Plants With Super Powers Really Do Exist

Garden bed of phlox free of weeds

A key to solving problems in the garden is choosing the right plants. Check out this bed of creeping phlox, and not a weed to be found!
Photo by Allan Armitage

I am a believer in solution gardening. In fact, I may be the No. 1 cheerleader for garden center and landscape programs about solutions.

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In case one is not familiar with the concept, it simply means that we should be marketing solutions to the consumer and landscaper, rather than simply offering an endless litany of plants. Understanding that plants can solve problems is like realizing that Batman can save Gotham City. We don’t need a super-cape when we already have plants with super powers.

The idea of plants solving garden problems has been making the rounds for years, but without the passion the concept deserves. People who touch plants are waiting for this.

What We Can Do

Many availability lists already sort for deer-resistant plants, native plants, pollinators, etc. A heading of “Solutions” and appropriate plants on the availability list is not difficult and puts problem-solving in the forefront.

Here’s an example:

Solutions:

  • Plants for Natives
  • Plants for Pollinators
  • Plants Deer Don’t Eat
  • Plants for Fragrance

I do not know when the term solution gardening or something similar will become mainstream with garden centers and landscapers, but like progress, I believe it to be inevitable.

Is anyone listening? A number of excellent programs have been developed and more are likely on the drawing board. A small booklet on solution gardening I have worked on for The Perennial Farm actually fits in your back pocket. This is but phase one.

Of course, landscapers and gardeners have many other problems to contend with — insects, diseases, and weeds, to name a few. Can plants help with these problems?

Let’s Add Another Solution
All gardeners and landscapers want to reduce the use of herbicides. This trend only gets stronger over time. We have the solution plants, but we list them as groundcovers. People say, “I need low growers to fill space quickly,” and we suggest groundcovers, end of story. While they solve the problem of filling space, they do more. They suppress weeds and cover the ground quickly. They should be marketed far more aggressively as a solution for a much bigger problem, that of weed suppression. Most consumers do not connect the dots, because we don’t tell them, at least in headline form.

So, let’s add solution #5:

5. Plants for Weed Suppression

Here is a dozen of easy-to-grow plants that truly are weed suppressors:

Afternoon shade (aka, partial shade):

  • Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
  • Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
  • Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)
  • Woodland phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
  • Hosta (low growers)
  • Spurge (Pachysandra terminalis)
  • Liriope (Liriope spicata)

Sun

  • Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata)
  • Creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum)
  • Dragon’s blood sedum (Sedum spurium)
  • Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon)
  • Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)
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