Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cancer Survivor's Garden- Invaders

The Invaders

Some of the plants that invaded while I was sick, were Northwest natives doing their thing.  Baby Douglas Firs sprang up everywhere and quickly grew into small trees.  They didn’t seem to know they shouldn’t do that within ten feet of the propane tank. 

The spindly Western Hemlocks in the border suddenly filled out and ate up all the sun.  They didn’t grow particularly tall.  They just got fat.  Who knew that sunshine could be so fattening?

Himalayan blackberries will invade no matter what we do.  It is the birds who bring them in.  Worse than the Himalayans were the local trailing blackberries.  They spread out across the gardens putting down new roots every three feet or so.  They make wonderful berries, but the birds seem to get all of them.  Of course both varieties of the blackberries are well equipped to draw first blood in any battle. 

The trailing blackberries are sneaky.  They have tiny thorns that hide under the skin and hurt for days.  They are just as sneaky when they invade.  They can be twenty feet long before they become visible.  Some people use them in bouquets.  I might do that for a large arrangement, but not for my farm stand.

My friends and family gave me a couple plants worse than the natural invaders.  The Lamium ‘White Nancy’ is a mixed blessing.  The flowers and variegated leaves are great in bouquets.  I’ve used thousands of them in the spring.  I don’t mind so much that the vines now cover the old compost pile.  I wonder if I will ever be able to remove this plant from the fuchsia bed and the rockery.  In a battle between the crab grass and the lamium, the lamium won.

Why did I take starts off of Mom’s wisteria?  The stuff travels.  While my pretty white wisteria was one of the casualties in my garden, the start from Mom’s yard is just as horribly invasive here as it was at Mom’s.  Fighting the wisteria has been one of the few chores that actually got done.  It was vital to keep the stuff from killing everything around it.  We mow it down where it comes up in the grass.  My husband cuts it back at the root when it attacks a tree.  I prune heavily for flowers when it blooms.  Word of warning:  Do not introduce older traveling cultivars of wisteria into your yard.  They will eat you, your garden and your house.  In a battle between Himalayan blackberries and Mom’s wisteria, the wisteria won.

I should mention the crab grass.  It came in with some horse manure.  In many places we treat it as lawn and just mow it, which is easy enough with the riding mower.  I’ve tried trenching around the flowerbeds to keep the crab grass out. The trenches fill in when it rains and the crab grass invades.  I am losing six to eight inches of topsoil as I dig out the crabgrass to rescue my flowerbeds.  The stuff is amazing.  It grows vigorously in the driveway, which is crushed rock and we drive on it!  Why do people who like mowing expansive lawns plant tender grasses?  Folks, plant crab grass.  It doesn’t mind drought, flooding, vinegar, flaming, mowing, and traffic. It grows in any soil including crushed rock and it never needs feeding.

We are starting to reclaim some of the yard from the invaders.  We are after all humans.  I called the land clearing people.  They came in a few days ago with their big, tree chomping machine that was able to rip the fat hemlocks out of the ground roots and all.  The baby firs were no match for the machinery.  Most importantly in the reclamation project, we cleaned up the fallen trees and limbs that had become a forest fire hazard.

The dogwoods now have enough sun to survive.  The rhododendrons can breathe.  The remaining fir and hemlocks will have enough sun to grow fat and healthy.  I plan to plant more dogwood, maple and birch to give my woods diversity and food for the birds and squirrels.  Um…the wildlife is another story about invaders.  I’ll write about that another day. 


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  2. Here in Michigan everyone pines for wisteria. Why I don't know. Maybe because they see it in English period dramas. I advise them not to plant it, but they do. It suffers miserably and makes their garden look very sad. When they ask what to do about it I have only one reply: rip it out.