Who decides plants are good? Most often, it is the nursery trade and its consumers. A plant is commercialized or newly hybridized, introduced, the public buys it, it is a Good Plant. However, as anyone who has ever planted houttuynia or bamboo knows, a Good Plant can turn on you in a short time, and the only way to get rid of it is to sell your home. The nursery trade can’t always be trusted, either: English Ivy is on my state’s noxious weed list, but virtually every nursery I have ever been in still sells it. Consumers say, ‘It’s the good kind, the variegated kind!” They take it home, plant it, and by the second root stolon it has reverted to the species. Then it spreads like a Charlie Sheen Tweet, and then you spend the next twelve years trying to eradicate it from your Dad’s shoreline summer place. Trust me on this one. If you are really unlucky, it will climb a tree, set seed, a bird will eat it and crap it out, and now you have ruined a perfectly good national forest.
Wha’bout the ‘experts?’ Ah…the botanists, the horticulturists, the biologists. They know Good Plants, right? Let’s ask Luther Burbank, the 20th Century botanist and horticulturist who developed dozens of commercial and agricultural plants, whose legacy gave us the concept of plant patents, who gave Idaho and the world the RUSSET POTATO…and who introduced the Himalayan Blackberry to Western Washington. Luther Burbank, the progenitor of J.R. Simplot, the Tater Tot, and the Weedy Vacant Lot.
You know who knows good plants? Me.