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Report From PIA – August 27

I think that most gardeners could tell you about a plant that they wish they’d never placed in their gardens. If you’ve grown gardens in more than one location, you will be able to list plants that you were careful not to take from the old property onto the new.

My perennial bed in the mid-Hudson Valley was infested with Aegopodium podgraria, or Bishop’s weed, that came in with a daylily that my friend Janet gave me. I battled that invasive perennial the entire ten year’s that I gardened in Spencertown, and when we moved to Massachusetts I refused to bring any plants that might carry a seed from that pest.

In my first Cape Cod garden I made the mistake of growing Adenophora liliifolia (lady bells) from seed. Two years later I visited a property that was overrun with this plant, and so I decided to get rid of the small patch in my back terraces. Think again, naive one. After ten years of digging, weeding, smothering and spraying, this plant appeared every spring, summer and fall. We sold the property three years ago and I’m sure it’s completely taken over by now.

Fast forward to Poison Ivy Acres where I vowed to be oh-so-careful with my plant selection. Think again, over-confident one. I planted plugs of the native Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) last spring, thinking that it would be a late-flowering, two-foot perennial on the edge of the rain garden and as a fill-in plant elsewhere.

It has filled in. And seeded, clearly intending to fill the entire property and beyond. This plant is billed as growing two to four feet high and mine has grown well over four feet. Thinking that it might be shorter if transplanted to less rich soil, I had my husband dig some out of the fragrance garden and transplant it to a rather dry, poor-soil area where I have other native plants growing. Despite moving these plants in July, during a heat wave, they have thrived and are now close to five feet tall.

Right now the boneset is in full bloom and very pretty. It makes a great cut flower for bouquets, and no insect or disease bothers it. Clearly, this Eupatorium is perfect for the right location…but right now it thinks that the ideal growing conditions are to be found in the perennial beds, gravel garden, rain garden and between the cracks of the patio pavers.

I will need to cut this year’s plants down this weekend before they too go to seed.

No matter how much we plan our gardens and our lives, something is bound to surprise us, and we find ourselves saying, “Oops…my bad.”

Here is one patch of boneset Eupatorium, the white flowers echoing the variegated foliage of the red-twigged dogwood on the left, and the white birdhouse beyond. Perfect, right? No so much. This entire area is filled with tiny boneset seedlings from last year. I have work to do...

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