In my garden, there are four or five real problem plants. I have other interlopers, but the following natives and non-natives are really bad actors in my leaf-mold enriched soil. Note: most natives can be kept in check if you don’t water much and have lean, sandy soil. My garden’s natural soil is red sand with large pockets of clay. Over the years, I’ve enriched it with Back to Nature cotton burr compost, my own homemade compost and shredded leaves along with various wood bark mulches. My current favorite is shredded pine bark, but it can sometimes be hard to find.
Verbesina alternifolia, yellow ironweed, bought at Bustani Plant Farm years ago. That was a mistake on my part.
Canna ‘Australia’ with autumn clematis–my nemesis.
Our first problem child, ‘er plant, is Verbesina alternifolia, commonly known as wingstem and yellow ironweed. When it blooms in summer, it is beautiful, and pollinators adore it. I do not. This native absolutely loves my garden and all of its resident plants…to death. I’ve ripped and pulled and done everything to get rid of it. Yet, this year, especially, with all of the rain we’ve had, it is trying to take over the lower left bed near my Japanese maple. I will be out there again today trying to convince it to live elsewhere. Why is it such a problem? It has rhizomatous (underground) stems that spread like those of mint. It also spreads by seed. It’s become an utter nuisance in my garden. It’s also a native plant that is great where it has room to spread. My garden is not that place.
Autumn clematis in 2011. Of course it was thriving. It is impossible to kill.
Evil autumn clematis reseeded against the garden’s split rail fence.
I’ve since removed this autumn clematis from the arbor and replaced it with ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ coral honeysuckle.
Early garden mistakes often linger. Autumn clematis, oh autumn clematis, why ever did I plant you? I remember my friend, Katie, looking at the feverish growth of its first year and remarking it might be a future problem. I should have listened. It is a huge problem plant in the garden popping up everywhere. I get it killed in one spot, turn around, and there’s a stem taking off in another. I hate this plant even though wasps adore it. It also smells good in late summer and is a fall bloomer.
Brennan has been replacing split-rail fence around the back garden. Volunteer autumn clematis grows on a portion needing attention. He asked me if he could kill it. I laughed, and said, “Go ahead and try.”
Garlic chives are so pretty and so awful. I’m not even taking a picture of obedient plant because I don’t want to give it the time of day.
Allium tuberosum (garlic chives)
Allium tuberosum, garlic chives, which escaped from my garden and now hangs out about the gate like a forelorn pup.
Another early garden mistake I made was planting garlic chives. I bought them at a small herb show and plunked them into the soil. Well, I am now constantly digging them out. You may think my garden looks good, but I spy with my little eye problem plants galore.
Trust me, even mint, the planting mistake of so many young gardeners is nothing compared to garlic chives. Their roots are six inches deep at least. They bury these tenacious roots into the pockets of clay which hold them like cement. It’s almost awe-inspiring.
Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica. No, I did not plant this beastly plant. Bill loved his mother’s lovely smelling honeysuckle and planted a small sprig before he and I married. We’ve been married 28 years this May 12, and I am still trying to eradicate it. I’ve done nearly everything you can do to it including burning. Yes, burning. No, it’s still alive. I ripped out a ton of it this morning in fact. Not even brush killer will completely eradicate it. It only sets it back a season or so.
Drummond’s aster, Symphyotrichum drummondii. I bought a small plant many years ago, and today, yet again, I was pulling out pieces of it along with its rhizomatous roots. My problem is that this part of the garden is not dry and xeric. In fact, the soil is somewhat clay-like.. One day, when I am old and too tired, this aster will win the fight, but today is not that day my friends.
Mountain mint. I’m never sure which variety, but I call it common mountain mint. The first clue is the word mint. It and Drummond’s aster duke it out in a corner of the garden, and the battle goes back and forth all season with neither side winning. When I turn my back, they establish détente and begin marching together across the rest of the garden. Only my determination stops full garden domination.
These are my problem plants. Oh, I have more like obedient plant and Johnson grass, but I’ve mostly eradicated them. What are the plants in your garden that give you the most trouble?
Climbers were the first roses hit here, and climbing roses define an English garden. I first lost two ‘New Dawn’ roses at the end of the garden as shown above, then two ‘Cl. Old Blush’ roses and now both ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ roses. Earlier, I lost ‘Cl. Pinkie’ to a terribly cold winter with a low of -17F.
In this post, I’ll focus on what to replace your climbers with–if you must. I’ll profile shrubs later.
1. American wisteria. Wisteria macrostachya ‘Blue Moon’ and W. frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ are two favorite replacement plants. I have one of each on two separate arbors, and they are covering things nicely. Don’t confuse these American wisterias with the Chinese and Japanese ones sold each year at the box stores. You don’t want those growing up an arbor because they will take it down like a pro wrestler in the WWE. You and your arbor will never know what happened. Heck, grow one of the Asian wisteria on your house, and it may come down. I kid you not. The American ones, however, are more mannerly, and they also bloom a bit later which is a good thing considering Oklahoma’s propensity for late freezes. These plants will also add some blue-ish purple to your garden too–never a bad thing.
