Escapees


You might have some yourself, plants that have escaped the captivity of a container or bed to run free with the wind in their hair, er leaves.


There are those that use the sticky pads that form on their stems, like the variegated ivy that covers the curve of the long wall behind the main house. Once upon a time, it was the spiller in a concrete container. It spilled right over the edge, across the gravel strewn path and up the concrete blocks of the wall. It remains there, kept from hopping the border into the beds behind the wall with twice yearly pruning by the gardener.


There are the types that are easily broken off, drop to the ground, or again the gravel paths, and form roots quickly and vigorously. Sedums are especially talented at this maneuver.

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Natural creepers, such as the low lying Thymus family spread rapidly to fill in blank areas. The center, the plant that was placed just so in a certain spot, often dies back and becomes an eyesore while the branching tentacles have explored the great beyond. Patching then becomes necessary to maintain the carpet-y look.


There are the plant types that are thinking long term. “Don’t worry about me, save yourselves!”, they say to the seeds that wash down the driveway to lodge between rocks or even cracks in the cement. Aster oblongifolius ‘October Blue Skies’ fits into this category, as do many others.


Grasses are cognizant of the wind with graceful movements and revelry so intense that seedheads fly through the air to land and germinate some distance away. Living on a steep slope, most travel downhill on a roller coaster express that finds the seeds landing on the flat pathways, case in point, Nasella (Stipa) tenuissima.


Berry bearing plants rely on wildlife when they want to find a better life for their progeny. The shiny red morsel is swallowed and digested while the diner flits or scampers about the garden, releasing the magical seed with nary a thought. Hollies, dogwoods and the dreaded Japanese privet pop up in the soil and gravel under pleasant perches.

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Breeding like rabbits, certain plants jump over the whole fruit, seed, germination ploy and produce offsets on spindly stems that snake over the soil to form new colonies. Ajuga reptans and strawberries, among others, act this way.


Time is on the side of the escapees. Do you have any jailbirds that have proven to be good citizens once free, like the viola volunteer extravaganza that occurred early on in the knot garden? These particulars freebirds are so ravishing that a yearly Beauty Pageant is held to declare the Fairest of the Faire, (this is the link to last year’s beauties). The contestants from 2012 will be shown and judged in January, 2013.

Frances

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17 Responses to Escapees

  1. Love the viola extravaganza! I was also surprised at how quick my Aster oblongifolius spread. I dig and divide that plant every year. But I do love it when they bloom!

    Hi BG, thanks for visiting. Those violas were wonderful and such a fun surprise since they were in the gravel paths, not the beds where their parents had been planted. The asters are just as prolific, if not more so. I love them, too.
    Frances

  2. indygardener says:

    I am always happy when violas free themselves from containers and proliferate around the garden.

    Hi Carol, thanks for stopping by. Yes, those free spirited violas are the best!
    Frances

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It seems that plants that you don’t want so many of are the ones that do most of the escaping. I do have a good crop of hollyhocks this year…only they are not in a good place. I need to move them to a place where they will be appreciated. Thyme doesn’t do well here. I think it is too damp most of the time.

    Hi Lisa, thanks for visiting. There are many escapees that are not so welcome, like those pesky wild violets, but many are good guys and sometimes get moved to a more humanly preferable location. Where they never self sow.
    Frances

  4. Do you ever think about what you would have deliberately planted to soften the impact of the long wall? The ivy has done such a great job, it’s hard to imagine what would be preferable. I, too, have some variegated holly that homesteaded in an area in a way that has improved its neighborhood and it doesn’t seem to mind the brutal cutbacks I inflict on it. I was surprised to read that your aster October Blue Skies is such a generous reseeder…lucky you!

    Hi Michaele, thanks for sharing here. No, I would hever have thought to plant that ivy on the wall, although in the first year, I did plant regular old English ivy along the straight part of it. Very bad mistake, but I was able to dig it all out after using it as decor for daughter Semi’s wedding. The October Blue Skies secret is learning what the babies look like so they don’t get pulled as weeds.
    Frances

  5. gail says:

    Frances, I love the escape artist trait that many wildflowers have…especially the ex-asters and Black-eyed Susans. Your violas are divine~I noticed mine have dropped seeds so maybe I will have a few freebies! xoxogail

    Thanks Gail. The asters, I refuse to recognize the name change, are the most prolific of escapees here and most do get pulled. But the violas are a whole other ball of wax, never do any of those get pulled. I hope you get some babies of your own!
    xoxoxo
    Frances

  6. Dee A. Nash says:

    Yes, we all have a few don’t we? I love most of my escapees. Some make model citizens.

