While I'm patiently waiting for my roses to bloom in the North Carolina mountains, I thought I'd revisit a cautionary tale concerning my old garden in Maryland.
You see, it’s only human nature, but every time I thumb through a magazine I start imagining the fabulous perennials pictured on the pages in my very own garden.
Sometimes these daydreams work well – I love my catmints, lavenders and centhransus.
Other times they turn into nightmares.
At the beginning, artemesia 'Powis Castle' seemed to be a great addition to my little riverside cottage garden.
As a fairly new gardener way back when, I was knowledgeable about roses, but didn’t have a clue about perennial plant companions.
The artemesia was described as attractive, carefree and well-behaved.
Brochure copy promised “The lovely silvery filigree will spread like a carpet beneath your roses and serve as a perfect backdrop for any color bloom.”
The plant according to legend also had the power to protect me from the Evil Eye, plagues and the bite of a sea dragon.
So what’s not to like?
Initially 'Powis Castle' lived up to its billing. Then I discovered it spreads by underground rhizomes and can grow 6 to 10 feet in diameter.
While away on a month-long trip to England, the plants took over the garden, swallowing my miniature roses and hardy geraniums. The stems were covered with some sort of fungus disease and the floppy limbs were just plain ugly.
I attacked with pruning shears and the Artemesias still looked just plain ugly. (Plus the “pleasantly fragrant” leaves in my opinion were stinky.)
So I yanked them all out.
Then, who doesn’t love Monarda?
I saw a pretty red one at the garden center and thought it would look lovely between my Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison and the David Austin beauty, The Dark Lady.
The tag proclaimed it was a wonderful choice for attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and “helpful” bees.
What the tag didn’t say is that Bee Balm is a member of the mint family and has a tendency to become invasive. Before long it was everywhere – the single plant traveled so far it practically opened the door and came inside the house.
Plus it was covered in powdery mildew that may have affected my roses.
It took three entire days on my hands and knees to dig it out. Despite all my efforts, some Bee Balm came back the following year, but eventually I was rid of the miserable thing.
Today, photos of lush perennials continue to turn my head. And I do order unfamiliar plants from time to time.
I also keep a dried sprig of lacy artemesia foliage in my pocket at all times.
After all, who knows when I might need protection from the bite of a sea dragon.