Thursday, April 16, 2009

Your Vote on Vinca?



My Banner Mountain neighborhood is Action Central for Vinca right now--major, minor, whatever, it's all blooming like mad. 

I was admiring the plethora of Vinca during a walk this evening, and suddenly my Inner Garden Critic chimed in. He seemed to be an Englishman.

The internal dialogue was like those old cartoons, with a pitchfork-carrying Devil sitting on one's shoulder. This time it was a shovel-carrying Inner Garden Critic on my shoulder. 

It went something like this:

DP:  Oh, another bank of Vinca major in bloom! What a lovely shade of blue-violet those flowers are!

IGC:  I beg to differ! What could possibly be more of a garden cliche than Vinca major?

DP:  (falteringly) But I like it. And it's not St. John's wort.

IGC:  You make an excellent point. Vinca major is simply ubiquitous while St. John's wort is actively unattractive. But do please scan the horizon. Your neighborhood is absolutely swathed in Vinca major.

DP:  Well, not many groundcovers get through our snowy winters and dry summers. You know the deer don't eat Vinca. And it's fire retardant too. It's pretty much the perfect plant here.

IGC:  (splutters) Perfect plant? My good woman, I had imagined you finally understood the importance of native plants--and you know very well that Vinca is not native. 

DP:  You're right, you're so right. If there were a good native substitute I'd be glad to use it. 

IGC:  (coldly) It is invasive too, as I should not have to remind you.

DP:  Listen, with my clay soil I need plants called "invasive" just so they stay alive. 

IGC:  Hmmph. Well, at least you grow Vinca minor 'Sterling Silver' with variegated leaves. I suppose I can live with that.

DP:  Thanks. Now let's stop arguing so we can enjoy this walk together.

Silence, as I take a few more steps.

DP:  Oh, would you look at that! There's a magenta azalea about to open!

Inner Garden Critic screams and leaps off my shoulder.



And you, dear reader--whose side are you on? What's your vote on Vinca?

31 comments:

Maranta said...

I have to admit, for most of the year I could hoist a pint at the pub with your inner garden critic and rail against Vinca in classy English slang all night long. But this happens to be the one time of year I can sit back and enjoy all the Vinca in full bloom without twitching my shears in anticipation of its inevitable, choking attack on all nearby plants and property. So, for now, Cheers!

Maranta said...

I have to admit, for most of the year I could hoist a pint at the pub with your inner garden critic and rail against Vinca in classy English slang all night long. But this happens to be the one time of year I can sit back and enjoy all the Vinca in full bloom without twitching my shears in anticipation of its inevitable, choking attack on all nearby plants and property. So, for now, Cheers!

Town Mouse said...

Invasive. Boring. Why even think about it. There are so many other plants that are so much more appealing, especially at this time of the year.

Janet said...

AUUUGGGHHHHhhhhh.... Vinca major is one plant that I would gladly spray with both barrels of Roundup. My neighbor has it in her yard, added it after I suggested she shouldn't. Then she says --What would my gardening friends say if they saw her yard? She is my mother!!!

Grace Peterson said...

Well, hmmm... I'd have to say, right plant, right place. Where Vinca belongs, I'm not sure. But it does have its merits. I like the early blooming flowers and the newer variegated cultivars are nice. So how's that for totally non-committal?

Tessa at Blunders with shoots, blossoms 'n roots said...

Well, I have it in my yard- and there used to be ivy there, another plant that is not indigenous what a pain that way to get rid of. The VM has taken over somewhat, but it is slow. For now it stays. I do like the variegated varieties- but I like variegated anything ;)

flowergardengirl said...

I don't know? I have one patch of it in the front yard between two trees and I hope it stays there. I'm thinking I don't like it since it collects leaves and other debris.

You are too funny and I enjoyed the dialogue with your evil twin.

Anonymous said...

LOVE IT!!!!

ryan said...

I give it a thumbs down. It's misbehaves and makes boring monocultures.

EB said...

I love it. I find the proportion of the leaf size to flwoer size just right, and I love all the colours. I only have one plant, and it is utterly bullied by pulmonaria and ferns, so I don't find it invasive at all. (nice post by the way :) )

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

It's a woodland plant. I like it. If in the wrong place, sure, can be a pain, but otherwise needs a bit of management.

Rob

spearette said...

That's great. I was noticing that plant around here (WNY) and wondering what it was. Thanks! I like it's little blue flowers.

Heather said...

Your inner garden critic is a snob:D Funny he presents as a man with an accent. I don't mind Vinca in small doses, it does look tidy and lives in hard to live places, like under a tree. Just my opinion.
Heather

PlantingOaks said...

At least it flowers.

That's a lot more than you can say for most shady groundcovers.

I wouldn't fill my front beds with it, but if you need cover in the shade, it's better than, oh, english ivy, pachysandra, lamium, snow on the mountain... really, are there good choices?

For that matter, isn't being invasive part of the definition of a groundcover?

Angel with dirty finger nails said...

Flowers are pretty, leaves are fairly attractive, and yes it does grow in fairly difficult places, but oh boy, how it gets out of control. No, dont plant it. Considered invasive in California - http://www.cal-ipc.org/ip/management/ipcw/pages/detailreport.cfm@usernumber=88&surveynumber=182.php

krummholz said...

