Big box resists invasion



Though we can’t expect our Home Depots to be pulling pesticides from their shelves anytime soon (as Canada’s are) there is some consciousness-raising going on among U.S. chains. Meijer stores in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan have started a program with The Nature Conservancy, where they are starting to remove invasive species from the shelves and adding 42 perennial and 21 tree species that are recommended by the Conservancy. These will be given special tags: “plant for a better earth.” Many, but by no means all, are natives.

Some of the invasives that are being pulled include privet (lingustrum), which escapes and grows along riverbanks, where it crowds out native sedges, grasses, and ferns; and Norway maples, which they list as potentially invasive, but which I list as “just plain suck.”

Well, we know from our discussions how sticky the whole invasive issue can be, but for a big box to be working with a nonprofit like the Conservancy seems encouraging to me.

Though I must say it sounds kinda tame in comparison with the Canada ban. Too bad about the privet; I kind of like privet.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I am with you about the privet – I really like it too.

    I am happy to hear home depot is doing this.

    Many of the people who shop there don’t know what to look for and are relying on HD for advice. If they are selling trees and shrubs that are not only difficult for the typical home owner to maintain but potentially dangerous for the environment, they are not giving good advice.

    The same goes for selling plants outside of the zone they can survive in which is my pet peeve about HD.

  2. Don’t get too excited about Home Depot in Canada – I haven’t heard any great announcement. What I’m aware of is that the province of Ontario is on the verge of banning pesticides for cosmetic use. Many municipalities across Canada already have bans – this is just at a bigger scale. Perhaps Home Depot, like many others, has read the writing on the wall but don’t fool yourself into thinking they were a leader.

  3. You’re right, Anne, obviously they are pulling the stuff because they have to. But they have announced that it will be off the shelves by the end of the year. Nothing for residential, park, or corporate use. It was in the Globe and Mail.

    Still in question are pesticides for home/people pests–you know, ants, mosquito stuff.

  4. Here in South Africa, the anti-alien-plant drive is in full swing. Its mainly out of necessity for the low water supplies in our country. Its a strange thing though, I don’t seem to miss the plants that I thought I would when it started ±10 years ago. I’ve found indigenous alternatives that I feel happy using on all levels. But then again, we don’t really plant much Lingustrum…

  5. I had a bad privet experience when I lived in Williamsburg. I shudder when I pass by them now. This is good news — the more proper horticultural guidance the better!

  6. Hurray for Canada! I am so glad that they’ve taken up the cause to take these chemicals out of the hands of untrained and unlicensed amateurs.

    My feeling is that if you feel the need to put down a chemical application of pesticide or herbicide you should have to hire a licensed applicator or pass the applicator’s test yourself in order to buy the stuff.

    I was heartened when I saw a couple dozen Butterfly Milkweed arrive fresh off the truck at my local inner city Home Depot last July instead of more of the usual daylilies and hostas (not that there is anything wrong with those perennials – they don’t hurt anything).

  7. It’s wonderful that they are starting to remove and even be aware of the dangers of planting exotics in backyards and other places. Thank you for posting about this.
    You should also consider looking into invasive exotics that aren’t being sold at Home Depot but are instead growing a little too successfully as weeds in our backyards or in our parks and preserves. They pose a threat to the biodiversity of wildlife and native plant species.

  8. Can we get rid of English Ivy? It’s still at the Home Depot where I shop.

    Also amusing is the tag “Locally Grown” which means nothing. It is possible to grow horribly invasive, non-native species locally.

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