Horticulture is the science and art of producing, improving, marketing, and using fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants. It differs from botany and other plant sciences in that horticulture incorporates both science and aesthetics.
Production and consumption of high quality fruits and vegetables allows us to maintain a healthy, balanced daily diet. Flowers and ornamental plants enrich our homes and communities, and contribute to our sense of well-being. Horticulture impacts our lives on a daily basis by providing nutritious fruits and vegetables, offering visual enjoyment, and promoting recreational activities.
Why is it important to learn more about the invasive plants around you? Invasive plants can have many negative impacts including:
Invasives can crowd out native plant communities (ex. Purple Loosestrife)
Native plants are important to wildlife including pollinators.
Invasives may alter the flow of streams impacting their ability to deal with changes in water levels (ex. Phragmites).
Invasives may host organisms damaging to other plants including local crops.
While some non-native plants were accidentally introduced, many were imported intentionally for their beneficial ornamental, food, or medicinal characteristics. Most of these non-native plants have continued to prove their worth, but some have escaped cultivation and have proven to be invasive and highly destructive to our plant and wildlife environment.
What are you working on?
Maintaining your own garden and wondering whether you have invasives?
Updating a historic garden based on plans dating back decades?
Learn what plants are invasive in your area. Online: The Connecticut Invasive Plant List last updated in 2014 is the place to start. It includes common and scientific names for both invasive and potentially invasive plants in Connecticut including links to sites with photographs and more detail about the plants.
Book: Field Manual of Invasive Plants for the Northeast, New England Wildflower Society. An easy to field guide with photographs and key identification features.
Remove invasive plants from your property. Online: Invasive Plants in Your Backyard. This list may appear to be overwhelming, but here are some very common problem plants along with the most effective means for removal and suggested alternatives.
Online: Managing Invasive Plants,New England Wildflower Society discussion of methods of control and disposal including special considerations when wetlands are involved.
Hand digging may be difficult, but with some persistence, it can work on many plants including Japanese Barberry, Multiflora Rose, and Oriental Bittersweet. Just remember not to compost the trimmings. Learn to recognize new shoots as bird droppings in your garden may include the seeds of unwanted plants and it’s easier to remove new shoots than the mature plant.
Pulling Garlic Mustard can be rewarding. It’s easily identifiable and a very tasty addition to many recipes. My favorite is gathering the first year rosette leaves in early winter and sautéing them in a light tempura batter. Young leaves in the spring are also tasty and a local television morning news food segment has a garlic mustard episode each spring. Here are a few suggestions.
Alternatives – What do I plant now? Online suggestions: What if you are planting something new and want to avoid problem plants? Here are some good Alternatives for Invasive Ornamental Plant Species whether you are looking for fall color, beautiful flowers, or wildlife-friendly berries.
Online ordering: Consider plants that are native to our region by participating in Connecticut’s North Central Conservation District plant sale. In early spring this website is updated with the plants that are available. Order and pick up your plants in early April. You’ll find plants including many natives that are otherwise difficult to locate and some that are just perfect for your garden.
Book: Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guides for a Greener Planet. This is an extensive listing of invasive trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants, and grasses with detailed descriptions of alternatives.
Don't Give Up Don’t get overwhelmed by the size of plant lists. Look at some of the common problem plants in your area and start with just one. Maybe you have burning bush and you might consider replacing it with blueberry. Not only will you have beautiful red foliage in the fall; you’ll have berries for yourself and the birds. Or maybe it’s Oriental bittersweet, or Multiflora rose, or garlic mustard. Share your frustrations and successes because teamwork can be more enjoyable and effective. Just don’t give up.