View From The Garden: Invasive, But Beautiful, Plants

Oooh, I do love Lily of the Valley! My grandmother had a large patch on the north side of the house. It seemed to appear overnight. The tiny stalks of white bells with their intoxicating fragrance made the plant magical to me. I imagined that a patch like this was one of the few places a colony of flower fairies could live in Nebraska, considering the extreme weather there. Yes, I still look for the flower fairies. Among the many legends of lily of the valley are those about fairies, blood, Mary standing over her son’s body and St. Leonard’s dragon slaying!

Shortly after buying this house, a next door neighbor with whom I became gardening buddies gave me a few pips. I was thrilled and planted them in the back border. He also gave me some pink ones that I planted in a bed in the front. My husband and I “rescued” a tiny red leafed maple from a tangle across the street and two pips came along in the roots. We planted the tree with its hidden treasure in the front of the house, where it thrived.

The pips have also thrived. They have made a patch twice the size of my grandmother’s and, each year it grows larger and creeps closer to that side of the property. Those planted in the back border have traveled half way across the back of the property, into another large bed in the roots of phlox transplant and down the side under the shrubs. It grows up between the pathway stones. It has moved cobblestones that edge a bed. It grows from the side of a dry laid stone wall. There are several stone edged beds in that corner and I see it wanting to be in them!

My co-worker and I dug it out of the bed where it arrived in the transplant and subsequently took over. Actually, we dug and dug and dug. When we finished, the pile of plant material was huge, and I am watching that bed this spring knowing that if a bit of root was left, it can invade again. The pink one has completely invaded a bed in the front with a dwarf deutzia and ferns. I have removed it from under the cobblestone edging and reset the stones. I weed whack it in mulched pathways.

I realize that as long as there is a piece on my property, it will slowly try to take over. And if it stayed out of the beds, it could take over everything else. I wouldn’t mind. (I do not like lawns.)

Oooh and I really love Macleaya! It’s trying to take over the front of the property. I planted one years ago in the front bed behind the mailbox. In my opinion, it’s a real beauty. It grows 6’ to 8’ tall with olive green leaves and light copper inflorescences. It’s majestic and delicate and shimmers in the breeze. It’s originally from India and China and does look exotic in the garden.

The small trees I planted in the bed with the Macleaya have now grown too tall for its liking and it has moved outside the bed and also into the neighbor’s beds on the other side of the fence. Some years there are fewer shoots than others but this year it is VIGOROUS. Each day when I come home from work, I remove shoots from where they are not wanted. The next day new plants have appeared close by. This will go on for awhile and then the plant stops sending up volunteers and just grows where left alone. If I wanted to discourage it further, I could remove some underground runners, which are easy to pull up in my sandy soil, but since it’s easy to control, I like to see where it goes year by year.

These two plants are favorites of mine. They are both invasive in their ways. They don’t kill the plants with which they grow, but it can be difficult to see the other plants growing with them!

I will live with their habits, as they really are here to stay!


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

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