Every gardener has a story about something they planted that seemed like a good idea at the time, and turned out to be a lasting regret instead. I have one — OK, several — of those stories, but the one I want to tell today only partly involves the planting of said regret; the real thrust of the tale is what happened after regret set in.
Long ago, in a galaxy far away, when I was a new homeowner/gardener, I was in love with plants and couldn’t wait to start digging in the dirt. Now, we’ve lived in our house for 25 years, so this was in my days of great ambition without all the helpful and necessary knowledge to choose wisely. One of my unwise choices was a plant called comfrey.
Symphytum caucasicum — the comfrey that I planted — is, until you get to know it, a lovely plant to look at. It forms clumps of wooly-looking, lance-shaped leaves of medium green, and in late spring it sends up long, nodding stems of sky-blue flowers. The plant is sometimes used in herbal medicines and creams. The appeal to me was the blue flowers; every gardener is always looking for blue in the garden, I think. It didn’t take long before I discovered that the object of my affections was a garden thug of the first order. Comfrey spreads by underground rhizomes, and if you pull it up and leave even a small piece of root behind, up comes a brand new plant. Long story short, I’ve been battling comfrey in that bed ever since. The battle may never be over.
Now, to the real point of my tale. I have a field behind my house, and that’s always been my dumping ground for most garden waste. I did likewise with the comfrey I pulled out, and, oh, what an epic mistake that turned out to be. For years now, I have had a hedge of comfrey at the back edge of my property that extends probably 10 or more feet. Someone driving by one day when it was blooming stopped to ask me if they could have some of it. My response ran along the lines of “Dear God, yes! Take it all if you want it!” Sadly, it’s still there, rampant as always.
So, dear reader, I want to leave you with the moral of this story — if you have an invasive plant and you want to get rid of it, don’t dump it. Bag it up and put it in the garbage. And don’t, in the name of all that is holy, foist it onto some unsuspecting, naive gardener. Just get rid of it as best and as thoroughly as you can. Last of all, invest in a good plant guide and educate yourself on anything that tugs at your heart before you plant it. You’ll be glad you did, said the voice of bitter experience.