Monday, April 30, 2012

Digging Sunday

Day 102
The Daily DuBrule

Sunday is my gardening day. I have almost two acres and about 4 hours to care for them a week so let's just say I get a little behind. Sunday I started to remove the 'Lemon Queen' sunflowers from my gorgeous clump of deep purple, double Japanese irises. I love both these plants, but the perennial sunflower spreads really fast and grows 6' tall so it needed taming. I had the bright idea to move it to the back border, replacing an invasive plant that needed to GO.

Let's just say that I did a lot of digging. Digging up all the lemon queen was easy. I dug up a fair amount of gooseneck loosestrife as well. I inherited this insane spreading white flower when I bought the property and it is trying to take over my universe. I am surprised that it is not on the invasive list in CT. Truly.

The invasive plant that I was dealing with is Silphium perfoliatum, called the cup plant or compass plant. I have to say this plant gave me great joy in the early days of my gardening career when it was sold as a bold, late summer flowering perennial and I planted it in the Natureworks gardens. Everyone asked about it. I called it the living bird bath as the foliage meets the stems and forms cups that fill with water. I would tip the plant over during my walks and show people how much water would pour out. Even dew would collect in these cups. 

Imagine my surprise when this plant appeared on the invasive plant list as banned in CT. Alan Armitage writes about it as a U.S. native. It was also listed in other books I had as native. It turns out it is native to the tall grass prairies of the midwest. In fact, it is listed as endangered in Michigan. Not in Ct. It spreads really fast here and because it is not native to CT, it made the list. This plant seeds like crazy. The seedlings immediately root hard and fast into the ground. You can't pull them out, you have to dig them out. That is what I did for four hours. Heavy duty digging, getting the babies and established clumps out to make room for new plants, including my 'Lemon Queen' sunflowers which, by the way, are still soaking in a wheelbarrow of compost water as I ran out of steam and never planted them. 

The lesson here is that native is not always native. It depends on where it is native to. After owning my business for nearly 30 years, I have many stories of plants we were sold as the next great plant only to find ourselves ripping them out years later. Burning bushes. 'Rosy Glow' barberries. Lythrum. We plant, we learn, we change, we adjust. And we dig.


  1. In my back meadow I just planted a cup plant that my friend dug up from her garden in Kentucky and gave to me. I love it, but now... yikes! Should I take it out? I want a New England meadow, not a prairie, and certainly not another invasive thug out there.

  2. Laurrie-I'd get it out. I had to dig this out of the Natureworks gardens and I practically needed dynamite! At the Master Gardening conference this year there was a speaker (from MA) who raved about this plant. I sat there thinking "Isn't that the plant I almost killed myself digging out?" I checked the CT invasive list and it was! I emailed the speaker and he has now removed this plant from his lists-until he reviews how it behaves in MA. I saw this plant in several wildlife gardens in Chicago, IL last summer and they love it there. But here in CT, I'd take it out and find another pretty plant for your meadow.