By Charlie Thigpen
Many years ago, before I had a garden shop, my sister called and asked me where she could buy a wisteria plant for our father. I advised her against the plant, but Dad really loved the flowers of the wisteria vine, so she actually special ordered one from a local nursery. A few years later I got a call from my father wanting to know how to get rid of wisteria. The vine had grown out of control and was spreading rapidly. The moral of this story is “know what you are planting.” Many plants that look beautiful in the garden can quickly get out of hand and become an overgrown mess.
Know a Plant’s Habits
Beautiful flowering plants in their full glory can easily entice people to make an impulse buy and sometimes, an unwise decision. I know because I’ve been a sucker many times. Not only should you be concerned with aggressive vines like the wisteria, but also know if a plant seeds freely in the landscape such as 4 o’clocks, or morning glories. I look along our roadways and woodlands and see so many non-native invasive species such as kudzu, mahonia, mimosa, privet, and wisteria that are taking over our landscape and displacing many of our native plants.
We see a tiny plant in a small pot and can’t believe how big it could grow—but remember that giant oak trees come from tiny acorns. So it is critical to know a tree or shrub’s ultimate height and width. I’ve seen many homeowners plant a river birch tree next to their house to showcase the tree’s pretty, peeling bark. They don’t realize that these birch trees have a shallow, aggressive root system that could crack a foundation or buckle a sidewalk. The trees are also very brittle and are always dropping limbs. Placement of trees is critical. Don’t plant them too close to your home, and never plant them under power lines. Selecting the right shrubs for your foundation planting is also critical, especially in front of low windows. Shrubs that grow too big for their location will need to be pruned constantly and become a maintenance nightmare.
Do Your Homework
It takes some effort to dig a hole and properly set out a plant. It doesn’t take much effort to Google a plant and find out its ultimate size and growth habits. Know what you are planting and whenever possible incorporate native plants into your landscape. These natives will benefit our birds and butterflies. Gardening takes a little work, but it becomes easier when plants are put in their proper setting.