By this time of year the seed catalogs, fruit tree catalogs, and various outdoor planting publications are all dog eared, paper clipped, or marked in some fashion. You have been working on re-doing your landscape, making sketches, imagining what this would like here, and that there. Is this shrub or tree going to have the desired effect? The sun is shining, the snow is gone, the days are getting longer, and maybe, just maybe, you can go out and work in the yard. But have you made the correct decisions? Are you being a good steward? You want to attract birds and create natural areas on your property. Are you planting an invasive species? Just because you buy it from a catalog or a nursery doesn’t mean it is going to be right. If you have Autumn/Russian olive, Privet, Honeysuckle varieties, Buckthorn, Asian Bittersweet, Burning Bush, Barberry, Norway Maple, Callery Pear cultivars, Ribbon Grass, Periwinkle, Myrtle or Purple Loosestrife in your plans you have made the wrong decision!
Believe it or not, ALL of these are invasive species and are on many states “top 10 lists” of things NOT to plant in your landscape. But wait, this can’t be right, I read it on the Internet that they would be great in a landscape. But, but the seed catalog said “The fruit of the Autumn Olive tree are red when mature and the leaves and fruit are covered with tiny scales. The fruit of the Autumn Olive tree is loved by quail, ducks, turkey pheasant, grouse, and song birds.” Well as the great Paul Harvey always said…”and now the rest of the story.” The seed catalog didn’t lie; they just left one very important fact. Birds do love the fruit of the Autumn olive and they disperse it all over via their droppings, I mean all over. Within a few years instead of one Autumn olive shrub, you have 100, your neighbor has 100, your neighbor’s neighbor has 100 and so on. The same can be said about Privet, Barberry, Asian Bittersweet and various Honeysuckles.
Purple loosestrife is beautiful, but within a few years you will think you have carpeted your flower beds with it. The same can be said of Dame’s rocket, a common perennial for sale in the seed catalogs. Lesser celandine looks beautiful with its yellow flower, is a perennial and one of the first plants to flower in the spring. The foliage actually disappears in the early spring so the annuals can take center stage. What more can you ask of any plant! However, within a few years you literally have a sea of celandine. It is everywhere; trust me, I know from experience!
Fear not; all is not lost, there are alternatives! Places like Holden Arboretum and The Ohio State University are working with nurseries, nurserymen, and landscape architects in Ohio to educate them on the damage being caused by the sale and planting of these invasive species. Encouraging them to grow and market alternative native species that will satisfy the landscape architect’s imagination and meet the needs of the everyday landscaper has become a very important initiative.
The following are suitable alternatives; many are native species that have been crowded out by the so called traditional landscape plant. Hopefully you can make good decisions and don’t plant something that you will later regret. Become good stewards of the land. Attract birds and make natural areas in a way you will enjoy! Let the planting begin!