Ever experience pangs of doubt about a plant, product, or gardening technique you’ve just raved about or
admitted to growing or using, like "Uh-oh, could this be a known enviro no-no and I’m the last person to know it? Could I lose my Friends of Earth membership card over this?"
That’s been my feeling ever since I posted a profile of Nandina domestic and was clued in to its very bad behavior in Texas and Virginia and then my very own county in Maryland. Yet just as many people were telling me it posed no problem locally, so I was confused, wallowing in self-doubt. I quickly demoted both the blog post and the website page to draft status.
But then I remembered that as close as my regular nursery is a major national hot-shot on the subject of invasive plants and because he’s local to me, HE’D have an answer to the question: Can nandinas be grown safely in my region? Or under what circumstances, or which cultivars? See, the seemingly contradictory reports could be answered by all sorts of factors. I’ll dump the whole problem onto none other than John Peter Thompson, I declare to myself. This guy. (From his blog:)
Secretary National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee; Member, Maryland Invasive Species
Council; LBJ Wild Flower Center Sustainable Landscape Standards
Vegetative Sub-Comm; Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council;
Landscape Comm, Chesapeake EcoTour Project; Past President, Maryland
Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA) and Mid Atlantic Exotic Pest
Plant Council (MA-EPPC); Member PlantWise Advisory Comm.; President, National Agricultural Research Alliance – Beltsville; Chairman, The
Behnke Nurseries Co.]
So I wrote, a phone call followed, and he’s assured me he’s hard at work finding an answer to the question,
which interests him at least as much as it does me. Nandina’s now on his list of plants to research, right there with spirea and Vinca minor, and I eagerly await his results.
A current venue for dealing with such questions as plant invasiveness is the Sustainable Sites Initiative. They’re writing standards for certification, and John Peter’s a welcome voice for big-picture pragmatism on the committee making the recommendations. It’s a similar role to the one he plays with the Maryland legislature. There he provides science-based feedback on bills written by staffers with no scientific understanding of the subject, who’ve been known to write "feel-good" bills that are just bad regulation. Having worked in the U.S. Congress for about 30 years, I’m so not surprised.
My friend Pam and I heard John Peter’s talk last weekend at his family’s nursery, and here’s my report.