As newlyweds, my husband and I proudly purchased tiny containers of English ivy to plant in the flower beds around our modest condo. We eagerly awaited the plant to thrive in its second and third years of growth. We also loved the way periwinkle plants spread their pretty little purple flowers while creating such lush ground cover. As we moved, we saved landscaping costs by taking along containers of the hardy plants. Little did we know we were spreading invasive exotic plants. We’d been enabled by popular garden shops that supplied the seedlings.
I grew up climbing the branches of a strong mimosa tree that had grown in my family’s yard for years. We admired the wispy pink blooms that decorated it each summer. When I first moved to the South, I thought it sentimental that I could spot mimosa lining the roadways, brightening the way with pops of pink. Now I see that mimosa is listed as a “severe threat” by the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council.
When a friend suggested I might want to write about exotic plants, I’m not sure it was as much a story suggestion as an intervention. She noticed that my East Tennessee yard is host to a number of nonnative plants. Many, like the barberry, Japanese honeysuckle and privet, were already here. Add to that our ivy and periwinkle, and I suppose we have the perfect example of how not to landscape a yard.