ChiloquinNews article 8/1/2011
Plants that like to Run
I can’t count the number of times I’ve planted something only to find out later that it was a runner, and have then spent years trying to eradicate it from places where it was not wanted. Sometimes it’s easier just to sell the house and move on 🙂 In my Chiloquin garden I have quite a few runners, but this time I mostly knew what I was getting into. My garden is still quite young though and I still may regret some of my choices as the years pass by.
So what are these plants that I’m willing to suffer to have? Three of them are edible – Alpine Strawberries, raspberries and Sea Buckthorn. Alpine Strawberry can be somewhat controlled by cutting off the water in areas where it’s not wanted. It makes a short, thick groundcover that completely chokes out weeds and has delicious berries as a bonus, if you can beat the robins and raccoons to them. Raspberries are quite a bit taller and pop up quite a distance from the original plant, but raspberry jam makes it all worthwhile. Sea Buckthorn is a thorny thicket, and is not deterred too much by limited water. It’s getting out of hand already…. The taste of the orange berries though, reminds me of my childhood favorite – passion fruit – besides easily filling my vitamin C quota.
Shady moist places encourage Bishop’s Weed, Japanese Anemone, Sweet Woodruff and Ajuga to run. I have them planted together and let them duke it out for the available space. Once again these make a thick carpet that smothers out weeds, and they both stop abruptly at the edge of the watered garden. Bishop’s Weed has variegated leaves that really brighten up a shady spot, the Anemone has lovely white flowers followed by fluffy seed heads, and the Sweet Woodruff has exceptionally pretty foliage covered in tiny white flowers. Ajuga has lovely spikes of blue flowers in spring, and one variety has burgundy colored leaves. Another plant that likes a moist spot, regardless of sun or shade, is mint. I have my mint contained by the dry ground around it also.
There are runners for the sunny garden too. Some of the Bellflowers will spread rapidly, and I have been astonished at how quickly Lipstick Strawberry had extended its range. These are both fairly short, and are easily overpowered by the taller plants growing around them. Bamboos are notorious runners but the only ones that are really hardy in our area are a few of the clumping bamboos.
If you are worried about the running, you can try to contain these plants by planting them in containers with solid walls, but then you do have to be careful about drainage, and sometimes they will find a way out anyway.
I shouldn’t forget the weeds. Clover, vetch and some grasses will drive you crazy if you let them get hold. Best to get them out as soon as you see the first leaf!
Trees that run are Aspen, Cottonwood and some of the willows and plums. Think carefully about where you put them.