Since moving to our new home, each season has brought its own surprises. In the winter, we collected an abundance of laurel leaves and holly berries for our Advent decorations. Spring brought fields of daffodils and patches of irises. Summer is here, and I’m exhausted from all the pulling, plucking, heaving, hoeing, mowing, and mulching that it’s taken to get the flower beds blooming. From asters to zinnias and all the lavenders and lilies in between, I’m hoping our garden will eventually grow to be less of an annual burden and more of a perennial blessing.
Over the past couple of weeks, orange lilies have lined our little backroads. Ditch lilies, or Hemerocallis fulva, are not a native plant to America and have been deemed an “invasive” species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. They thrive in moist and dry locations, in sun or shade, so much so that maybe it could a brown thumb’s best friend…but not if they’re trying to grow much else.
Invasive plants get their bad rap for coming in and taking over. They frequently choke or stunt the growth of native plants, even the well-established ones, some of which are necessary to stabilize stream and riverbanks or feed pollinators or woodland animals. What’s a gardener to do?
I’m in favor of choosing native plants over nonnatives, whenever possible. Instead of the showy (and nonnative invasive) Princess trees, Japanese honeysuckle, and English Ivy, select and plant American or Mountain Fly honeysuckle, creeping phlox, or tulip poplars. Instead of ditch lilies, trade for native butterfly weed and your fields will still be painted pretty as a sunset. Unlike the name suggests, butterfly weed, or Asclepias tuberosa, doesn’t misbehave like a weed and take over your garden beds. Their long-lasting, bright petals attract an array of pollinators, and this is even a host plant for monarch butterflies.
But what if ditching the ditch lilies just isn’t an option? I’ve learned that whether it’s a weed or not depends on where it is growing. No ditch lily in my grandmother’s creek bank was ever displaced, be it because she innocently loved the happy orange flowers or because the chunky copperheads guarded them, I can’t exactly say. Though, come to think about it, I did often see her with a shovel—but I still think it was more for the snakes.
**Feature photo of native butterfly weed (milkweed) near our hives– check out all the pollinators!