That plant is aggressive. It gets really big. It elbows out neighboring plants. It spreads all over and covers a lot of ground in a hurry.
This quote from Craig’s comment on Amy’s plant lust post resonated with me—I had just briefly posted about invasives on GWI. Though I spend hours every summer pulling my neighbor’s silver lace vine out of my trellis, cutting back wisteria, keeping English ivy at bay, and yanking viola out of the ground, I still find much that is admirable about these aggressive cultivars. Perhaps my worst fear as a gardener is that nothing will grow, that I’ll be stuck with yards of bare earth with little plants stuck here and there. Some people like nothing better than a neat yard, with every plant kept in its rightful place. I like things to be full—lush, green, overflowing.
And for that, you can’t beat a few well-placed aggressors. I’m a busy person, so I like my plants to be busy too. The silver lace vine (Polygonum auberti)—though it actually belongs to my neighbor—never fails to awe. No matter how brutally I cut it back, usually right into the joints of old wood on the fence, back it comes, within a week regaining all the lost ground. Every summer, unless hindered, it handily covers an entire utility pole. Which is an improvement.
Under maples trees, English ivy works well, and looks appropriate. You just have to pull it back regularly. I use it as a framework for a bed of bulbs, various perennials, and ground cover under a big tree. I should fear this plant, but I’m grateful for its utility in a difficult situation. Another good choice for such situations, sweet woodruff, is more cheerful in foliage and flower and seems to grow anywhere.
Experimentation is necessary to see if it’s possible to introduce competition into beds where plants such as these dominate, but I’d rather be filling in holes in a nearly full area than the other way around. My admiration for the ability of plants to propagate and spread with no help from me has stopped me from making many necessary changes in the garden. (I should be mixing and arranging the hosta and ferns instead of pitting them against each other from opposite ends of the same bed to see which will engulf the other.)
There are certain weeds/invasives even I will not tolerate. Clover (the yellow-flowered type), bishops weed (too boring), mint, and many of the underground spreaders are too unattractive/ill-behaved even for me. But if someone out there has created a great garden using those plants, good for them. I’d like to see it.
If you consider that the first duty of a plant is to grow, and you have a rather difficult urban space, you learn to treasure your invasives.