Monday, June 23, 2008

You can't kill it

Everyone has been given directions at some point that end with "you can't miss it!" What a great phrase. What purpose does this phrase serve? It serves only to humiliate you when you drive around the supposed location for hours, not being able to find the sign or obvious building that "could not be missed."

Well, in the plant world, a similar phrase is often used. A phrase which usually makes me wince. Just like I know that I will be searching for days if someone tells me "you can't miss it," I know that I will soon have a dead plant if someone gives me a plant and says "you can't kill it." It's as if some subconscious part of me (much to the dismay of the conscious part of me) takes the exaggerated phrase as a personal challenge. I have unintentionally murdered a number of unkillable plants. It happens.

In the realm of directions, it is easy to notice certain things when you live in a place and are familiar with the layout. Sometimes you notice things simply because you don't have to focus as much on traffic or road signs when you are used to the area. Other times, visitors notice things to which the average local has never paid attention. I always see my hometown a little differently when coming home from a trip, having visually scoured my surroundings for the last week.

With plants, some species can be tolerant of all sorts of lighting, watering or soil conditions for one owner and something unseen can make the plant all but miserable with another owner.

Yesterday I gave my mom a big pile of moneywort. I'm afraid I might have given her the "you can't kill it" line before leaving the house. Hopefully the phrase does not plague her. A couple of years ago I was admiring this thick, attractive, low ground cover at my wife's grandmother's house. She told me that I could take some pieces and transplant them at my house. She also warned me that it was pretty hardy and could choke out other plants if not weeded back. It has since taken over our corner garden and multiplies faster than bunnies.

I have an interesting relationship with this plant, moneywort. One part of me wants to praise its wonderful attributes of being a shade and sun-loving, dense carpet of ground cover. The other part of me wants to call it an invasive weed. If defining a weed is a matter of meeting a certain number of criteria on a list, moneywort probably qualifies. It grows very fast, chokes out desirable plants, has a small yellow bloom (common for weeds) and is pretty much impossible to remove once it has ever gotten started in a flowerbed. The only thing that keeps me from calling it a weed is the fact that deep down - I like it!

So here's to moneywort - the unstoppable ground cover that can. It's sure to take over the world some day, and I guess I won't be the one to stop it.