In my last post, 'Should I Rip Out My Mahonia', I discussed the fact that one of my beloved woodland plants is on Alabama's prohibited list. Until recently I thought it was a native. There are native mahonias in other parts of the country, but leatherleaf mahonia growing in my garden and spreading invasively through the southeastern states is not one of them.
So should I rip it out?
I appreciate all the comments and advice I received. The majority suggested I keep it, as long as I can contain it within my garden. However, both Carolyn of Carolyn's Shade Garden and Frances of Island Threads pointed out that birds take the seeds to other woodlands beyond my control, a problem I was already considering. Carolyn also commented that it is easy to be environmentally responsible when it doesn't cost anything.
And that is the rub. If we truly believe something, that belief affects our actions. Otherwise, we are giving only lip service and we are hypocrites.
So am I willing to pay the cost? The issue, and I knew this from the beginning, goes further than my mahonias. The issue also involves the nandinas, another invasive plant in my garden. The nandinas give color and structure to the woodland garden. I didn't plant either of these plants. They were here from the beginning, and what would my woodland garden be without them?
So this weekend I studied my woodland garden. I searched the internet, reading about Alabama natives and other shade lovers that could grow here. I looked at the woodlands beyond the garden area. And I was stunned.
Beyond the big brush pile at the edge of the garden (an eyesore, but I have to pile clippings somewhere!), in a part of the woods I rarely see, there was a swath of nandinas. A few mahonias, but now I know positively what my decision is.
Long ago a gardener who loved ivy planted some here and there. Now the stuff is climbing into the trees and swallowing the woods. I do not want my nandina and mahonia to be such a curse to future gardeners. The mahonia and nandinas are coming out. All of them. I spent most of today pulling and shoveling them out. Fortunately, we have had lots of rain and the ground is soft. I made a good start, but I have a long way to go. I know I will have to spray herbicide on some of them.
The first one, a large mahonia, beautiful and healthy, was emotionally the hardest; but as I was pulling, I was also planting. A little sugar helps the medicine go down, and I just couldn't do this without having some replacements at hand. My woodland garden will not be the same, but it will be more diverse and ultimately more beautiful. I hope!
This is what I have added so far:
Native snowflake hydrangea
Leucothoe axillaris, a native shrub also called doghobble. Hunting dogs apparently have a tough time getting through these shrubs!
Pieris japonica, a non-native that reminds me of nandina. It doesn't have beautiful berries, but it does have lovely white flowers.
Rhododendrum, roseum elegans. This was a bargain plant. Rhodies can be finicky. I planted it in humus rich, well-drained soil. We'll see!
Camellias: Taylor's perfection, Crimson Candles, Gunsmoke, and Something Beautiful.
Plants on my wish list:
Alabama croton, a rare native.
Euonymus Americanus, a native also called 'Bursting Hearts' and 'Strawberry Bush'.
Alabama snow-wreath, another rare native.
Lots more ferns, daffodils, woodland phlox, and other stuff I haven't thought of yet!
Follow up note: To see what the Woodland Garden looks like without the mahonia and nandina, see The Woodland Garden: Spring, 2011