Top Five Plants To Avoid in 2015!

January 2nd, 2015 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

I’ve written a piece for current issue of Amateur Gardening magazine about the ten plants that would improve anyone’s garden in the coming year. But there are also some to avoid like the plague, without fail, at all costs, on pain of excommunication – or whatever dire warning you need. These are my Top Five Plants To Avoid in 2015. (Click the images to enlarge them.)

Variegated Ground Elder
Seedlings of this variegated ground elder, Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegata', will be green.Often listed under its botanical name of Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegata’, this is a pretty variegated ground cover for shady places and poor soil. It looks very attractive. The fact that it spreads like crazy is bad enough, but when it flowers and sheds its seeds – the seedlings all have plain green leaves and so instantly turn into one of the nastiest weeds in the garden – ground elder. Don’t risk it. (And see update below.)

Free hellebores from friends
Most gardeners love hellebores. Most gardeners are happy to accept free plants from friends. Most hellebores throw lots of self sown seedlings which are easily dug up and given away. The problem is that hellebore flowers develop in such a way that the seedlings they throw are almost always inferior to the parent plant. And you’re never quite sure whether they’ll be murky pink or greeny white. Sometimes, it’s true, you’ll get a good one but, given that it may take a hellebore plant three or four years before it makes an impact, start with what you know is a good plant, from a specialist, rather than one you hope will be good.

Variegated Japanese knotweed
Fallopia japonica 'Milk Boy' ('Variegata') may look harmless but can revert to plain green and take over the world.This is an attractive variegated perennial, if you like this sort of thing, but it has an evil heart. Every now and again its stops being variegated and becomes green and in doing so turns itself into one of the worst invasive weeds in the world – Japanese knotweed. So if you see a prettily variegated plant being sold under one of these names, pass it by. It might be sold as: Fallopia japonica ‘Milk Boy’ or Fallopia japonica ‘Variegata’ or Polygonum cuspidatum ‘Milk Boy’ or Polygonum cuspidatum ‘Variegata’ or Reyneutria japonica ‘Milk Boy’ or Reyneutria japonica ‘Variegata’. They’re all the same disaster waiting to happen.

Unnamed mixed sunflowers
Helianthus 'Sunburst' guarantees you a blend of superb sunflowers in bright colours.In this Year Of The Sunflower (about which more in a few weeks) packets of unnamed mixed sunflower seed will be turning up all over the place as free giveaways or at silly prices (49p) in shops where they know no better. The problem is that the seed inside is usually the left overs, perhaps not the sweepings from the packing shed floor but you get the idea. It’s free, or cheap, for a reason. Instead, grow a specially created mixture of all colours, such as ‘Sunburst’, a collection of different varieties, all individually packed, or choose a named variety. You won’t be disappointed.

Leyland cypress
Leyland cypress, xCuprocyparis leylandii, towers over a house in a suburban back garden.We all know that this can grow a metre a year, block your light, suck moisture form nearby borders and need clipping almost every week. But don’t be misled by the fact that, following recent botanical research, it has a new Latin name. Decades ago it was xCupressus, then it was xCupressocyparis, but now it’s simply xCuprocyparis. But it’s the same scary plant. It makes a fine specimen tree in a huge garden, but as a hedge in a small garden – forget it.

With that advice Plant Talk wishes you a very happy new year – horticulturally, and in every possible way.

 UPDATE When this post went live, there was quite a flurry of comments on Twitter, especially from @SeeWhyGardens, @AnneWareham, @kelwaysplants, @EWGardens, @clayton_philip. Mainly they were about the variegated ground elder, and wondering if it really does throw seedlings that come up green. My evidence for it spreading by seed is: 1) I’ve seen it in flower and with seeds. 2) When I worked at Kew, decades ago, I came across a patch of variegated ground elder in the Arboretum. There were green leaved plants in the variegated patch, and also one or two green leaved plants a few feet away from the variegated clump. That was enough for me. When I used to grow it in a previous garden, if it started to run up to flower I always snipped off the developing flower stems so have no own-garden experience of green seedlings. Too risky! Now I don’t grow it at all.


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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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