Monday, January 25, 2010

Spidey Sense


It looks innocent enough, doesn't it? Such a pretty little flower in a delicate shade of lavender ... how could a native charmer like this be anything but welcome in the garden? When you discover that it has siblings that bloom in deeper shades of purple or violet,


or a vivid orchid pink,

You're so deep in love that the possibility never crosses your mind that you may someday come to look upon this plant and see not the beauty of the bloom, but the thug behind that pretty face. The first year of your love affair with Tradescantia virginiana, you're enchanted by how prettily it blooms from spring until fall and how little care it needs. It's drought tolerant, pest and disease free, and oh, yes, it's so pretty! What a trooper, you tell yourself, and when you deadhead the plants, you scatter the seeds far and wide across the garden. And when your friend tells you that she regrets EVER having introduced spiderwort into her garden, you laugh at her and wonder whatever could possess her to feel that way. You feel certain that you will never rue the day you planted such a darling and delightful perennial.

In the second year of the affair, when you find yourself pulling seedlings on a daily basis, you begin to wonder if your darling is truly the plant you thought she was. But then she blooms again and you sigh in delight, and tell yourself having to pull those seedlings is a small price to pay for the dainty blossoms. You remind yourself that you're the one who scattered all those seeds and decide that perhaps you need not do that quite so freely in the future. And when you decide that a larger plant really needs to be relocated to another spot, you marvel at the extensive and sturdy root system. You think to yourself that perhaps that's why it was given the name Spiderwort, because the roots do spread out much like the legs on a spider. You relocate the plant to an area where you somehow failed to spread seeds and think how great it will look to have spiderwort blooming amongst the other plants in that bed.

Then comes the third year. The bloom is off the rose, so to speak, and you find yourself speaking harshly to the mature plants, chastising them for their wanton ways, for by now you have discovered that they not only reseed quite prolifically but increase by clumping, becoming ever larger and more established. When you have to spend several minutes digging out a larger clump, chastising becomes cursing. You find yourself throwing huge clumps into the trash can: they certainly can't be allowed to contaminate your compost! And there's no way you're going to continue placing them in pots and offering them to other unsuspecting gardeners. Seedlings are dispatched with glee and the remaining plants are warned that their days are numbered if they don't behave. But then they bloom at just the right time, and they look so lovely with the other plants that are blooming then that you tell yourself they're worth the effort it takes to keep them in check. As the months go by and the plants cycle out of bloom but seedlings continue to appear, you begin to rethink your previous position.

By the fourth year, anger turns to despair of ever being able to eradicate all the seedlings that you missed before and chagrin that you still find yourself smiling when the spiderworts bloom. You're even excited when you discover a plant that has white blooms and dismayed when you forget its exact location and start removing spiderwort in that area. You fret that you inadvertently yanked that one instead of a blue or purple variety. You tell yourself that the white one took so long to appear, it's doubtless better behaved than its siblings and well worth keeping around. You watch anxiously for it to reappear and hold out hope even when you know in your heart that your ruthlessness has put paid to that particular plant.

And by the fifth year, you've resigned yourself to the fact that you will always have spiderwort somewhere in your garden and you will always have a lingering fondness for its blooms. You accept your inability to totally eradicate it from the beds and borders and acknowledge that you can only do so much. Your focus turns to keeping what you have under control and in check. You clear the areas where it's important to you that other plants not be crowded or overwhelmed. You tell yourself that this has been a learning experience and that it will serve you well in choosing future additions to your gardens. And you almost ... not quite but almost ... believe it!


This is the Louisiana Iris bed behind the pond, where I spent quite a bit of time yesterday clearing out spiderwort. I missed a spot on the right so if you'll excuse me ...

6 comments:

Caroline said...

I think I might rather like a garden full of spiderwort. Then again, I was thrilled when wild oxalis took over my entire back yard last year. Admittedly, I'm a weirdo.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I'm so glad they never reseeded for me. I ended up yanking all my Spiderwort because the flowers always melted by noon.

Gail said...

I am charmed by their flowers, too. For some reason they haven't gotten too out of hand! But this could be the story of vinca for many a gardener! gail

Rose said...

I think we've all had this experience with some plant, Cindy. I remember years ago, before I knew anything about gardening, digging up the wild violets on one side of the house and transplanting them all over--big mistake! You've adopted the best attitude, in my opinion--if you can't beat 'em, might as well enjoy 'em! But I will take your advice to heart and not plant any spiderwort.

Good to see you've had some warmer temperatures and are taking care of that elephant a little more each day:)

Cindy, MCOK said...

Caroline, I felt that way about spiderwort once upon a time!

MMD, I hope I can keep them in check this year.

Gail, they're probably great in the right setting. My corner of katy is not it!

Rose, please don't plant any! I don't want you to experience a repeat of the wild violet episode!

stone said...

Now wait a minute... I've grown spiderwort for years, and never felt anything but love for that beauty, even when thinning...

Nice article...