Invasives Part 1 ~ A Plant Collector Learns the Hard Way

My fascination with plants and the natural world has always existed to some extent and has evolved in fits and starts throughout my life. Not measurable stages, but an uneven progression dependant on so many factors, always building on what came before, although not necessarily obvious to myself at the time. I sometimes took for granted my exposure to and immersion in the natural world during my earliest childhood explorations of marshes, fields and streams. Dependant on my age, where I was living at the time, my job, income, and social priorities, gardening and plant collecting weren't necessarily obvious defining aspects of my daily life. Not until I finally settled down, after I married, did I have a permanent piece of land to call my own, to shape and plant, did the collecting and true learning begin.

And so, it is with this lengthy introduction, that I begin a regular segment as a warning shot of sorts to other ambitious collectors/gardeners wishing to give any plant that says, 'Bring me home.' a place in their plot. As I've learned, many plants work, some don't, and others become multi -seasonal maintenance headaches, if not total gardening nightmares.
My first choice is:

Aegopodium podagraria
Bishop's weed, gout weed, ground elder

I see no reason to introduce this thug-of-a-plant into any landscape situation, ever. I often joke that if I lose the ability to maintain my garden, or to pay someone to do the task (which is far from my means at this point) then my yard will, in very short order, become a monoculture of this rampant weed. To the inexperienced, a mass planting of aegopodium looks harmless enough, it's soft green foliage and mid season, white umbel flowers filling in that troubled garden spot completely, requiring no extra attention, almost thriving on neglect. But allow it to become involved in a mixed bed or unsuspecting perennial border, and you will be battling this plant from the earliest spring shoots to the last fall foliage.
The variegated form - charming at first - not quite as invasive as the green variety.
I first met aegopodium at my brother-in-law's, growing in a corner of his neglected back yard in Levittown, Long Island, New York. The plant was just emerging in the spring, tightly curled shoots beginning to unfurl in the early spring sun. Intrigued, I dug some up to bring home. Mind you, I was in my early gardening years, collecting and bringing home most any plant that caught my attention. Bad move. Over the years, mostly by relocating plants around my yard, I have managed to spread this 'weed' to all but a few areas of my yard. The roots are deep and entwine with anything growing next to it. Just a small bit of 'the gout' and it sets up camp in a new home. Visually, it looks fine, but I find that it gets a much earlier start than most of it's neighbors and tends to out compete them for food, water, and light.


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