Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Planting Weeds

While looking for gardening books on the web recently, I discovered this one.

The blurb says it identifies the 100 most common gardening mistakes and helps gardeners prevent or fix them. The book's 24 chapters apparently tackle every kind of gardening disaster.…. They boast “This accessible guide will transform an anxious gardener into an informed, confident, successful gardener with a mistake-free garden.”

I haven’t read the book, but it got me thinking – who has a mistake-free garden? Certainly not me.

One mistake I make sometimes is planting weeds.

I don’t mean that I plant nut grass, cobblers pegs or bindies. They can get into the garden without any help from me.What I do mean is that I have many times planted the wrong plant in the wrong place -- something that seems like a good idea at the time then later I regret. Does that make them weeds?

One plant I wish I’d never planted is Alternanthera brasiliana 'Ruby'. We call it red stuff. This is has turned out to be nasty evil plant.

If cut back every few weeks it forms an attractive border but it's very fast growing. It currently is overdue to be pruned.
The problem is that when you prune this thing every little piece that gets left on the ground will shoot into a new plant. It also sends out long runners and where they touch the ground they become new plants. I dig it out, but if a small piece of root is left in the garden, it becomes a new plant. 
I thought it looked so nice when I first planted it.

Alternanthera brasiliana 'Ruby' as a trimmed border

If a weed is simply a plant growing where you don’t want it to grow, some of my weeds are as big as trees – Actually they are trees. We have trees that have self-seeded from birds dropping seed. Most we remove as soon as we spot them. A couple we decided should stay and a couple John says can wait until after he retires. In the photo above there's a jacaranda that self-seeded. It will probably need to go.

 Many of my planting mistakes are simply the wrong plant in the wrong place (in shade instead of sun for instance). That is easily rectified. I just dig them out and move them. In my opinion they become weeds when they won't take no for an answer and I can't get rid of them or they're invasive.

Calathea zebrina is another nasty in my garden. It looks lovely doesn't it?
That's how it fooled me. This is a patch I "weeded" not too long ago and it has come back with a vengeance. Most calatheas are perfect for my garden. They have attractive interesting foliage, stay in neat clumps or form an attractive groundcover and grow well in shade. This one will grow anywhere, has hairy stems that make you itchy and will spread to engulf everything in it's path. It has a vigorous root system and if even a small piece of its root is left in the ground it will regrow. A true weed.

Have other people had things they wished they'd never planted or is it just me?

You would think by now I'd know which plants are best for my garden and which aren't.  More often than I care to remember I’ve been seduced by a good-looking plant and brought it home even though it wasn’t right for my garden. I still do it… I see a plant... I fall in love..... until it dies or becomes a nuisance… a weed.

My mother told me "You never know a man until you live with him so choose carefully"
She didn't warn me about plants. 


  1. I have admired "the red stuff" from afar before, and now I have been pre-warned. I also wonder if that calathea is the same one I have in my garden that just never seems to grow - guess I better be careful what I wish for! Isn't it funny that here in the tropics some of our weeds are carefully nurtured as house plants in more temperate zones.

  2. Every gardener has had their own share of mistakes along the way, us included. Some of them are not always easy to rectify but as long as you're responsible for correcting it then it's not too bad. Mind you most mistakes are not that awful :)

    As they say, there are no mistakes made, only lessons learned!

  3. I am with you on the alternanthera. I spent quite some time puling it out when I first moved into my house, but I fairly recently decided it might be pretty in flower arrangements. I actually bought a small punnet, crazy when they are so common locally and grow so easily from a slip, but I still hadn't brought myself to actually plant them out before I left Brissie. I wonder if they will still be alive on my return.

  4. Maybe this book is solely for temperate climes, where it could be "easier" to procedurize gardening! You and africanaussie are both in the tropics but milder tropics than ours here. I think we share the same invasive plants and difficulty to control when fully grown. My mistake many years ago is planting Colocasia or taro. Now, i am uprooting them from our orchard, and that is a yearly job. We also have that Calathea, and after almost dying during dry season, they come alive and expanding areas again in the dry season. Now it is following the Colocasia. My mother is starting to kill them. Another invasive is Dieffenbachia. Our areas under the mango trees in the orchard grows lots of them already.

  5. Oh dear, I feel your pain with Alternanthera. I planted a cultivar called 'Purple Knight' years ago. It was a complete thug. It became insane when I lazily let is set seed one year. I did remove the plants, but it took years to remove all of the seedlings from the garden. Will never, ever buy something called Alternanthera again. Another huge mistake was the tiny form of chenille. Oh my gosh, that stuff took over the lawn two houses ago. I will never have it again. Husband was admiring it in a hanging basket a few days ago at a nursery, and I said a firm " way." Then I found myself being tempted. It was so lush and colorful! (Maybe I could contain it in the screened lanai, thought I to myself.) LOL.

  6. Hola Missy. Hace un tiempo, quise probar en mi jardín con el maní forrajero (Arachis pintoi) y ha sido un dolor de cabeza. Su raíz es muy profunda y ha sido difícil eliminarlo. También la Ruellia o "mexican petunia" es difícil de eliminar. Llevo dos años tratando de eliminarla y la he encontrado en lugares que jamas la sembre. Saludos, Claribel

  7. Weed or no weed, it is part of your beautiful landscaping. Your soil must be extremely fertile for plants to sprout lkie hydras.


I would love to know what you think and appreciate your comments.


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