I LIKE SHOWY EVENING PRIMROSE

I like showy evening primrose (or, Oenothera speciosa for those of us who are botanically inclined).  I love seeing the cheerful little flowers that dot roadways, and when the petite, pink parasols pop up in the lawn, it brings a smile to my face.  It was actually one of the first wildflowers I ever grew.  I recall buying a pack of seed at the garden center, scattering them in my tiny garden behind our pool, and watching as they quickly came into bloom.  Success in a season.  What gardener doesn't want that?  

But, I didn't realize there was such animosity towards one of my favorite wildflowers until I read Steve Bender's piece "If you value your life and yard, don't plant this."

 
Such a scary thing, huh?

Such a scary thing, huh?

 

He writes,

If you see pink evening primrose ... for sale at your garden center, I have a single word of advice. RUN. Do not buy. Do not plant. Do not say to yourself, “It’s a native plant, so it must be good.” Do not overlook the fact that any wildflower that can conquer acres of farmland can gulp down your garden in a single sitting...
— Steve Bender

Reading that opinion made me sad.   My biggest qualm with the piece is recommending to thousands of readers to not plant something because it spreads.  He goes on to say, "a pink primrose tsunami swept over my garden the next spring, choking the phlox and drowning the daylilies".  

That's such a boring way to garden!  Plant perennials.  Mulch them in their little cubicles.  Don't let them touch.  Repeat next year.  And, the next.  And, the next.  Ad nauseam.  

I want plants to touch, mingle, grow through each other, and duke it out in the garden.  I want to see ecology in action and for plants to actually live instead of being static chlorophyllic mannequins.  

I'm constantly looking for good groundcovers for southeast mixed plantings, and this native primrose shows such promise for use in mixed plantings.  In Texas, it covers our soil in the winter and reduces erosion, and ours that we grow in the Sprout garden have been blooming now for over three months since March 8th.  Then, come summer it peters out with a reflush of flowers in the fall.  As a bonus for the pollinator groupies out there, research conducted at UT Austin showed honeybees, skippers, and pierid and papilionid butterflies visit the flowers.  

Sure, it's aggressive and seedy as many ruderal species are.  But, in a world covered with mulch, hell strips, and roadsides, I'd rather look at pink flowers.  To tell people to not plant something because it proliferates itself is wrong.  

So, spread the word.  Plants like evening primrose that spread can be a gardener's best friend.  Unless you want to keep mulching...