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Creeping Jenny

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Flowering plant used commonly as ground cover for flowerbeds or as indoor house plants.

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      28.08.2011 11:34
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      She'll creep into your garden but won't creep out again without a fight

      After a year away from home, I returned to a garden which Mother Nature had done her best to reclaim as her own. It was full of saplings, weeds and brambles but worst of all, some of my ground cover plants had become turncoats and joined the advancing enemy army. One of the worst offenders was the very innocuous sounding Creeping Jenny, who has proved she not only creeps but leaps and bounds across the garden.

      I've discovered to my cost that lysimachia nummularia, to give Jenny her Latin name, is an extremely invasive and pernicious lady when left to her own devices, so don't be fooled by her cheery little yellow cups which look like dots of sunshine: Jenny is a plant which definitely belongs to the dark side. As well as being well named Creeping Jenny, she often masquerades under other aliases such as Creeping Charlie or Wandering Sally or often disguised as Moneywort or Twopenny Grass, but by whatever name she goes, she'll cause the gardener trouble. This plant must surely have a triffid hidden somewhere in her ancestry.


      How I met Jenny

      She arrived years ago in my garden as a small patch of sunny yellow planted between the rocks surrounding my little pond where she delicately dipped her toes into the water and frolicked with the frogs. The pond is long gone (that's entirely another story) but Jenny decided she was not going to leave the garden where she'd made herself very comfortable. The secret of Jenny's success is, of course, given away by her name: she creeps stealthily across the ground, winding her way through other plants and often smothering them in the process. Though Creeping Jenny is classed as a perennial plant, I beg to differ. Jenny is a weed of the worst kind.


      How will you recognise Jenny

      Creeping Jenny is fairly easy to spot. This is a low growing evergreen perennial plant with flowers which resemble bright golden star shaped-cups which look something like miniature King Cups(Marsh Marigolds.) The stems of the plant grow laterally with vaguely heart-shaped leaves that are formed in pairs on either side of the stem and as the stems grow longer across the ground, roots form from the leaf joints which then anchor the plant to the ground and from where it produces further stems. At its tallest point, Creeping Jenny stands no more than a few centimetres high but what she lacks in height, she more than makes up for in length! Most gardening books say the eventual spread of this plant is one metre. Those gardening books lie. If left untended, Jenny will take over the entire garden!


      Where does Jenny live and for how long will she stay?

      Like most successful weeds, Creeping Jenny is highly adaptable so isn't too fussy about her situation. Although many gardening experts will give you the lie that this is a great plant for edging the pond or to grow in a bog garden, the truth is that Jenny will grow just about anywhere, in sunshine and dappled shadow or even in fairly deep shade under trees. In my garden she's managed to creep from the pond into the flower beds, across the lawn and into areas where the soil is in full sun and therefore very dry. Whatever the situation, Jenny will thrive.

      There is a slightly less invasive variety of Creeping Jenny (lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea') which is a golden leafed strain but personally, if you're looking for a golden leafed plant, I suggest you find something else which won't try to take over the garden.

      Jenny appears to be totally resistant to disease and her perfect leaves shine with good health so there's no hope she'll die from some dreadful disease. It also seems that slugs and snails aren't too keen on her as a foodstuff and totally ignore her whilst making a beeline for my vegetables! Although I'm determined to eradicate this ferocious female from my garden, in well tended spaces she can be managed in such a way as to prevent her worst excesses. If planted beside a pond, she'll usually head for the water, at least to begin with, and it's easy to trim back any wandering stems. Alternatively, she looks very pretty in a container on the patio or dangling from a hanging basket where, again, it will be easier to keep her under control.

      Should anyone be so foolhardy as to want to propagate this lady, she reproduces very easily. Just cut off a bit of stem, stick it in a pot of compost or even garden soil and she'll romp away.


      How do you get Jenny to leave?

      Getting rid of Creeping Jenny can prove very difficult because unless you dig up every single scrap of stem, she'll just begin to make a new plant and continue her inexorable march across the garden. I garden organically so don't use chemicals but I should imagine that strong weed-killers containing glysophate might do the job. I can tell you that boiling water (which is my preferred method of destroying most weeds) doesn't work on her. If anything, she grows even better and stronger after a hot bath! I'm now just about winning the battle with Jenny and she's almost completely gone but it's taken me the best part of a year to get rid of her. I've painstakingly dug her out and sent her to the Council tip. (Don't for heaven's sake put her onto the compost heap as she's bound to thrive there!)


      Would I recommend you invite Jenny into your garden?

      In a word, NO! However, as long as you are prepared to keep a watchful eye on her and curb her enthusiasm for extending her territory, Creeping Jenny can be a cheery addition to the garden and provide a welcome spot of green during the winter months. However, if you leave your garden untended for a protracted length of time, this lady will take full advantage of your absence and like me, you may return to find she's completely taken over. This plant when left to its own devices will kill all the competition.

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