The Lazy Gardener: Five Plants to Avoid

10 May

I’m super excited now that gardening season has finally arrived after a long, cold winter. Everything I know about gardening, I learned from my mother and the School of Hard Knocks (a.k.a. my costly mistakes). My garden will never make the cover of a horticultural magazine, but it looks pretty good compared to some of my neighbour’s gardens.

There are a few rules, however. ALL of my plants are 1) insect resistant 2) easy to maintain and 3) hard to kill. Frankly, I don’t have the time (or the talent) to pamper plants. If they can’t thrive after one season, I move them to another location, and sometimes this works. But if after the next season they still aren’t thriving, I yank them out, throw them on the compost heap or give them away. Heartless, I know, but over the years this system has worked very well for me. Maintaining a good-looking garden still requires a ton of work — feeding, weeding, staking, watering — so why add to your workload with a high maintenance plant? I try to utilize this logic on the people in my life, too, but that’s the subject of  another blog.

If you’re a beginner gardener, or a lazy gardener like me, here are five plants you should AVOID:

spearmintMINT (Mentha viridis) – Look up this herb, and you’ll read that it’s ‘easy to grow, and great for making Mojitos’. HA! Spearmint, peppermint, any kind of mint plant is EXTREMELY INVASIVE. If you have a 100 foot square corner of your garden way in the back that you’re looking to fill, go ahead and plant mint. But if you have limited space, do NOT plant mint. Trust me, it’s NOT WORTH IT! You’ll spend hours ripping its  uncontrollable, unstoppable roots from the rest of your garden. If you are making Mojitos, do yourself a favor: go to the grocery store and buy a few mint leaves. You’ll thank me later.

Lily BeetleLILLIES (Lilium) – Sure, lillies are beautiful. I love the way they look. I even carried Tiger Lillies in my wedding bouquet, I loved them so much. But when I tried to grow them, my entire garden became infested with lily beetles. I tried everything short of DDT to get rid of the damn things, and finally gave up. (Note: I DO grow Day Lillies, which don’t seem to be affected by these insects).

creeping jennyCREEPING JENNY (Lysimachia nummularia) – I planted this great looking ground cover last year, because I loved its yellowish-green hue. I’ve already begun to regret this decision. Like a relative who stays longer than they should or a bossy friend who takes over your kitchen, Creeping Jenny is now marching, not creeping, into the plants next door to it, crowding them out. Although not as invasive as mint, this plant is beginning to overstay its welcome.

mugo pineMUGO PINE (Pinus Mugo) – I inherited two Mugo pines (they came with our house). I liked their general appearance, but being a lazy gardener, I had no idea how to care for them. I found out several years later — after winning one battle with an infestation of Needle Scale, an insect that hatches scaly eggs that suck the juices of the plant — GROSS — that pruning a Mugo Pine requires regular, dedicated, time-consuming attention. You can’t just hack off a few branches here and there. You must prune their ‘candles’ (the new shoots that grow every spring) so they don’t become MONSTER SHRUBS, like ours did. And if you don’t prune them properly, the end result looks like they were attacked by a bonsai pruner on crack.

bishops weedBISHOPS WEED (Gout Weed) — My first clue about this plant should have been the word ‘weed’ in its name, but I was seduced by the varigated nature of its leaves, and I was looking to fill an empty spot in my garden. But it turns out this plant is insidious, and really has no place in an active, virile garden, since it chokes everything in its path. To be fair, this plant has its place in the landscaping world. Some people like it because it’s a ‘nice-looking’ plant for keeping weeds down in areas that won’t be attended to. Another plus? It doesn’t invade your grass (like Creeping Jenny — GRRRR).

There you have it, the top five plants on my hit list. Do you have any you’d like to add? Or perhaps an unpleasant gardening experience you’d like to share?


2 Responses to “The Lazy Gardener: Five Plants to Avoid”

  1. 4amWriter May 10, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    I wish I could think of the name, but there is one plant that spreads like wildfire in my garden and will even grow in the lawn if I go a couple of weeks without mowing. It’s pretty, for a short time, then it’s just green and looks like a weed. I can’t get rid of it. Gosh, I wish I knew the name!!

    I also have wild raspberries that will take over everything in its path if you let it. I love them because of the fruit, but they are thorny and so you can’t just pull them at whim. They also like to wrap around big bushes to climb towards the sun.

    • nancyelauzon May 13, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Sounds familiar, I probably have it in my garden too. The pretty weeds are the worst! I agree about the raspberries, they need to have their own corner, too, or they get very pushy.

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