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Welcome to My Jungle

Welcome to My Jungle - May, 2015

Garden "thug" (aggressive spreaders) control has been a big spring focus in the Jungle—meaning I have been spending a lot of time ripping out extra plants. Once you get a thug, you never want another one. From experience, it is important to follow a few steps to avoid thugism in your garden. Remember to thoroughly inspect potted plants before transplanting; they may be harboring a thug plant! These can be weeds or ornamental escapes like winter creeper (Euonymus fortune), periwinkle (Vinca minor) or goldenrods (Solidago spp.). Thug plants are also sold to unwary gardeners in the nursery trade—all of us have experienced it! Two of the worst are garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) and barren strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides). Both flower quite beautifully and have their uses but they spread like crazy—if you need a plant to stay where you put it, steer clear. Another species that provides a stunningly beautiful display is Anemone. Most cultivars can be thugs though, both the spring and fall blooming types. Secondly and more difficult in my opinion is avoiding spur of the moment purchases. Be an informed shopper; develop wish list of well-research plants and only buy from your list. This will keep you from unknowingly purchasing a thug. Be leery anytime a description uses terminology like "naturalizes"--that is wordsmithing for "spreads."

Maybe because I have introduced so many garden thugs over the years, one of my favorite pastimes is researching new plants for the garden. I use any means possible--books, magazines, word-of-mouth, and garden tours are all good sources for new plant material. But it is the Internet that has really made this somewhat of an addiction—there really is no limit to what you can find. Some people are addicted to Pinterest; mine is plant research and acquisition. Be careful though, with the Internet you can shop worldwide and there are federal restrictions to consider for plant materials entering this country from a foreign port. For more information, visit USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at

I mentioned in an earlier WTMJ that I was in the process of incorporating more native plants in my landscape, so I have been pouring over lots of "natives" books. One great find was Pollinators of Native Plants by Heather Holms and I encourage readers with the same interest to add this 2014 publication to their library as well. From it I was able to build a wish list of plants that fit my design style, while still providing habitat and resources to insect and bird species. I'm particularly excited about three new Liatris species I recently acquired, meadow blazingstar (L. ligulistylis), prairie blazingstar (L. pycnostachya) and savannah blazingstar (L. scariosa). Savannah blazingstar is supposedly a bit more tolerant of shade than the other two, so I plan to plant it at the dripline of my swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor). Given the right growing conditions, these three species can be impressive in size, anywhere from 2.5-5 feet tall. They are a favorite nectar source for monarch butterflies and various other bumblebees, butterflies, moths and flies.

The builder in the family (my husband) added a raised bed complex to the Jungle this spring. One concern we had was wildlife predation so we now have a motion activated sprinkler system protecting our vegetable and edible flower crop—the Garden Enforcer! Not just for squirrels and deer, it also works on unwary Jungle visitors.