Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Thugs in the Garden

on June 21, 2013

THUG– a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer. (NOTE for word nerds: The etymological roots and history of this word is fascinating– the followers of a cult in India from before 1356 till supposed eradication around 1840. They were estimated to have murdered a million people during those centuries!)

Modern day thugs are a bit different: They lie in wait till someone comes along, then attack. They look innocent enough.
green bean tendril thug
But look a bit closer and you’ll see sharp spines. The same things that enable those green beans to climb up a trellis will scratch whatever part of your body happens to rub against them! I also had a pretty good scratch on my face, right below my eye. It was fun saying I got attacked by a green bean tendril!attacked by green bean thugs
Even if thugs aren’t violent, they are so inconsiderate. They breed indiscriminately. They propagate way too many offspring, with no thought of how to provide for them, or who will have to do without in order to support them.
This year the thug tree is the sweet gum. I’m finding seedlings EVERYWHERE!


Boston ivy is one of the few Southeast Texas plants that actually changes color in the fall and give us some pretty yellows and reds. (Most of our plants are evergreen, or go straight from green to dead.) I had a large vine climbing an oak out my back door, but last fall you could see the seeds falling like rain. Baby ivies have taken over. The parent plant is now cut! But I have a lot of cleanup to do- pulling up babies (that sounds so cruel) and pulling up established plants. This Boston ivy has almost completely covered the azalea underneath; it’s struggling to get nutrients and light.


In the picture above, you can see a few of the biggest garden thug at my house, alstromeria! They make an unusual, pretty flower in the late spring, but then they begin their life of thuggery… spreading underground by runners… making seed heads and blowing seeds all around, taking root in any little space they find, whether it’s a flower bed, crack in the driveway, or potted plant. You can see where they almost took over a whole bed.

alstromeria thugs

They killed the mock orange on the right. I moved the strangled cannas struggling for life, and dug out as many alstromeria tubers as I could. The hydrangeas have never looked better!hydrangea

But look a little closer and you’ll see an alstromeria bloom that evaded arrest, just waiting to start spitting her seeds out and starting all over again! (It’s gone now!)alstromeria thug

There’s a little thug-ette that’s been making herself at home for a few years, and she’s getting a bit too bold all along my sidewalks: I never knew her name till I researched it today. I found out it’s Commelina, or asiatic dayflower. A beautiful blue flower with a name that pretty ought to be welcome, but she’s worn hers out! Each of the nodes (joints) along the stems can take root, making it very difficult to pull up and control.



Then there’s the American Beautyberry… a nice well-behaved, low-maintenance bush. Bright green foliage all season, pretty little light pink flowers in the spring and summer, and almost neon purple berries in the winter. It’s attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds, being one of the few berry plants to provide food for the birds through the winter. However. Those birds then fly around and… well you know… they leave beautyberry seeds all over the yard, then I have to fight the seedlings!


Last but certainly not least in my garden thug tour is black and blue salvia. It has the most spectacular deep blue flowers! But, put it in loose rich soil and it will spread like wildfire. This behemoth started life as a 4″ pot about 4 or 5 years ago, and has been pulled up and shared a lot already. Definitely a thug.


When you are choosing plants for your garden, check out Dave’s Garden to find out if it is an invasive plant or there are any other bad qualities. Remember too, if it’s low-maintenance on the front side (as in being a perennial, and not having to replant every year), there will be at least SOME maintenance on the back side, in trimming back or thinning and separating. Only you can decide if it’s worth it to you!

3 responses to “Thugs in the Garden

  1. […] Thugs like this will set seed and then the weeds in your garden will be like Medusa’s head. Remember, you cut off one and 7 more grow? […]

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