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Thugs Of The Garden

These so-called thugs are plants that cover the ground so fast that if left to their own devices they eventually crowd out every other plant in a bed.

Creeping Jenny edging a walkway.

Gardeners often call plants that spread aggressively “the thugs of the garden.”

These so-called thugs are plants that cover the ground so fast that if left to their own devices they eventually crowd out every other plant in a bed.

Sometimes, when we first start gardening, we are delighted by these plants, as they grow so easily for us. However, after a while even the most naïve gardener recognizes them as the nuisances they become.

In the beginning of my own gardening story, I enthusiastically welcomed these thugs, and then I over-reacted to their aggressiveness and banned them completely from my yard! But now I am taking a more mellow position on these fellows, realizing that in some ways and in some places they can even be useful.

For example, creeping jenny is a fetching low-growing plant, and the variety with gold foliage is especially handsome. In a pot where it trails over the side, or in a bed where it is confined by reliable edging, it is fine. But never let it escape into your lawn, as it is impossible to eradicate!

Yellow circle flower and white gooseneck are two other perennials that provide attractive cut flowers and look pretty in the garden, but again, they do not play well with others and engulf their more well-behaved neighbors. Yet on a steep bank that’s hard to mow, or some other contained space where it is difficult to get fast coverage that will stifle weeds, they can really do the job. Just don’t ever put them in your mixed border because it won’t be mixed for long!

Remember, it’s best to segregate all aggressive spreaders, and always cut them down, (preferably with a weed eater), before they self-seed.

Like some over-enthusiastic people who rush in where angels fear to tread, these over-enthusiastic “thug” plants can also, at times, contribute to the garden of life when you decide on what opportunities they are given.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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