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Invasive Species vs. Non-Invasive Alternatives: Part 3

Contributed by Curtis Hawley

Round 3: English Ivy (Hedera Helix) vs Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

As we learned in our previous posts in this series, you can’t purchase Japanese Barberry or Burning Bush in Massachusetts because they’re invasive species. Though we often see English Ivy taking over landscapes and even houses, you can buy it almost anywhere plants are sold. This begs the question: is English Ivy is an invasive species? You betcha.

English Ivy is an aggressive exotic plant that outcompetes other plants. It can even kill off tall trees! Let’s get ahead of the game and consider a friendlier groundcover plant, Barren Strawberry, a groundcover that offers some excellent characteristics to enhance your garden.Barren Strawberry vs. English Ivy

Invasive Species: English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

English Ivy has been a standard go-to groundcover plant for years, especially in hard to grow, heavily shaded areas. It’s a rather hardy plant, but is not known for its flowering stage. In fact, English Ivy is most aggressive when it does go to flower. This is because it only goes to flower once it starts climbing. Once English Ivy starts climbing a structure, it must be heavily maintained. This is especially important around the home, where English Ivy is capable of damaging gutters, wood fences, and cracked masonry. If it gets to the point of having to be removed, English Ivy can cause damage at that point as well. It often leaves behind a residue that’s very difficult to remove.English Ivy

Non-Invasive Alternative: Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

Barren Strawberry is a groundcover plant native to the Eastern U.S. It can be a bit aggressive, but that can be a benefit when trying to fill an area quickly. Unlike English Ivy, though, Barren Strawberry is not a climber, so it won’t cause the kind of damage that many invasive species can cause when they spread. Personally, I notice this plant the most in the spring after the early spring show of bulbs and before the perennials and annuals really start rocking with the warmer weather of late May/early June. During this gap, I often see a solid blanket of yellow Barren Strawberry flowers in full bloom!  Barren StawberryOne significant advantage of English Ivy when compared to Barren Strawberry is its shade tolerance. If you need a groundcover plant in a deep shade, I recommend considering Japanese Pachysandra.

Here are some other great advantages with this non-invasive alternative:

  • Drought tolerant
  • Not too many ground covers have a showy flower, but this one does!
  • Excellent lawn alternative

This concludes our showdown between some of the most commonly requested invasive plants and more friendly, native alternatives! Many invasive species are not well suited (or perhaps too well suited) to our New England ecosystem. I hope you get to try out the alternatives mentioned in your own landscape – feel free to mention your own native plant alternative success stories in the comments!

It’s Time to Start Thinking About Bulbs!

Hello Garden Lovers,Allium Globemaster

It’s bulb time! We are planting bulb “overlays” for our Clients’ gardens, meaning that we plan a sequenced bulb display (big or small) and plant them in between your other plants in the garden. these bulbs bloom from March to May, giving color and interest well before your garden gets into gear.

Ornithogalum nutans Silver BellsWith bulbs, it is not uncommon to plant 500 crocus, for example, to get an abundant visual impact. This means that bulbs can cost $300 to $500 to $700 in materials, then double it for the planting labor. We plant each bulb to make sure it is at the proper depth and “right side up.”

Email or call us by Friday, October 21st if you’re interested in bringing some early spring color to your gardens! I will need to know what you are comfortable spending and with that in mind, I can tell Narcissus Little Gemyou what to plant and where to plant it for the best impact.

Best,

Christie

Garden Tour at Christie’s!

Selected to be on a national Garden Conservancy tour, the Dustman-Ryan garden will be open to the public on Sunday June 5 from 10 to 4pm. The Garden reflects the creative efforts of a mighty team: Christie Dustman, professional garden designer and Patti Ryan, a professional furniture maker. In their own personal garden, these two artists have let nothing hinder their zeal for plants, stone, and whimsy. The garden uses plants and objects as sculptures in an array of vignettes and intentional views. As members of the Conifer Society, you will find over fifty different conifers, as well as rare and unusual plants. It is the reclaimed and cast-off items used as art and decoration that often command the most “ooohs and ahhhs.”

CLICK FOR DIRECTIONS AND TICKET INFO

A conifer vignette faces the patio and rear house windows.

A conifer vignette faces the patio and rear house windows.