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Perennial Treachery: Betrayed by Garden Plants!

Of all the rotten things in the world, the most appalling is betrayal. Who are history’s most loathsome people? The treasonous! Judas, Brutus and Benedict Arnold. 

Irises—so pretty until a closer look reveals the weeds they're wont to shelter.

Irises—so pretty until a closer look reveals the weeds they're wont to shelter.

Recently, I discovered that many of my perennials have been traitors. They have aided and abetted my worst enemies—such vile foes as sorrel, chickweed, annual bluegrass, crabgrass and other weeds I cannot name but loathe. You know them. That filthy ilk.  

I have long been aware, of course, that certain perennials are unapologetic weed enablers. Iris, for instance. They’re like the Mae West of plants. So openly and eagerly do they invite the rabble in that it’s almost cute. Among their shoots they will present to you anything from barnyard grass to silver maples to Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ seedlings. They do this about the same way your cat presents you with a dead mouse.  

We have to assume, then, that iris mean well. They’re just kind of weird and dumb. Like cats. Likewise their relatives crocosmia and candy lilies. Or almost any of the sedges. 

The weeds these perennials harbor are weeds you can pull, at least. (Someday. When your back doesn’t hurt too much. And when it’s not too hot out. And maybe after you’ve had that second cup of coffee. Yeah, on that day, you can bend over and pull the little bastard!)

I’m not nearly as forgiving of certain other perennials—former favorites that, it turns out, have been dirty, stinking rats. Corydalis and columbines. Look beneath them: Every weed you can imagine! Hostas host all the worst offenders. And Geranium ‘Rozanne’? Oh, how I love her, but beneath her skirt she gives refuge to every sorrel under the sun! And spurge. And others. All of them setting seed. 

This sad revelation has changed me. I used to take some pride in being a relatively nice guy. Now I’m like Darth Vader in one of the episodes where there is absolutely no chance he’ll do anything redemptive. I whisk about my yard, angry and paranoid, obsessively lifting shoots, cussing and laying waste to ruffians. There’s a walking path right across the street, with lots of people coming and going. My wife is mortified. Me? After my energy is spent, I feel only shame.  

I know that some of you will suggest I try mulching. Others will argue for use of a pre-emergent herbicide. But I’m stubborn. And I’m stupid. And I like it when some of my plants can at least dream of having children of their own. Moreover, there has never been a moment in my life when any of the worst vices on Earth didn’t seem a more constructive pursuit than carting heavy, steaming, stinking, fermenting bark around the yard.  

So here I am. Stuck. This is my bitter fate. I am a monster who mortifies his sweet, sweet wife. Set in his ways. Obsessed with ‘Rozanne’s’ comeliness, and then with her indiscretions. Just another lost soul of a gardener down in the gutter, destined to pull weeds. Forever.