Ornamental one year, invasive the next

Needing a little inspiration to write my article this week, I went to visit Betty, a dear friend who has been an avid Master Gardener for many years. Betty often sends me interesting gardening articles from magazines and newspapers that would make good topics for my column.

Betty doesn't garden on a grand scale any longer, but does take care of the houseplants where she now lives and gets out in the yard occasionally on cooler days. She pointed out a plant just under her balcony and asked me, "isn't that Japanese knotweed?"  It was in fact its close relative, giant Knotweed which is just as invasive.

This plant had been intentionally planted years ago as many other knotweeds around the state were planted as ornamentals. It has taken several years for us to learn the harm caused by this and other non-native plants such as autumn olive, Japanese barberry, purple loosestrife, oriental bittersweet, buckthorn, swallow-wart and phragmites. If you think you have knotweed or phragmites on your property, you can call the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council at (231) 347-1181 to report the location. Jackie Pilette at the LTBB DNR office along with some volunteer help is also involved in recording locations of these two invasives for control and eradication in the future. If you would like to volunteer with Jackie's group you can reach her at (231) 242-1684.

Keep your plants happy

How about those daylilies? I moved many of mine in the spring from a garden that was too shady for them, to gardens that get at least six hours of direct sun. They are much happier there and have put on quite a show to thank me for the move. If you have a plant that just doesn't seem happy where it is don't be afraid to move it. If it's still not happy after a year, google the plant and double check to see what growing requirements are recommended. If you have fulfilled the requirements and the plant is still not happy try moving it again. Many things can affect a plant such as heat radiating from a building, leaching from building materials such as creosote from railroad ties and lime, calcium and salt from concrete.

I took a liking to helleborus, aka Lenten rose, and planted two near my front door. One died and the other barely survived. I moved the survivor to a new location and it died. I decided I couldn't grow them at my home and was about to give up when a friend offered me four helleborus pups from her plants. She told me to plant them in different places to see where they might be happy. I now have several happy, healthy plants that bloom very early each spring. If you've tried everything and the plant isn't performing as expected, gift it to a friend. A friend gave me a Christmas cactus that refused to bloom for her. It had been a gift and she felt bad throwing it out. This gift blooms yearly for me.

Cydney Steeb, Advanced Master Gardener, can be contacted at Emmet Conservation District, 3434 M-119, Harbor Springs (231) 439-8977 or cydney.steeb@macd.org. Her Gardening Wit and Wisdom column runs every Wednesday.

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