Published in the Cannon Falls Beacon on July 18, 2018.
All too many Minnesotans are familiar with the quick-spreading wild groundcover commonly referred to as Creeping Charlie. His bundles of cat-foot shaped dark green leaves are easy to spot in early spring when it seems everything else has yet to even thaw.
But, as familiar as you may be with Creeping Charlie, did you know good ol’ Charles isn’t an only child?
Creeping Jenny—proper name Field Bindweed—is a creeping, vining groundcover-type plant that can be just as troublesome as the Charlie version. The two plants aren’t related by scientific name even though they do share a number of other qualities. However, giving them the shared “Creeping” nickname makes it easier to remember field bindweed’s true intentions when you can laugh—or, alternatively, cry—that Creeping Charlie has an equally annoying little sister.
Both creeping and flowering weeds are perennial herbs, meaning they’ll sprout up year after year after arduous year. In some areas of Finland (yet, it grows there, too) patches of Creeping Jenny have been growing in the same locations for centuries.
The reason for field bindweed’s impressive durability?
First, Creeping Jenny’s roots can reach depths of up to 30 feet, which makes them almost impossible to pluck out in their entirety. Pieces of root remaining below the ground surface after weeding will sprout new vines in a short time. If you’re more into spraying than weeding, know that unless herbicide reaches the farthest stretches of the root, chemicals won’t get rid of it either.
I know all of this sounds awful, but it is possible to live in harmony with Creeping Jenny as long as you know what to expect of her.Second, like Creeping Charlie, Creeping Jenny is rather possessive about her personal space. Prone to choking out other vegetation, the thin yet surprisingly tough vines will wrap around taller plants like tiny green constrictor snakes, choking them out or weighing them down. If the vines can’t go vertical they’ll gladly spread horizontally up to seven feet from the root center, blocking sunlight and stealing water from less durable flora.
A careful landscaper can use Creeping Jenny to create dense groundcovers that nestle stepping stones along a path and prevent soil from washing away. In addition, Jenny’s possessive tendencies to claim a space for her and her alone will help keep weeds at bay (that is, if you don’t consider dear Jenny a weed herself), which means less pulling and spraying for you. As long as you don’t mind doing a little trimming to keep it in check, Creeping Jenny also works well as a filler for windowbox arrangements and as a low-maintenance vine to create a flowering trellis privacy fence.
Gardeners with an affection for pond greenery and waterscape gardens will find that Creeping Jenny is a beautiful and easily cared for addition. The perennial will actually grow in one inch of water or in floating planters. If left with nothing else to cling to Jenny will hug herself, creating beautiful, tightly bound cascades of bright green leaves and delicate flowers for gardeners to enjoy almost year-round.
Whether you hate her or love her, there is one thing for sure: Creeping Jenny is determined to stick around for a while, so you’d best get properly acquainted.