Grow Where You Want to Grow

Posted 6/27/07
by Jane Kashlak

Anyone who's ever gardened knows the drill. You stumble into the garden and see not one but 10 purple verbena bonariensis swaying in the breeze.

How did THEY get there? You planted only one.

Then there are the survivors from last summer's zinnia patch, back again. Or the red salvia that's supposed to be an annual but never gets around to leaving.

They're called volunteers. And most new gardeners consider themselves lucky indeed when they discover these free plants in their gardens.

That's because those gardeners don't realize the secret agenda of these eager beaver seedlings.

Like floral trojan horses, these plants gain entry with pretty scents and fuzzy flowers. Slowly they carpet your garden until some poor perennial or two or three loses its spot in the sun.

One day you wake up and realize the volunteer plants have taken over. The soft, fluffy ipomopsis has seized control of vital garden paths. The verbena is commandeering space in every garden bed. The asters are overwhelming their neighbors.

That's when it's time to grit your teeth and yank a perfectly good flower from the flower bed.

There are only so many seedlings you can give to friends.

Chances are, many of the so-called volunteer plants started as gifts from well meaning garden friends who couldn't bear to throw out their beloved plants.

Well, someone has to do it.

So I start the grizzly task of uprooting flowers, knowing deep down in my heart, that it is the hard but right thing to do.

Then, I find a little family of lyre leaf sage seedlings along the front walk. Lyre leaf sage famously ignores where it's planted. It grows where it wants to grow. Sometimes that's right in the middle of the lawn.

And sometimes that's along your front walk.

Even though I know I'll be picking sage seedlings out of the cracks in the path for years to come, I put down my trowel and go for the watering can.

Another trojan plant has arrived.

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