Plants I will never grow again

It’s December and my garden looks a complete mess. Which means I feel the compunction to dig something up. I realise this is just transference and if I was more methodical and thoughtful about my garden ‘design’ I would save a lot of time, money, effort and heartache. However, I recently realised I’m not good nor really interested in designing my garden. My garden is like a garden centre without the black pots. I’m always shifting things around or digging them up. I also have a total passion for buying plants which requires room. One day my husband asked if the garden would ever not be a work in progress. Luckily, I didn’t have to answer as at that moment my three year old started earnestly trying to break a window with a plastic watering can. It was never mentioned again and I think we both knew the answer. I realise that my garden is like a guest house. I love plants but I find that some develop unforgivable flaws and then they start to out stay their welcome. There are four that I have decided I will dig up, give away and not have back again for years until I have forgotten why I disliked them. My absolute worst is Iris, they are such disappointing plants. At first they start with the most dramatic sword-like leaves that are so striking it’s fantastic. Then they get ravaged by slugs with a week or two and look horrible and torn. Next it’s the flowers – amazing and intricate and then they moulder on the plant and look revolting. So you have tiny slithers of joy and literally months of ugliness. The same is true of Peonies and Lychnis. The peony flowers for such a short time and then it’s just a dull green bush. The neighbour has a beautiful red one that I can just look at when it’s flowering and feel delighted that I don’t have it the rest of the time. Thirdly, Lychnis – one of the brightest and best colours in the garden. It’s amazing with the crimson blooms against the grey leaves, but as it finishes flowering it just looks unbearably straggly. Finally Santolina. I love the yellow dot flowers, they are so unusual in their simplicity, but then they change from being neat, bright things and become over-blown and brown as they go over. It’s like the process of aging highlighted in a single flower and as I’m over 40, I’m rather sensitive to that. Also, the neighbour’s cats always sit on it, flattening it’s middle horribly. I go and get my shovel.



  1. I have stopped growing iris “in the ground” for the same reasons as you. However, without the added bonus of a 3-year old window wrecker, I can safely have a pond and I grow iris in that. No slug damage and the sword-like leaves work when poking out of water rather than soil. Peonies, like lilies, are fine when in flower but a bit of a waste of space the rest of the time. So I use tubs – big enough for effect but small enough to carry. These spend their non-flowering time in a hidden area behind shrubbery and are brought out just to flower.

    One plant I will never, ever go near again (except to remove it) is lemon balm. I introduced one plant to the herb area in 1992. By 1995 it was coming up everywhere and I’m still digging a couple of plants out every year. Lychnis grown as a biennial and dug out after flowering is ok; Generally, I suppose, I don’t have a list of “no grows”; it’s more a case of if I find something I really like, something I like less has to go: a process of natural selection.

    • I’m sorry it’s taken so long to respond, christmas etc! Thank you for writing and I think the idea of Lychnis as a biennial is genius as it self seeds everywhere so that work brilliantly. I haven’t grown lemon balm and now never will!

  2. How few people admit there are plants that they don’t like! I too outlawed Lychnis coronaria and Santolina from experience in my first garden and it’s unlikely that they will ever be redeemed. But with Santolina it’s the yellow flowers that I hate for spoiling what would be a green or grey ‘boulder’ used for dense structural effect. I agree with John Kingdon about Lemon Balm too – much better to grow the lemon sherbet scented Lemon Verbena in a sheltered spot or pot. There’s never enough room to grow everything that you like so there is definitely no room allowed for plants that you don’t.

    • Hello Alison, thank you for writing and it’s funny as my Santolina has always been so disappointingly floppy I haven’t considered it to be structural but I can see that in an ideal world it would be wonderful. You’re so right about the Lemon Verbena, the smell is amazing. I keep meaning to make the tea but … maybe this year

  3. Interesting post. I must say I absolutely adore the beauty of peonies and grow them for that reason (even if they are a little waste of space when not flowering in my opinion too). Brilliant photo.

  4. I have avoided peonies for the same reason although I do sometimes wonder if a flower that is exquisite even for a brief moment is worth growing anyway. I do enjoy my rhododendrons even though they look so dull for 11 out of 12 months, just because their moment of glory can be so wonderful and uplifting just when you need it. I think the idea of growing dull plants in pots is good, so that they can be hidden away somewhere when their flowering has ended.

  5. Lemon verbena is a thing of deep deep horror – it just loves slimy clay soils and pushes its way up through my crocuses making it impossible to weed out.

    The sad thing though is when you have to cut a tree down because much as you try to love it, the effort saps away your will power. I tried to love my Eucryphia Nymans, but after a brief flowering I was left each year with leaves covered in brown fuzz – all year round. Iris Foetida is well worth a spot in my garden though – for the dramatic spires. I don’t know why the slugs don’t get them. Perhaps its that Foetida?

    • Hello Sarah

      Thank you so much for all your comments, they were so great to read. It’s funny you don’t like Lemon Verbena I thought the smell of it would make it forgivable for everything! Eucryphia – I totally agree, what a horrible plant.

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