Gardening with Micki: Keep an eye on invasive plants

This week, I woke up one morning to find an amazing sight on the patio outside my kitchen. The English ivy had overrun its boundaries on the patio and was headed straight for the kitchen door. I expected the leader of this overnight ivy tribe to knock on the kitchen door and ask “What’s for breakfast?” It was an amazing sight. A bit disturbing, too.

This ivy has always been a prolific spreading plant, making garden areas where it resides appear quite lush, like a soft winter green cushion. That’s one reason I chose it for a certain area of the patio garden. I didn’t realize it had such an aggressive character. This ivy has lived on the patio and behaved itself for eight years. It has never stepped beyond its brick boundaries. Yet, on this morning, it was moving quickly toward the patio kitchen door from all directions.

This unexpected overnight marathon was quite a sight. It made me wonder what else happens on that patio among the other plants while I’m sleeping in the master bedroom, located right next to the patio. My perfect place for morning coffee. How did this happen overnight? It’s a mystery (my favorite book genre) I can’t solve. My garden references weren’t too helpful. “Ivy is a spreader,” was a clue to their mysterious overnight escapade. That was the most my sources would reveal.

As of Oct. 2, the ivy was headed for the south and east patio walls. I doubt the walls will stop their overnight moves. It’s not like I don’t feed and water all my plants. Although my ivy seems to be indestructible, I have limits about how much this plant can get away with, especially on the patio, where I enjoy entertaining.

I did find some advice from Jeff Gredenberg, author of “How to Cheat at Gardening.”

He wrote, “Don’t plant invasives. Some plants are just thugs in the garden. If you plant these bad guys they’ll grow fast, all right, but you’ll have to spend plenty of time later on digging and pulling them out of places where you don’t want them to be or they will take over your garden.”

At least my clematis grows upward and stays on its own trellis.

Micki J. Shelton is a columnist for CNHI.

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