By Leslie Land
Our old house came with a yard full of old fashioned plants, things like yews and lilacs and peonies, a big magnolia and a truly hideous orange azalea that has long since gone to its just reward. Among the plants we class as riches is a tree-sized autumn olive Elaeagnous umbellata. It may have been planted when they were still on the OK list. Or, in the manner of autumn olives, it may have arrived naturally, delivered by a passing bird. In any event it is here now, a late spring star whose clouds of starry white flowers perfume the entire lower yard. Beneath it, looking like fallen petals, is a carpet of tender white violets. Pick a bouquet of both and you see the olive blossoms are in fact pale cream. Both plants are invasive weeds, though only the olive seems to excite strong passions among preservationists. Plenty of people hate violets in the lawn, but that is another whole story. Because it was a tree when we first saw it, we thought for years it was a Russian olive, E. angustifolia. This made us feel slightly less guilty: The Russian kind seems marginally less inclined to cover the earth. But only slightly. Both olives are on the do not plant this list, and any day now we will cut ours down. Right after we fertilize the poison ivy, an unimpeachably native vine of which we have a great deal more than either Elaeagnous. These are the flowers that convinced me it was E. umbellata, after I read about the difference here
Writer Leslie Land blogs about gardening, food and design at Leslieland.com.