By Miss Hortense E. Toity
(A.K.A. Horti Toity)
Dear Horti Toity,
Recently a very opinionated member of our garden club came to visit my garden, and had the gall to tell me some of my prettiest plants should be removed! She said you would provide a list of alternative native plants that would be improvements on my nonnative invasive pretties. Would you please make some suggestions of natives to replace my invasive nonnatives?
Thanks a bundle!
Misled and Miserable
We have all been there! That woman should be pulled up and tossed in the compost heap herself. But, sadly, she is right. Here are some ideas for you!
Five Nonnative Invasive Plants to Remove from your Garden,
and Some Good Replacements
By the way, we have seen all of these plants in the gardens of SLGC members – you know who you are!
1. Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, is a twining vine that supplants a number of our own native vines. Consider replacing it with a honeysuckle vine native to NE Ohio, such as Lonicera sempervirens. The bloom forms of the natives are more trumpet-shaped, and much brighter color variations are available.
2. Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus, grows almost anywhere it is planted on NE Ohio. It has a glorious 2 week season of magenta foliage in September or early October, and is otherwise visually unremarkable. But it is poisonous! Shorter native alternatives that turn bright red at the same time are Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginica, which has the additional advantage of blooming with white spires in late summer and into fall; Highbush Blueberry, Vaccimium corymbosum, which has the advantage of fruiting with blueberries in summer; and Bottlebrush, Fothergilla gardenii, which has the added advantage in spring of honey-scented, white spires of blossom. Taller than, or equal to, Burning Bush in height are various of the Sumac species, many of our showiest native red foliage plants in fall.
3. Japanese Knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum, is an herbaceous subshrub that grows in woodland in our area, often in damp areas. It has a brief, showy bloom cycle in the latter half of summer. Consider replacing it with Cornus stolonifera, our native red twig or yellow twig dogwood shrubs, which bloom in late spring and afford wonderfully colorful twigs in winter; you have enjoyed these in our Greens Workshop every holiday season.
4. Porcelain Berry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, is a terribly invasive vine that in August and September produces masses of brilliantly colored berries ranging in color from turquoise through rich purple. The foliage resembles our native wild grapes Vitis labrusca and Vitis vulpina, both of which provide useful food for local wildlife but are not human-happy species (V. vulpina does turn sweetly edible after frost). Humans can in fact eat the brilliant purple berries of our native Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, the berries of which color just a tad later than Ampelopsis, but which are far showier in the garden. Callicarpa is a shrub, not a vine like the other plants mentioned here, and its native range stops just south of here, but it grows well here now.
5. Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergii, is commonly used in landscape plantings commercially and residentially in our area – regardless of the fact that it is so invasive that it’s actually ILLEGAL to sell or plant it here. Birds chow down on its red berried in fall and spread them widely. If you have it, dig it out or you’ll have a lot more! If you don’t mind losing the prickly barbs that grow all over this nonnative, consider replacing it with the larger red-berried native deciduous hollies, Ilex veritcillata (some cultivars of the later have been bred for smaller size recently). This is another plant we use in our Greens Workshop – remember all of those beautiful branches of red berries everyone fights over? You can grow your own!