Beware the floozies

By Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn
Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn The Absentee Gardeners -
The fertilized ovules of this hellebores contains future seeds destined to populate Kit’s garden. -

Sex is rampant in my garden — and I’m getting sick of it. This is the time of year that the hellebores obviously wave around their promiscuity as the plants flaunt their swollen seedpods. Soon you begin to realize that there are probably more seeds on one hellebore than there are people in Blowing Rock.

In a couple of years you begin to fear that the hellebores will overtake the world. H. feotidus doesn’t give me heartburn because the seedlings are easy to pull out but with H. x hybridus, their roots are deep, making it difficult to pull out the seedlings. Alas, the sterile hellebores — and there are a few — have failed to get well established in my garden.

Hellebores enchant us, primarily because they bloom when little else is in bloom. Casting forth their flowers at a time when you’ve given up hope that spring will ever arrive, hellebores arouse tender feelings in our gardening souls until that awful day comes when you realize either you or the hellebores will have to vacate the garden. Then we begin to cut the flowers off in their prime, grumbling because didn’t we plant them precisely for these flowers.

Hellebores are not the only sex fiends in the garden, however. Look at that sweet Tradescantia “Sweet Kate.” This plant has so much going for it: Deer leave it alone, the flowers are adorable, and the plant will seemingly grow anywhere. However, those innocent flowers produce invisible seeds that float around, landing far away from the mother plant, resulting in new deep-rooted spiderworts that are impossible to get rid of.

Lirope muscari has also tripped me up. Unlike L. spicata, which wanders via rhizomes, I always thought L. muscari was relatively well behaved — until I began noticing liropes scattered throughout the garden. It puts out rather insignificant but nice flowers that produce seeds. While lirope doesn’t seed as wantonly as the hellebores and spiderworts, it still is not as ladylike in its approach to sex as I would like.

Sexual orgies in the garden aren’t confined to spring. Anyone who has encountered chickweed in their lawn know that those innocent white flowers — so tiny that it’s impossible to imagine they could produce a seed of any worthiness — are guarantees that the chickweed will return in the following winters.

The worst of the sexual harlots I have in my garden is the lovely purple oxalis, O. triangularis. An experienced gardener warned me to keep away — but I was intoxicated by her lovely color and white flowers. Those innocent white flowers cast seeds far and wide. The roots are deep while constant cutting back does not exhaust her: This is a lady of inexhaustible energy who loves to grow on top of plants, smothering them with her roots. Like the hussy she is, she will entice you to plant her. You will ask yourself: What harm can a shamrock do?

So, you ask, what is a gardener to do? Remember, gardens are not natural creations. It’s up to you to decide what goes and what stays. I have too many hellebores and spiderworts; they are also difficult to dig out of the garden so their flowers have to go far earlier than I’d like them to leave. Regarding the lirope, it can easily make a statement sans its flowers. Getting rid of the flowers is essential. As for the oxalis, I’m almost — not quite — but almost deciding to resort to chemical warfare.

Remember, it’s up to you to decide which floozy stays and which one goes.

Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn are contributing columnists. Absent from their gardens, they enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of innovation and horticulture. More on Twitter @AbsenteGardener or email:

Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn The Absentee Gardeners Jenkins and Kit Flynn The Absentee Gardeners

The fertilized ovules of this hellebores contains future seeds destined to populate Kit’s garden. fertilized ovules of this hellebores contains future seeds destined to populate Kit’s garden.

By Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn