Campbell River, British Columbia 
 Gardening in Campbell River

Garden Thoughts for May

May is the time of month for swaps. Every Saturday, there seems to be a
plant exchange somewhere. Some have become annual traditions, such as the
St. Peters and Art Gallery swaps (which were held in April this year).

Perennials increase in size every year, some more quickly than others, and
seedlings are popping up everywhere. As Des Kennedy pointed out in a talk
recently, gardeners have a difficult time throwing viable plants on the
compost heap. We give bits and pieces to our friends, pot them up for
swaps, and plant them in unlikely spots. I've been known to throw things
over the fence in hopes of carpeting the forest with foxgloves and poppies.

With all these free and bargain plants coming your way, I thought some
advice would be timely. These plants are all spreaders! Sometimes this is
just what you want, but be wary. This year I'm giving away a lot of
montbretia (crocosmia). I love this plant, and wouldn't consider a garden
complete with out its sprays of little orange trumpets in the late summer.
But, if you ignore it for a few years, you will find it coming up everywhere
within a 3-foot radius. This is not a big deal. It just involves a little
trowel work to remove the wanderers.

But there are other, more sinister, surprises lurking on the plant swap
table. Bishop's Weed is one to look out for. It has flowers similar to
Queen Anne's Lace in the summer, and some have lovely variegated leaves. It
spreads by underground runners, and in a couple of years, a small piece will
spread into a meter sized patch of smothering leaves that choke out any
delicate plants in its path. Like Morning Glory, if you try to dig it up,
any piece of root left behind will start a new patch.

Bugleweed (Ajuga) is a fairly benign carpet plant that's ideal for many
situations. Just don't place it anywhere near a lawn, for if it creeps in
while you're not looking, you'll have buglelawn. Green lawn adorned with
spreading patches of dark purple just isn't that attractive.

Aside from plants which run (or rampage), you'll also find plants that seed
freely on offer at swaps. Not too many of these are a problem. I find
foxgloves to be a bit too generous in my garden, and they pop up on my
windowsills, in the cracks of siding and just about everywhere. Most of
these seedlings don't survive my annual spring weeding (and pressure
washing) though, and I usually end up with just the right amount.

The main thing to take with you to plant swaps is a bit of common sense. If
you're unfamiliar with something you bring home, borrow some books or seek
advice. Find out what it is, how big it's likely to get, and how quickly it
spreads before you make room for any newcomer.


Karen Barber is an architectural and landscape designer in Campbell River.

Her company is Madrona Design, which sponsors this Gardening in Campbell River webpage.

 Check out her site as she has added a discussion page to her website.
Like a BB where people can post questions etc. get there by clicking on the button below...

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