The View From The Garden: Plants Behaving Badly

It’s time to talk about some badly behaved plants again. They not only behave badly in your landscape or garden, but if they escape, can invade the area at large. I have seen them at several local garden centers which is appropriate: If attended to with ever-diligent care for the duration of their life (!), they can be useful.

I have recently returned to a garden where I worked several years ago. It has had no care for only two years. I explained to the previous owner, when he told me that he wanted the wisteria on the roof, that it was a terrible idea, as the plant would try to “eat” the roof. He insisted so we installed pipes to keep it raised above the roof and made sure that only one tendril occupied each pipe. In the last two years with no care, those tendrils have grown to 3” in diameter, pulled the pipes from the roof and covered it creating too much moisture inside the building. Tendrils from the trunk had grown into the surrounding shrubs and lawn. We removed it and reduced the mother vine considerably to find that the roof must be replaced.

Wisteria is a beautiful plant but do not plant it unless it can be maintained forever by a knowledgeable gardener. It’s easier to maintain in a pot and can be “topiaried” into a striking tree form.

On this property, there are four stands of running-type bamboo. They are each surrounded with a barrier. The newest one, inside a plastic bamboo barrier raised 3” above the soil surface, is the only one that did not escape. The other ones in cement barriers escaped into the lawn and the gardens through tiny cracks they made larger, or by runners growing over the edge of the barrier. In the last two years, the stands have become so dense that they have become unattractive and have also considerably blocked air flow to the gardens and trees.

Another client has bamboo that’s not in a barrier and throws up culms into his entire yard. He must break them off regularly or the yard will become a bamboo stand. Removing bamboo involves large machinery and years of effort.

Bamboo is a beautiful plant. It makes a good hedge, birds love it and it sounds magical in the breeze. But even in a barrier, it must be regularly monitored for escapes and thinned yearly. There are clumping varieties. They are a very different form but are pleasing in their ways.

There’s a trumpet vine growing on a tree that has climbed to the top in two years and will need to be removed. We removed a trumpet vine several years ago that had grown to the top of the chimney and covered the side of a house on another property. I have a client who has one of sentimental value growing on a bannister. If I don’t keep it clipped, it takes over the bannister and the adjoining boardwalk. Sprouts from the ever-running roots appear 30’ away from the mother.

I don’t find trumpet vine a beautiful plant but if in a tree form, it is easier to maintain…with diligent attention.

I recently visited a property where the owner had planted ivy under every tree and shrub on the property in a new planting to avoid seeing soil under them. Very quickly the ivy will grow into the lawn, into the shrubs, potentially covering them, and to the tops of the trees if not regularly pruned, maybe weekly. Ivy covering shrubs will keep out sun and eventually kill them. It will climb trees and can, when it has completely occupied the tree, kill it and/or cause it to fall, especially in wind. It can cover your house creating moisture problems, destroy the surface of the building and provide living spaces for undesirable insects.

There are several lovely and interesting kinds of ivy. They should be used in a situation where they will be maintained consistently…maybe in a pot.

These plants are dangerous to your property, and your neighbor’s and they are difficult to remove.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.

BACK TO House & Home