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  • Writer's pictureMary Beerman

'Grow Me Instead' - Understanding Invading Species

We love what we love. We are drawn to certain plants or elements of design for often instinctual reasons.

"I don't care what anyone says. I love periwinkle."

"I know it grows crazy but it looks great around the house and I can't kill it."

"It was always in my gramma's garden."

"They are always changing the rules on what is environmentally acceptable. I am just going to do it."

"It doesn't matter what I plant."

As people and as a society we learn as time goes on, often from poor decisions made in the past or from the problems that arise. While it would be great to be perfect off the bat it rarely works that way in life, personally or communally.

In the world of plants we have a wealth of historical references to guide us toward better living. I can't list all the good calls or bad calls on plants but consider the following:

  1. Weeds are plants we don't want. They are not in and of themselves wrong. We don't want them because they caused problems. Problems like making livestock sick, growing out of control, clogging mechanisms or water ways, out competing other plants to dominate the growing environment, etc. We used to consider common Milkweed as a noxious weed. In efforts to save Monarch butterflies from extinction we are bringing this plant back into cultivation. The Suzuki Foundation is a good place to start learning about Milkweed.

  2. A lot of the plants in our landscapes are 'aliens'. They are plants from other parts of the globe as part of the horticultural industry trade. Did you know Rhubarb and Lilacs were plants discovered in China and brought back to England and cultivated back in the 1800's? Just because you can find them in a nursery doesn't mean they are beneficial or even supportive to your local ecosystem. Check out a brief history of Rhubarb with a recipe!

  3. Native plants grow very differently in a garden than they do in the wild. It's all about competition. Wild Bergamot looked awfully tiny and spindly on my hike through Curve Lake's Petroglyph Park than in the garden I planted out along Lake Simcoe. Native plants in your garden will grow faster, taller & thicker. Monarda fistulosa is listed on Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflower Center website.

  4. Our local conservation authorities are working to stay on top of invasive species. Use them as a resource to make best choices for your garden. Grow Me Instead is a a great place to start your easy research. I also like referring the the Canadian Wildlife Federation as well. Start your search at their Wild About Gardening section.

Ontario's Invading Species Awareness Program has a comprehensive site of invading species. Here my top 10:

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