When in doubt, consult Mother Nature!Gardening is such fun, especially in Springtime! I’m sure we’ve all been tempted to add beautiful, new, exotic plants to our landscape, only to be disappointed the following year. One of three things typically happen to me. Hopefully, the plants thrive! However, more often, either the plant dwindles (appearing straggly, without flowers; dying off), or it unexpectedly runs rampant, taking over the area.It was a lovely, sunny day with a bit of a cool breeze, so I thought I’d finally tend to the plants around my mailbox. You see, I planted a few new perennials several years ago (drawn initially to their name Mayan Purple) and they have simply taken over- sprawling up and over the irises (which I had totally forgotten). Combined with the volunteer palmetto palms, it was a jumbled, chaotic mess with plants growing up over top of one another, and nothing was flourishing.What happened to my lovely plan of welcoming in a new species (Ruellia simplex- Mayan Purple) into an established area to play nicely with the irises and native palms? Were they evil little plants, or did I just happen to get an aggressive batch??? Neither! I simply didn’t know the intent/ habit of the newly added plants, or how they would interact with the others… Apparently, it is their nature to self-propagate and spread. It’s not their “fault” per se, it’s just how they are wired by nature.
As I was focused on cutting back the overgrowth, my mind started thinking about politics- especially, the immigration/ refugee issues that many countries are struggling with today. It seems that whenever I am frustrated about an issue in life or feeling overwhelmed, nature grabs me by the hand and guides me gently along the path... back to sanity. What nature/ my garden taught me is that none of the plants is inherently “undesirable”; it’s just that I placed the wrong plant in the wrong space. The irises and palms had been getting along just fine based on their natural habits. Yet when the new plants were introduced, disruption ensued as the resources and boundaries were pushed.Initially, things were “fine”. Each stayed neatly in its own space… at least for a while. However, several seasons came and went and the balance was upset. Eventually, there was chaos. The peaceful little irises had all but disappeared under the sprawl of the Ruellia simplex (Mayan Purple). Even the native palms did not seem happy. Sure, they were still alive, yet the fronds were misshapen, pale and unhealthy because of the competition. It seemed like they were trying to make room for the newcomers, yet felt a bit “disrespected” in the process.
So, what’s a natural gardener to do?
I LOVE to rescue plants (always giving them a 2nd chance, even buying the damaged ones "on sale" at various stores). As such, I spoke with the plants and let them know that we needed to reestablish a bit of order, especially since this was my front yard in a lovely neighborhood with a homeowner’s association. I gently cut back the overgrown Ruellia, removed the damaged fronds of the native palms and welcomed the irises back into center stage (as they had been pummeled by the most recent invasive plants). I even placed most of the Ruellia cuttings in soil to root for pots later.
After setting those boundaries, I gently watered all the plants and gave them some time and space to see what would happen next. Clear boundaries needed to be enforced for any of the plants to thrive in this limited space. We are heading into the warmer months here in Florida, and I’m a “tough love” gardener (especially when it comes to water). Finding the RIGHT place for the right plants seems like a “no brainer” when it comes to gardening- so why is it so difficult when it comes to people and immigration?It must be because emotions get involved and we assume that we know how everyone feels (based on how we feel) … but is that a fair assumption? I think not! Are we asking newcomers about their intentions when they arrive, or are we simply assuming we know what brings them to our unfamiliar shores? Instead of placing blame and finding others at fault, perhaps it may be more productive to honestly look at the “gardening guide” of the plant/ people in question. Are they a solitary, clumping species; do they favor certain companion plants, or do they spread (as is the natural habit of Ruellia simplex, per the tag)? None of the plants was “at fault” based on nature’s rules; yet like any organism placed in non-native settings, they can cause harm in their new homes...
Choices have Consequences
What I need to do in the future is to know exactly WHERE I plan to introduce new plants (native vs non-native), the RESOURCES available and WHAT their natural habits/ intentions may be. If, however, I neglect to do MY job (proper research/ vetting), I should not be surprised if the outcome fails to meet my original expectations… My short-term happiness (enjoying the exotic flowers) should NOT take precedence over the long-term harmony and balance of the existing flora and fauna.