2013-05-21 / Columns

The Bright Side

The Garden Of Weedin’
by Annie Bright

If you are like most gardeners, you trade plants with other plant lovers. This is a great method for expanding your gardens without spending a fortune. An added bonus is that you develop what I call a ‘friendship garden’ as each plant gift is associated with the person who gave it to you. But beware, there could be a monster lurking in that clump of hostas or daylilies you bring home. If one of the tenacious plants sinks its roots in your garden, you are in for a battle. There are many such invasive plants that hitchhike along with the more desirable ones.

I was reminded of this yesterday while I spent the lovely spring afternoon ‘weeding’ my front garden. There are several plants growing out there that some people might love but I consider pests. Number one on my list is honeysuckle. I enjoyed ripping and tearing and pulling those long, viney roots up out of the ground. Sometimes, I even spray it with weed killer, but not yesterday. It persists, climbing over everything, sneaking along the ground under the leaves. Now it is even popping up in spots along the driveway. Over near Jordan Village Road there is a fence row smothered with honeysuckle. It covers the small trees like a green blanket. I admit, last week when it burst into bloom, it was quite striking. When I was a child, honeysuckle was a common sight around the little house down the path. I suppose people thought the sweet smell of honeysuckle was a good thing to have in that spot. I didn’t like it because it attracted bees. The major problem with honeysuckle, like most invasive plants, is it smothers and kills our native plants.

Blackberry briars are another thing I was busy hacking away at yesterday. They will not stay out of the flower beds. I suspect the birds plant a few of those seeds. I like blackberries, and have no problem with them along the drive way, in the woods, or by the garden. I just don’t want them in my peony bed. The black berries are blooming now, and it looks like we will have plenty of those black beauties for jelly this summer.

Vinca vine, or periwinkle as some call it, has a cute little blue flower and shiny green leaves. Many people buy it to use as a ground cover, because it is quite attractive and never needs to be mowed, like grass. There are better choices for ground cover. Vinca, like many non-native plants, will smother everything within reach. This fast spreading vine could be called the Darth Vader of the plant kingdom. I don’t know how it got established here, but it did, and it is spreading down the slope into the ‘holler.’

Another evil guy, commonly known as ‘gill over the ground,’ grows merrily in any bare spot. This plant has many aliases, Creeping Charlie, myrtle, or ground ivy, and is one of the most invasive ground covers I have ever encountered. Look closely at any plants you are given or buy for the little scalloped leaves of this monster. If you see any, burn them. Don’t throw them in your compost pile, they will take root and grow. Getting rid of it once it is established is nearly impossible. One tiny little piece of root will explode into a wave of vicious green leaves. They look so sweet, and innocent, with their little lavender blooms. A friend once had me pick a bunch for him. He said tea from the leaves was a great source of vitamin C. I happily filled a grocery bag for him. I hope he enjoyed his tea.

Speaking of tea, I may put lemon balm on the list of pests. Lemon balm has been a staple in my herb garden for decades. I make tea and potpourri with the fragrant leaves. I dry them and use them in cooking. Throwing a small bag of the leaves in a hot bath is relaxing. I often chew on the leaves or stick a sprig behind my ear when I am gardening. Unlike most of my herbs, lemon balm loves it here on the Ridge and it is wandering all over the place. There is a row of the shinny green leaves down the middle of the driveway now.

Gooseneck loosestrife, need I say more? The bees and butterflies love this handsome plant. Dark green bushes with white plumes, blooms almost all summer. This plant is impossible to contain. It too spreads under the ground, stretching out runners in every direction.

In a short time yesterday afternoon, I had hacked, pulled, clipped and chopped an enormous pile of unwanted vegetation out of the big front garden. That light green plant that sticks to your gloves like glue, madder I think it is called, was in the pile. Chickweed, which fools you by sinking its roots in the ground, but letting you have the leaves and stems with only a gentle pull. Rose bushes and little trees were hacked out and thrown on the compost pile, too. Those roses were brought over from Japan and sold to make growing fences.

This morning, I had breakfast on the front deck. Drinking my coffee, I surveyed the results of my labor. The peonies and lilies are happy. The peony buds are ready to burst open. The little Star of Bethlehem’s are glad to see the sun. They turn their shiny white faces up to say good morning. Now the cone flowers and black-eyed Susan, the primroses and the phlox can stretch out. The bergamot already has, it is almost as bad as the lemon balm, but, hey, it is native and I like the flavor of the tea.

‘til next time,


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