Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth? Or: Invasives- They Give Me the Creeps! By Sue Ryan

We have all heard the addage, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.’  but should this apply to accepting gifted plants for our garden? I suggest that we graciously, yet carefully accept gifts of plants. We need to do careful research on all “gifts’ before ever putting them in the ground.
            When I first began gardening back in Juneau, my neighbor across the street had the most beautiful delphiniums, columbines, peonies and other flowering beauties. I envied what appeared her apparent ease to grow these specimens. Come spring, I knew that she would be thinning out her beds and leave the extra plants at the end of her driveway for any to take. I would willingly scoop up any of her castoffs, many times having no idea what I was planting. I always hoped that my beds would be as luscious and carefree as hers. Fortunately, my neighbor passed on plants that were all suitable to our area.
            While this gardening generosity is wonderful (and I still love to get gifted plants), we may unwittingly plant invasive species in our gardens. A neighbor here in the Mat-Su Valley this past year gave me a Creeping Charlie which I gladly accepted. After taking the Master Gardener course, I knew I needed to know more about this particular plant before letting it loose in my beds.
            With a little research, I found out that Creeping Charlie is considered invasive in Alaska and have escaped or naturalized in 46 other states. Invasive plants threaten wild areas often choking out native vegetation and destroying natural wildlife habitats.
You can check out this publication produced by UAF to find out more about invasive species in Alaska.
Or this link
            After panicking about this plant, I wrote my friend a quick email letting her know the sinister nature of this invasive, just imagining it slithering it’s way through our neighborhood. She wrote back and told me she had never planted it outside, but just kept it as a house plant. Whew! I felt a little foolish about jumping to such wild conclusions but took comfort knowing that my neighborhood was not under siege. In the process we both learned that while a Creeping Charlie may make a great house plant, it should not be planted in our garden beds.
            So the next time you are offered a cutting or a divided plant from a friend, make sure to do your research as well!

About Heidi Rader

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