28 September, 2022

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Here are plants and weeds you should never add to your garden

The first week of March is when early daffodils such as the February Gold and Tete a Tete begin to bloom, and these dainty dwarf spreaders are just a few of the plants I like to recommend to Western Washington gardeners that enjoy flowers without the fuss.

On the other end of the spectrum are nasty plants you should never add to your garden. So what are the biggest invaders in our local gardens?

Enemy No. 1 and 2: English Ivy and spreading bamboo

English Ivy escapes from gardens to strangle native trees and shrubs and destroy our urban forests and wildlife. (Not to mention that English ivy makes the perfect home for disease-carrying rats.) An English ivy groundcover — even when trimmed — can escape up a tree trunk then begin to flower and make berries. Birds eat the berries and spread the ivy to aid in the hostile takeover of our open spaces.

What to plant instead? To help hold banks and smother weeds, consider cotoneaster Lo-fast or the low-growing junipers. There also smaller-leaved ivies with gold or white variegation in the leaves that make them slower growing than the robust English Ivy. I use one of the dainty variegated ivies on my front garden gazebo for evergreen cover when the blooming clematis go dormant.

Bamboo is for lawyers. This is because lawyers can get rich defending and prosecuting cases where bamboo plants escape via underground roots into neighboring properties, creating bamboo forests that can become wastelands of this fast-growing timber plant.

What to plant instead? The lovely and well-behaved Nandina domestica, or Heavenly Bamboo, is not a true bamboo but it comes in many forms from a deep red foliage called Sienna Sunrise that stays compact to the taller versions that make graceful screens and accent plants. There are also clumping bamboos and some underground barriers that might control invasive bamboos.

Noxious and obnoxious weeds

Sometimes homeowners ignore weedy newcomers such as tansy ragwort, the truly destructive and poisonous Knotweed, the deadly flowering daphne that has been popping up in gardens and certain hollies, lamiums and butterfly bushes that should be avoided or removed from your landscape.

To see images of these bad guys just enter Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board into your search engine. The site will help identify the plants and teach you how to control the invaders.

So what to plant this spring?

Our local nurseries are packed with plenty of well-behaved and improved plants from butterfly and holly shrubs that will not reseed all over to improved hydrangeas that will flower no matter how many late frosts hit our area. There are new and improved perennials and annuals and wonderful groundcovers that know how to stay in their own beds.

If this was the winter of your discontent, make this the spring you add only plants that keep you and the garden well contented.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.