This year I tried to buy more burning bush for our yard because I like the fall color, but our local nursery has discontinued carrying them. They told us burning bush is considered an invasive plant, and instead recommended several other types. Why is this? L.M, Storrs, CT
Your garden center is right — burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and all its cultivars have been identified as a threat to natural areas because they seed in so prolifically and become dominant, forcing out other important plants. Massachusetts and New Hampshire now have laws that prohibit sale of burning bush along with several other commonly used landscape plants. Until a sterile (non-seed-producing) form of burning bush is developed, these familiar plants will become increasingly unavailable on the market. Depending on your level of concern about the effects of invasive plants on the environment, you may even want to consider removing those original plants, replacing them with less invasive types.
Possible substitutes for burning bush are highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), brilliant chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’), redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus), and sweet spire (Itea). All of these plants exhibit similar brilliant fall color, are climate hardy in your area, are readily available, and have not caused problems in natural areas. You can learn more about New England’s invasive plants by going to the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England Web site: ipane.org.
Our perennial garden looks so overcrowded during summer and fall, but I don’t want to lose any of my colorful plants. Any suggestions?
K.G., Sherborn, MA
Autumn is a great time to observe your garden design and document ideas for change. When plants, particularly herbaceous perennials, are just starting to grow in spring, it’s always tempting to fill “open” spaces with more plants. As they grow to their natural mature size during the year, the beauty of all your plants may be compromised because they become so crowded by their neighbors. Don’t be embarrassed — some of the most seasoned gardeners have the same problems!
This may not be the ideal time to transplant some of your plants. Early spring is always recommended, if you are unsure. But take the time now to note the plants that are overcrowded and write down your plan for next season. Most importantly, insert name-tag labels next to each plant so you can find them next spring when they are still dormant. Once you know what you have, it’s easier to learn more about each plant’s requirements, envision where plants might be better used, and perhaps even consult with a professional garden designer for assistance.