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Keeping non-native plants out of garden

Why care about non-native invasive plants? Nationally, $120 billion tax dollars, $457 for each American, are spent yearly to control the effects of non-native invasive plants. Invasive non-native plants kill native plants causing beneficial ecosystems of microbes, plants, insects, birds and other wildlife to disappear. Stream and river banks are affected. Who knew English ivy, among other non-native invasive plants was this expensive?

Non-native invasive plants thrive without native insects, diseases and animals to control their spread. Areas that took millennia to form can be easily corrupted in a couple of decades or less. Think kudzu.

Knowing about the problem and why it's important is a start to solving it. You did not create the non-native invasive plant problem but you can do things to reduce it. Oddly the nursery industry contributes to the problem by continuing to sell invasive non-native plants.

It's most likely the plants in your landscape on the non-native invasive plant list aren't a problem to you. But, birds, raccoons, possums and other wildlife eat the seeds of your non-native invasive plants and deposit them elsewhere to grow.

Two staples of the residential Southern landscape, nandina and mahonia, are on the non-native invasive plant list. Both are pretty and useful for the technicalities of landscape design. They have been in my landscape a long time. I didn't know they were on the non-native invasive plant list until last year.

Getting rid of them will be emotional. I justify their continued presence because I'm in the city. It's a childish conceit if I'm serious about non-native invasive plants. They will be removed, but a date hasn't been set. This honesty isn't pleasant to share. But it's the realness of what gardeners share that helps one another. And, in this situation all taxpayers.

Award winning plantsman and international plant explorer, American Dan Hinkley, extols the virtues of mahonia in the March 2009 issue of The English Garden magazine. Not a word about invasiveness is written. A non-native invasive plant in Georgia may not be invasive where Dan lives, Washington.

It is buyer beware in the non-native invasive plant world. A few other non-native invasive plants you should be aware of in Georgia: Chinese wisteria, Chinese privet, mimosa, Japanese honeysuckle, princess tree, Japanese climbing fern and elaeagnus umbellata.

Pass along plants are invaluable to affordable, organic, low maintenance landscapes. Pass along what-not-to-plant, it is invaluable to the larger landscape.

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. Her most recent books include "Garden Paths and Stepping Stones" and "Perennials for Georgia." E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz or visit www.agardenview.biz.