This Week's Podcast — One Invited Guest and One Party Crasher
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You know those science fiction movies in which no one seems to be aware of the invading threat, or denies it? Usually, there is one person screaming his head off as others head towards the menace. In my New Jersey version of the story, some people are welcoming this peril as a landscape feature, pruning it into a tree shape. Meanwhile, behind the unsuspecting lawn-lover’s back, its progeny are colonizing the rest of the property (below).
The aliens have landed. They are invasive plants known as Russian olive! Decades ago, silvery Elaeagnus angustifolia shrubs were planted by government departments to fight erosion, as windbreaks, and ironically, to improve wildlife habitat. (Birds eat the fruit, and those of the monster’s cousin, Autumn olive – that’s how they get around.)
There seems to have been an explosion of these plants in the last few years in my county. Last May was the first time I remember an overwhelming evening fragrance. It’s kind of a cloying lily smell. This year, they started blooming and I started choking. I have to keep the windows closed at night.
Russian olive is a problem plant in many parts of the country. Here’s a youtube video from Wyoming. Russian olive season is also lilac time. In the video, lilacs are recommended as a valuable alternative.
Is there a better fragrance in spring, and one that does not close my throat? I used to have about 25 varieties – pink, white, lilac, near-blue – single and double. After the floods of 2011, I only had a half dozen. Even ‘President Lincoln’, the vigorous tall blue variety that I had been growing for 25 years nearly succumbed. That plant still hasn’t fully recovered, but it is on its way. Thankfully, I still get to cut some flowers and put them on the nightstand.
George Waffle sent me a photo of his Syringa x hyacinthiflora 'Pocahontas'. I have a young plant of this floriferous dark pink hybrid. I planted it and a few other babies.
It just goes to show that not all exotic plants are problem plants. But all plants should undergo a research analysis as to whether their seeds are spread by birds, the wind, insects or if they have runners –modified stems that travel under or over the ground, root in and send up new plants. I’m glad lilacs aren’t problem plants for me, but I do wish they had just a touch more vigor and stamina if not the aggression of the shrubs that share their blooming season.