Friday, June 30, 2006

Should Garden Centers Sell Thugs?

Sedum acre
Now here's an interesting question. Should garden centers sell plant thugs?

In most gardens, Aegopodium or Goutweed or Bishop's Weed is a rampant spreader and a major pest. It never met a plant it didn't want for dinner and to crowd out if at all possible. It spreads and is barely confined to a garden bed by concrete lined beds.

So should nurseries produce this plant? Should garden shops sell it to unsuspecting gardeners?

Somewhere, in a past life I broached this question to a sales executive of a major Canadian nursery and the response was predictable. "We only grow them because there's a demand for them." In other words, somebody wants it - so we'll grow it no matter how badly it messes up gardens. It isn't the responsibility of the producer nursery to make decisions for gardeners.

And it isn't the responsibility of the garden center to make that decision either - or is it?

I saw flats of Sedum acre for sale in garden centers this year - even though it used to be listed as a noxious weed in this province. It is possible and legal to produce and sell a noxious weed?

In the case of the Bishops Weed - it does make a good ground cover where few other plants will thrive. And when pruned with a lawn mower, it rebounds to produce a dense mat of foliage. In the case of the Sedum acre, its brilliant yellow flowers blaze across rock gardens.

We know that the vast majority of plant thugs were introduced by the governments of various states or provinces and touted by them as "solutions" to problems. (can you say Kudzu vine) so the ornamental horticulture industry isn't to blame for these things. And gardeners aren't as well.

But...

The question still remains - do we produce and sell plant thugs?

And who defines plant thug?

7 Comments:

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Janet said...

I think nurseries have the right to sell thugs, but they should be upfront about it and indicate the possible downsides.

Noxious weeds is something else. I didn't realize that Sedum acre is on our noxious weed list. It would be up to the government to enact a ban on selling, or at least require them to be labeled "Noxious weed". That should at least slow sales down.

 
At 10:43 PM, Blogger lisa said...

i just saw that sedum in a catalog, and i had it marked for "wish list"....i bet it's no worse than the one i alrady have with "tiny pine-tree" looking foliage, and star-shaped yellow flowers. i'm gonna throw caution to the wind and buy some! (unless somebody has a sample to trade :)

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger trey said...

I don’t know what the solution is, but I would be worried about “who” decides what a noxious plant is. We have a plant called “Scotch Broom” (Cytisus scoparius), which was introduced by gold miners in the 1800’s. It has beutiful flowers and is very tough.It has spread everywhere in the foothills, and is a true pest. The problem is that there are varieties that have been developed that are sterile, and will not spread. Yet, here in El Dorado County it is illegal to sell any Scotch Broom, sterile or otherwise. The neighboring county, Placer, does not have that rule.

 
At 11:40 PM, Blogger amy said...

Well, as much as it is fun to throw caution to the wind, and it is essential to do so every so often in life...and, as much as we fight to preserve one's freedoms to make choices, the growers/nurseries are not fighting for our right to choose. They are fighting for the dollar. While they are not responsible for the choices gardeners make, I feel they should acknowlege the fact that people look to them as experts and trust the offerings. Gardening is a great hobby to jump into and learn as you go, so many people simply are not educated enough to realize the impact of their choices. Personally, I think growers act irresponsibly when they sell a plant that is destructive, IN the area that it threatens. If people really want these agressive plants, believe me, by their very nature, they are around. In NY, we have a Loosestrife problem. Finally, it seems to have disappeared from the nurseries.
http://www.invasive.org/eastern/
biocontrol/11PurpleLoosestrife.html

 
At 9:54 AM, Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Well, I think that a start would be to label them with real terms instead of marketing spin. Instead of a tag that tells you Bishop's weed is a "vigorous groundcover," which just implies to me that it's a healthy grower and spreader, it should have to use words like "possibly invasive" or "obnoxious."

The latter should at least cause some people who read the tag to think twice about it and learn a little more before they buy... no?

 
At 2:11 PM, Blogger lisa said...

umm...egg on my face...i DO already have that sedum (same as i mentioned)-i was thinking of one with a red flower that the nsy catalog called by the same name...oh well. i must agree with trey on curious regulation-makes no sense to have neighboring counties with different standards. i'm sure the plants won't respect the county borders! :)

 
At 9:33 AM, Blogger lisa said...

okay...one more comment....as far as nurseries identifying invasives-how do you suppose this info will affect sales? not only that, but many plants CAN qualify as "thugs" depending upon growing conditions. for example-my trumpet vine is very well behaved, while my mother's sends up runners through the cracks in her concrete, and has even traveled from the back to the front yard. my variegated hosta politely stays put and grows true to form, hers is a wandering "bully" and is so huge, it looks like the "nuclear vegetables" gilligan found (on one of my favorite episodes). i feel that the info provided by each states DNR website is sufficient to ID serious problem plants. beyond that, it's up to the individual and word of mouth via local gardeners to share info regarding "neighborhood thugs".

 

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