Would you believe that vinca struggles to survive where I planted it? (Full shade, under Norway maples with their dense mat of roots, soil about 4-5" over granite ledge--they don't call my street "Quarry Street" for nothing-- meaning granite quarries). I found that groundcover euonymous does better, and I'm grateful for anything that will grow there. Oddly enough, ostrich ferns do okay in that spot too, but they won't be emerging here until mid to late May.

RainGardener said...

I was never able to get the major to grow that my Mother gave me but I have 2 old growth stumps planted in minor. Changing them now though and giving all mine to a friend who has a steep bank. I kept a little blue and wine for accents hanging over raised beds that I keep cut and in control. It's pretty when blooming and when not at least the leaves are shiny and green if not in the hot sun. I'm surrounded by fir trees in a woodland setting so I guess I can get away with it.

Daffodil Planter said...

Welcome Angel with dirty fingers! Thanks for the link.

As for the rest of you--aside from some temperate remarks--it's looking like there's a new item for the list of things not to discuss in polite company: 1) Politics, 2) Religion, 3) Vinca ;-)

I do appreciate hearing from you all, and learning about your varied experiences with Vinca. It really is a virtual garden club, getting to read all your opinions!

tina said...

It is okay if, and ONLY if it is sited properly. Good groundcover? Yes! Too good and therein lies the problem. I don't want it taking over my yard. Right now I have eradicated it (I planted it-silly me!) in all but one corner where it is contained by a pasture and a lawn mower. Hmmmm.

Jeanne said...

My old neighborhood on Long Island was swathed in vinca...I'm grateful to have carpets of violets right now in the woods. Nary a vinca in sight.

Anonymous said...

Fine where planted appropriately - mine is in the next-to-the-street-under-the-trees area where I don't want to put too much energy. Much more attractive than the swath of St. John's wort (yuk) which is also MUCH more invasive in my front lawn. And even if it does die out in the summer from lack of water, it grows back come the rainy season. I think it's merits might just barely outweigh it's vices. There are certainly worse groundcovers around, like ivy, mentioned above (also in my yard, boooo).

Sharon Heinz

Daffodil Planter said...

Tina, It sounds all too happy in your nice climate!

Welcome Jeanne! We have violets too here in the Sierra foothills, not carpets, but welcome additions. Your woods sound lovely.

Sharon, Most of the Vinca in our neighborhood is at the street boundary as well. Works there. For a great post on ivy, go way back up to the first commenter, Maranta, and his blog. Or to get to it another way, click on Callus and Chlorophyll in the Rest of the West part of my blogroll. The post is called Hederahelix I think.

VW said...

Since I just wrote about allergies, I should note that vinca is an allergy-free plant. I thought v. minor wasn't as much of a thug as v. major? I like the minor. It's definitely better than ivy, which will climb up your walls/fences and leave ugly brown marks all over. And isn't everything invasive in California? When your growing season is endless things just get OVERGROWN - that's not so much of a problem when you get snow for 6 months a year, like me :-)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have Vinca that the birds planted. I let it go where it is but I fight to keep it there. I would vote not to start it. Difficult to eradicate when you finally come to your senses.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today. You are welcome any time.

Daffodil Planter said...

VW, I don't have as much snow as you do, but am in an unusual, four-season part of California. Interesting to know that Vinca doesn't cause allergies. We have yellow pollen all over right now.

Welcome Lisa at Greenbow! So Vinca is active even in IN? Tough stuff. As some of the comments have noted, it's possible that the major is more invasive than the minor. I have to dote on my small patch of minor.

SusanGardenChick said...

Oh my, you saucy vixen - getting the troops all stirred up again? Well, I'm not on the fence on this one.

Vinca minor is fine, spreads gradually and controllably and looks great without too much irrigation.

Vinca major is a disaster and should be banned as an invasive species. Incredibly difficult to eradicate and looks like crap when its done blooming. It's a thug dressed in purple clothing.

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

I have vinca in an 'island area' containing oak trees and holly trees. The area is filled with azalea and daffodils and in the summer, daisy's and astilbe...in the center area I filled it w/vinca and I love the purple flowers. It serves as a wonderful ground cover and prevents mud from piling up where there's dirt. I just pull it out where I don't like it to be...it's very easy to pull out. It isn't a 'thick' vine so I don't see it as a problem!

Daffodil Planter said...

Jan, Sounds like a very pretty arrangement! Hope the hollies don't reach down to grapple with you while you are controlling the Vinca. Major or minor?

Anonymous said...

Vinca is an invasive that can dominate wildland areas especially along streams in my area, shading out the native plants. It is highly recommended as a fire resistant plant. I wish it stayed in gardens away from wildlands!

Genevieve said...

It's pretty when it blooms, but here in my climate it is seriously invasive, so I only use it in pots. The variegated kinds are really pretty.

anniemcq said...

I just dug up a huge swath of it in a contained wall area. It's very shady there, but there are a few other lovely plants - jack frost, rose, bleeding hearts, fern - that were being completely choked. It was pretty, yes, but I couldn't contain it! It was going everywhere. I kept a small amount around a Japanese Maple, but I'm going to try to some how border that area so it doesn't go hogwild again!