2. American honeysuckles. Again, don’t buy Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, if you see it for sale in the box stores, which I did just last week. Bad Home Depot. Japanese honeysuckle is terribly invasive in the South. I have some from Bill’s grandmother that I can’t get rid of, and I’ve tried everything short of burning down my back deck and log house. So far, my climate is cold enough that Japanese honeysuckle hasn’t spread to other parts of the garden, but it is a nuisance.
Instead, grow one of the pretty pink or red honeysuckles native to the U.S. I have a lovely coral one, and I hear that L. sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ is fab. My honeysuckle is so young I couldn’t find a decent photo. It takes two to three years for these perennial vines to get going so patience is key.
3. Annual vines. Here, you have a lot of choices. However, many of these reseed with abandon so if you plant ‘Grandpa Otts’ morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea, for example, be forewarned. You’ll be pulling seedlings until the end of time. Still, it is beautiful. I. quamoclit, red cypress vine, shown above, is another self-seeding hero or villain, depending upon your point of view. It also comes in a mix with pink and white. I like the red. In this same vein, there’s also I. multifida, cardinal climber. These all attract hummingbirds and bumbles, among other things. If you’re into white gardens or night-feeding moths, you can grow moonflower, I. alba. Note that the flowers close during the day. Cypress vine and morning glories can be noxious weeds in some states, so check with your local invasive plant list before growing. As with most ipomeas, score or soak the seed before sowing for better germination. Soaking is easier.
4. Clematis. There are so many good clematis. I originally began growing them to clamber up roses, but now, I grow many just because I love them. You can plant them at the base of other plants to give their roots some shade. A favorite in my garden this summer is ‘Queen of Holland.’ With deadheading, it bloomed all summer and is continuing to sport lovely blue blooms even into September. This summer was very cool in comparison to most so maybe that is why. Clematis can sometimes be difficult to get started. Just make sure that drip irrigation is near their roots and mulch them. If they get clematis wilt, remove the bad foliage and try again next year. Some varieties are more susceptible to clematis wilt than others. I also like ‘Niobe’, a dark red. ‘John Paul II’ is almost white with dark stamens. ‘Huvi’ is a large purple.
5. Crossvine. Bignonia capreolata, is native to the United States. It resembles trumpet vine, but isn’t invasive like the latter. Native crossvine, shown below in a photo from Cindy at From My Corner of Katy is a pretty thing. Thank you for the photo Cindy! Plus, Fairegarden has a lovely photo of ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine on her blog. I may choose crossvine to replace ‘Cl. Old Blush’, but I haven’t decided yet. It would be an entirely different color palette. One of the hardest things about roses is that many of the heirlooms I grew were pink. Many native plants don’t follow that soft color quotient. It will mean changes.
6. Manettia cordifolia. Also known as firecracker vine, this hot little number is hardy in Zones 6-10. There is a large specimen of it on the fence at Bustani Plant Farm as shown below. I meant to buy it last Saturday when I was there signing books shopping, but got talking to another customer and forgot. Oh well, they will have it again in spring.
7. Hydrangeas. These aren’t vining plants of course, but they are wonderful anchors on either side of an arbor. I don’t have much luck with H. macrophylla. I know many people do, but it’s too hot here, and they need too much water for my garden. I have had splendid luck with H. paniculata ‘Limelight’ and ‘Little Limelight’ along with H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’ and H. quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’, the one oakleaf I’ve been able to grow in the sun. If you want a vining plant behind the hydrangeas, try a clematis. It won’t take over, but will add the height the other plants lack. I know it’s hard to give up romantic roses, but if you must, you can still create romance with other plants too. It just takes some thinking.
8. Passion flower vine, Passiflora incarnata, even the one that is supposed to be perennial, doesn’t always return in the part of Oklahoma where I live, but it is a wonderful plant for a variety of reasons. One, its flowers look like small spaceships. Who wouldn’t like that? It’s the larval and nectar plant for many different butterflies including, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Gulf Fritillary, Zebra Longwing, Crimson-patch longwing, Red-banded hairstreak, Julia butterfly and Mexican butterfly. All good reasons to plant it. Just note that it does reseed and rarely in the same place. The two summers I grew it here on the back deck, it attracted so many Gulf Fritillaries, I was thrilled. In fact, I made a video on why you should plant passion flower starring the butterflies themselves.
9. Japanese hydrangea vine, Schizophragma hydrangeoides, was suggested by my friend, Layanee of Ledge and Gardens. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, it can be slow to establish, but wouldn’t it be pretty on an arbor or wall? In our climate, it would require shade with those big leaves.
10. Coral Vine, Antigonon leptopus, isn’t hardy here so it could be listed in the annual/tropical vines, but after seeing it on several websites, I think it need its own space. So pretty. I might try growing it as a tropical here.
There’s ten plants that you might grow in place of roses that no longer climb. I’d love to hear your thoughts of other things we might plant instead. I’m open to ideas. I’m still considering what to plant for the shrub roses I’ve removed. With some of them, I’m simply leaving the space empty. A few empty spaces will soon be filled with perennials and other self-sowers. I just need to make sure they aren’t more weeds.