging. Okay, so how much longer are we all going to look at these desiccated skeletons, ravaged by either blight or caterpillars? Yet still we spray the latest miracle cure or pray for the introduction of the box moth equivalent of myxomatosis ….
Finally – snowdrops – there I’ve said it. These pesky interlopers have already been banned from all flower borders, where their dull foliage bed blocks other spring plants for months. It’s no co-incidence that most galanthophiles are peers of the realm with acres of parkland, where their collections of quirky little mutations can happily live out their life cycle in dedicated woodland glades. Back in the real world snowdrops are now banished to the outer reaches of my garden, where they just about earn their keep by being dug up in clumps after Christmas and brought indoors for forcing.
Good Lord, when you’re tired of euphorbias surely you’re tired of life? And how can Laura not love dear little snowdrops? She’ll be coming for your granny next. But before I demonstrate how reasonable I am in comparison, can I quickly add a few of my particular no-nos: busy lizzies (too irritating), pansies (too simpering), bergenias (too fleshy) and fuschias (where to start 😝?).
I also have a problem with Hemerocallis. A clump of strappy foliage taking up room in my beds for ages and sporadically producing something that looks a bit like a courgette flower… for all of one day. Elaine loves them, why?
Whilst I’m feeling audacious, I might add Photinia (‘Red Robin’ to be specific, below and our feature pic this week) and Pieris (‘Forest Flame’, since you ask) look at our feature pic this week). I do have the latter but, apart from the rather muted thrill of their rosy-coloured new leaves, the charm of both shrubs in my view, depends solely on their ability to get bigger every year which I can do myself and it’s not a GOOD THING!
Heathers. These have only two assets in my book. They’re tough and don’t do much unless you count getting unattractively woody and coming in a limited palette. They slightly improve aesthetics when disguising a very ugly area but, oh dear, they’re all too often specifically chosen to accompany dwarf conifers or Cupressus hedges and really, I’d better stop there.
(OK, the heather-clad hills from mid-August here in the Highlands are absolutely glorious – I can’t disagree.)
You’re waiting for the bit where I appear quite reasonable aren’t you? Elaine and Laura say this is more of an aspiration than a prospect, but truly one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, so come on, we really want to know…
What are the plants you love to hate?
NB Elaine spent time at a school helping children plant 800 tree-saplings in collaboration with a local charity. She was impressed with how much the pupils had already learnt about the importance of trees! We have rabbited on about lots of different trees over the years, and she has put together a list of many that we sisters, or our columnist Louise, have discussed, together with the links to the relevant articles. Do have a browse here: Our favourite garden trees
More NB As you know, Laura is the scientific boffin of the sisterhood, and she is a stickler for people writing plant names correctly. She has put an explanation together of what all different bits of a plant’s name mean and you can watch it here: How to name plants correctly
Yes it’s a laurel, but what a laurel! It’s got an Award of Garden Merit and it’s Louise’s Great Plant this Month. Find out why…
More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.