Two weekends ago I had a real treat. It was the first good gardening weekend of the spring: warm, sunny weather, no biting insects, loose soil and little threat of freezing temperatures overnight. Plus, I was ready to attack one of my few remaining goutweed infestations.
After several years of systematically controlling the rampant spread of this invasive groundcover, I just was not up to the task last year. I could not bring myself to pluck one more plant or hair-like root and plunge it into a trash bag. I needed to balance serving as a plant killing machine with planting desirable species. The break last year from my "search and destroy" mission is now fueling my drive to get back into the garden.
Gardeners have long heard the advice to plant the right plant in the right place but heeding that advice is another story. We are tempted by the bold and the beautiful; the structure, texture and form; the unique and the exotic; and, of course, the ease of maintenance and deer resistance. I am guilty of buying showy, sun loving plants only to be disappointed that they fade in the shade of our mostly wooded property or were gobbled up by the deer or groundhogs.
Gardeners are also subject to the selection available at the nursery, online or through catalogs. The varieties and possibilities are exciting, but some plants may not thrive in our gardens and others may thrive too well. Since invasive plants are still sold, it is important to be an informed gardener when planning your design and purchasing plants.
With so many choices, how do we know which species to avoid? When I go to the nursery, I often take my garden book with me so that I can search for information about the plants that I am considering for my garden. Common names of plants can vary, and often there are several cultivars available too. Looking at the Latin names on the plant tags can be helpful to avoid confusion about which species you are buying.
It is also good to know which invasive plants are of concern in your region and avoid selecting those. More than 40 invasive plants have escaped cultivation in the Adirondacks and many of them are still for sale or may be shared during plant swaps. View the list of problem plants at adkinvasives.com/PlantList.html.
"Ask APIPP" is a new feature that will address readers' questions about invasive species, such as identification, impacts or management, or solutions to combat their spread.
Submit questions via email to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program. Include "Ask APIPP" in the subject heading and send your question to email@example.com. Questions and answers will be considered for publishing in the biweekly "Eye on Invasives" column.
Efforts by a team of botanists are under way to evaluate the invasiveness of certain plant species in New York to advise the horticultural industry and consumers. The team has already reviewed more than 170 species. All of the assessments are available at www.nyis.info. Click on "Resources" and then select "Non-native Plant Invasiveness Assessments." You can view whether species were ranked as very highly, highly or moderately invasive in the state, or whether there is low risk of invasion.
For example, Japanese barberry, European honeysuckles, Norway maple and Asiatic bittersweet are all ranked as highly invasive species. Unfortunately, they are still popular choices for use in landscape designs and available for sale.
Non-invasive alternatives to invasive ornamentals are available at most nurseries. Be sure to ask your plant provider to show you their selection of native plants, and if they don't have any or don't know, ask if they would consider getting a list and begin stocking them!
Eye on Invasives is a biweekly column that spotlights a top invader when it is easiest to identify. Hilary Smith directs the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, a partnership program housed at the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley. Find out more about this award-winning program online at www.adkinvasives.com.