    Hi Dee, thanks for adding in here. Sort of a Jean ValJean model citizen, eh.
    Frances

  7. kwgarden@gmail.com says:

    Thank you again for your beautiful blog. You really brighten my mornings!

    What a sweet thing to say, thank you so much. I appreciate you!
    Frances

  8. Cindy says:

    Escapees abound on my corner of Katy. I spend a lot of time rounding them up and consigning them to compost!

    Hi Cindy, thanks for sharing your escapee methodology. There are some here that need imprisonment, too, but I don’t dare put them in the compost, then they would stage a riot!
    Frances

  9. Alison says:

    I’m very glad this year at least that I have so many self-sown Lady’s Mantle, I’m planning to transplant all the babies into a new bed. I love the plants that self-sow. The creepers that slowly take over, not so much.

    Hi Alison, thanks for sharing about your own escapees. I would love to be able to grow Lady’s Mantle and could at our first Tennessee home. It doesn’t like the conditions here, I have tried it several times. The ivy has to be watched carefully or it will eat everything in its path.
    Frances

  10. Larkspur (Consolida ambigua) and sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) are the two escapees that I rely on to fill in a couple of beds for free every year. They require only a bit of editing and moving, then I ignore them. Trouble- and maintenance-free, they are a bargain.

    Oh how lucky you are, MMD, those are two wonderful plants. We used to have a mixture of alyssum and violas at our very first house, in Pennsylvania. They did just as yours, filling in every year with no effort on my part. I miss them!
    Frances

  11. I understand where most of my escapees orignated like the violas, but some are more mysterious. Several years ago I planted an agastache but didn’t like it so ripped it out. Now, years later, that same plant arrived in back of the house in the Rose Shed Bed. How did that happen?

    Hi Pat, I love the mysteries of the gardens! It is hard to know how some of these plants show up, Agastache would be most welcome here.
    Frances

  12. sandy lawrence says:

    Lots of escapees here, but I guess my faves are the johnny jump-ups that appear early in spring – the blooms, that is – the seedlings are here now. Some come up in the granite walk, some in pots with other plants, some even in a large tin funnel that I have hung on a tree and planted with succulents. Who knows how they get where they decide to come up? I allow them to appear wherever Nature plants them and enjoy their sweet faces until the hot weather kills them. Great photos, as always, Frances, and what is that lovely blue spiky grass in your last photo?

    Hi Sandy, thanks for joining in the conversation here. The funnel sounds so fun! HA The blue grass is blue fescue, Festuca glauca. It is used all over the place here and has also self seeded a little.
    Frances

  13. Sandy & Richard says:

    The picture of where your violas grow is truly beautiful, could be a painting.
    We also have had the same joy of seeing many violas arrive in our garden,
    here in Tasmania, but the hot sun is now here, and they are begining to leave us
    I feel next year there may be a sight to behold, as they like our garden so much.
    I love the blue pot on your wall with a face on it.

    Hi Sandy and Richard, thanks for visiting, all the way from Tasmania! The violas appear in late winter here as babies, then most bloom in May then die back with the heat. Each year is different. Lucky you with happy violas!
    Frances

  14. Wild strawberries make a great groundcover that is not too hard to control, just takes some persistance. Most of my plants create escapees one way or another, mostly by seed. Sometimes the escapees are welcome. Sometimes they make nice gifts. And sometimes you just have to yank them out and put them on the compost pile.

    Hi Garden IAC, thanks for weighing in here. The wild strawberries here, like the wild violets are unstoppable. Some I pull, some I leave. I put them on the brush pile though, not in the compost. I already have enough of them.
    Frances

  15. I have some ivy that is in a container ….which has stretched its long vine down to the garden bed below. Aerial roots have quickly taken hold. That baby is getting ripped out. I have seen too many ivies take over an area. Other than that, I haven’t had too many escapees in my new garden.

    Hi Janet, beware of ivy,it can take over if not watched very closely. I think there is some of that variegated ivy that is growing on the siding over by the heater that needs removed right now!
    Frances

  16. sharon says:

    wow if you wwere trying to grow those violas they would dry up…haha…they love it there

    That is exactly the way of it, Sharon! HA I have bought seeds of violas and never gotten a single plant from them.
    Frances

  17. Lola says:

    Very nice. I do have such plants that go where they feel like it even up the side of buildings. Just wish they would go where I want them.

    Hi Lola. We have to keep all ivy off of the siding here, too. It is a constant look out.
    Frances

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