• October 29, 2021

Gift plants for annoying neighbors

Among gardeners, there is a dark joke about which plants make the best gifts for annoying neighbors and annoying acquaintances. Although I have yet to play this game, I have been tempted. Topping the gift list are plants with a frenzied metabolism, affectionately known as “the flowers of discontent.”

They are seemingly innocuous as a morning glory, as humble as mint, as majestic as gooseneck fighting, or as exotic as the Asian chameleon plant. The gift, like the Trojan horse, is attractive before passing over to its host.

Bringing a pot of heavenly blue morning glory to a hostess whose party you were forced to attend seems innocent enough. But each beautiful blue flower blooms only one day before it literally turns into seed. As the flowers keep coming, blooming in greater numbers each week, the number of seeds also increases.

The hostess, captivated by the fast-growing vine and the beauty of the flowers, will not notice that the seedlings accumulate at her feet. Heavenly Blue, the most popular hybrid, drops hundreds of seeds over the course of its three to four months of flowering. Miraculously, they all seem to sprout everywhere they land in the garden, between cobblestones, in crevices, in gravel, in clay, and in sand.

It is impossible to eliminate the entire population with a single blow. The seeds keep coming throughout the summer and fall until frost hits. So any seeds that haven’t germinated wait patiently for spring to sprout. The glories of the morning might be welcome if the seeds carried the beauty of their hybrid parent, but they don’t. They revert to a species with smaller pink or deep purple flowers. And here’s the rub: seedlings, crafty devils that they are, crawl across the ground, camouflaged against shorter perennials while circling a stem, then stretched out with corkscrew tendrils, grabbing one after another until the flowers are fine. woven. The vine rises higher and higher, seeking the sun to be able to flourish. Then it blooms and soon sheds more seeds.

Consider a treat of peppermint, a humble herb that provides a refreshing addition to iced tea and forms the backbone of mint juleps. There are dozens to choose from among peppermint, spearmint, pineapple peppermint, apple peppermint, ginger peppermint, and more.

But there is a dark side to mint. Once planted, there is no way to stop its spread. Its roots run like an underground express, making regular stops every few inches to send out new shoots. Even if it is plucked on a daily basis, it moves forward. The variegated golden mint, running along our shallow stream, dove and swam the other way, pushing all other plants out of its way.

The gooseneck wrestling, on the other hand, is an elegant gift, a quiet beauty with an elegantly arched head covered in starry white flowers. When the sun goes down, they gently glow in the reflected light. Such looks are deceiving. The scarlet roots of this beauty are the devil to dislodge. They run in all directions, sometimes several feet, before giving way to another angelic-looking plant. If the soil is moist and clayey, it is possible to apply slow, gentle pressure and pull out a foot or two of the roots at a time. If the soil is dry and crusty, a bulldozer is best.

Fortunately, red runners are easy to spot at the base of each bud when they come up for air in the spring. It is a warning sign of an imminent invasion.

Without a doubt, the best plant to end a friendship is the chameleon plant, Houttuynia cordata. Promoted in unscrupulous catalogs as a fragrant, colorful groundcover to prevent erosion, it will do that and more. The heart-shaped green foliage, dotted with purple, pink and red, weaves a beautiful, dense carpet in the sun and shade.

It looks quite harmless, especially in May and June, when its small white flowers appear. But if you pick a flower or pluck a leaf, the stench that rises up your nose will quickly change your mind. Reminiscent of a rotten hamburger, it is not easily forgotten.

A friend’s husband gave her some chameleon plants for Mother’s Day, and she liked them well before they crossed her garden, strangling the other flowers. When she pulled them up, they hit her, like a skunk, with their scent. So he donned a hospital mask and, redoubling his determination (and his digging), defeated them all.

On the other hand, an unfortunate hostess might leave the gift plant in its pot, where it will bloom without causing havoc. Or if the recipient is not a gardener, your gift could well turn a bare yard into a meadow. But if he lives next door, it might come back to haunt him.

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