Beware of the Floozies

This hellebore will produce future seeds destined to populate Kit’s garden.  Photo credit: Lise Jenkins


By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins

Sex is rampant in my garden, and I’m getting sick of it. This is the time of year that the hellebores wave around their promiscuity as the plants flaunt their swollen seedpods. Soon you begin to realize that there are probably more seeds on one hellebore than there are people in the Triangle.

After a couple of years of hellebores taking up residence in the garden, you begin to fear that they will overtake the world. H. feotidus doesn’t give me heartburn because the seedlings are easy to pull out, but the roots of H. x hybridus are so deep that it’s difficult to pull out the seedlings. Alas, the sterile hellebores — and there are a few—have failed to establish themselves well in my garden.

Hellebores enchant us, primarily because they bloom when little else does. Casting forth their flowers at a time when you’ve given up hope that spring will ever arrive, hellebores arouse tender feelings in our gardening souls until that awful day comes when you realize that either you or the hellebores will have to vacate the garden. Then we begin to cut the flowers off in their prime, grumbling because we planted them precisely for these flowers.

Hellebores, however, are not the only sex fiends in the garden. Look at that sweet Tradescantia, ‘Sweet Kate.’ This plant has so much going for it: Deer leave it alone, the flowers are adorable, and the plant will seemingly grow anywhere. However, those innocent flowers produce invisible seeds that float around, landing far away from the mother plant, producing new deep-rooted spiderworts that are impossible to eradicate.

Liriope muscari also tripped me up. Unlike L. spicata, which wanders via rhizomes, I always thought L. muscari was relatively well behaved — until I began noticing liriope babies scattered throughout the garden. It puts out rather insignificant — but nice — seed-producing flowers. While liriope doesn’t seed as wantonly as do the hellebores and spiderworts, I still consider it insufficiently ladylike in its approach to sex.

Sexual orgies in the garden aren’t confined to spring. Anyone who has encountered chickweed in their lawn knows that those innocent white flowers — so tiny that it’s impossible to imagine they could produce a seed of any worth — guarantee that the chickweed will return in the following winter.

The worst of the sexual harlots I have in my garden is the lovely purple oxalis, O. triangularis. An experienced gardener warned me to keep it away, but I was intoxicated by its lovely color and white flowers. Those innocent white flowers cast seeds far and wide. The roots are deep while constant cutting back fails to exhaust her: This is a lady of indefatigable energy who loves to grow on top of plants, smothering them with her roots. Like the hussy she is, she will entice you to plant her. You will ask yourself: What harm can a shamrock do?

What, then, is a gardener to do? Remember, gardens are not natural creations. It’s up to you to decide what goes and what stays. I have too many hellebores and spiderworts; they are also difficult to dig out of the garden, so their flowers have to go much earlier than I’d like them to leave. Regarding the liriope, it can easily make a statement minus its flowers. Getting rid of the flowers is essential. As for the oxalis, I’m almost — not quite, but almost — ready to resort to chemical warfare.

Remember, it’s up to you to decide which floozy stays and which one goes.

Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email:

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1 Comment on "Beware of the Floozies"

  1. Love the article; floozies indeed!
    You must have very picky deer in your neck of the woods because they regularly devour my spiderwort to the ground where it’s unprotected from the voracious critters.

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