Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Looking Back and Moving Forward (Part 1)



Recently, I was working through my photo archives trying to organize things better, when I came across this image from a couple of years ago. 

I remembered that when I had originally posted this picture another blogger, who is not a gardener, remarked that she thought it was one of the nicest shots I had ever taken.

It may be pretty, but it is a picture of Goutweed. I remember thinking at the time: Great! I've have taken the perfect portrait of my most bitter enemy.

You see, I used to think of my garden as a battleground. It was me going head to head with Mother Nature and struggling for control. 

It was me waging war on invading weeds. 

Dreaded Japanese Beetles: one of us was going to have to die and it wasn't going to be me!


Goutweed was a problem I inherited when we moved in to this house. I managed to eliminate most of it, but sneaky plant that it is, Goutweed likes to hide out at the base of small shrubs. 

Two summers ago, I noticed a few Goutweed sprouts lurking at the feet of one of my more thorny roses. Reluctant to get in among the thorns, I put off dealing with them. 

And then I got busy. 

Before you knew it Goutweed was popping up all throughout the bed.


Last spring, I ripped out almost everything in that corner of the garden in an effort to eradicate it once and for all. 

But at a certain point, I was in danger of killing some of my well established shrubs, like this Weigela, just to get rid of it. 

And the bed looked pretty bare for most of the early summer. It was like having a run in your stockings: an ugy hole that looks dreadful no matter how dressed up you are.


Of course, it wasn't all bad. 

In the space that opened up, I added a few new plants like this perennial Bachelor's Button, Centuara montana 'Amethyst Snow'.


and this Dwarf Calamint, Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta which ended up becoming my favourite new perennial of 2012.


But just when I thought I had finally won out, I noticed a few goutweed leaves at the base of this hydrangea standard and tucked away under a pink spirea.


Perhaps this development might have been bearable, but Goutweed wasn't my only problem. There was also Lily of the Valley and this pretty pink invasive (above) in the back garden.

How crazy do I really want to make myself? I began to wonder.

Is it ever okay to wave the flag of surrender?


Make no mistake, I wasn't just looking for an excuse to take the easy way out. 

I just wasn't happy gardening in a war zone any more.

Over the course of the summer, I began to adopt a new perspective on gardening. What brought about this change of view? It was a video clip from Monty Don's tour of Italian Gardens that the Sage Butterfly had posted in one of her book reviews. As Monty strolled around the beautifully romantic garden called Ninfa, he made reference to a gardener "working in partnership with nature".

I honestly felt a sudden sense of sudden relief. 

The war was finally over! Gardening was a partnership, not a battleground.


I will deal with the Goutweed as best I can, and that is all I can hope for. So my roses may have a few holes chewed in their leaves. Oh well! 

Imperfect will just have to do.

44 comments:

  1. Love all the gorgeous flowers!
    http://tinajoathome.com/

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  2. Wise decision !!! Gorgeous photos, Jennifer !!!

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  3. If the weeds are as beautiful as yours, i can be friends with them. However, if the weeds are like our Mimosa diplotricha, which grow fast with lots of thorns along the stem, invasive and conquers an area so fast not allowing any mammal enter it, what will you do! Ours is despicable, and it is not endemic.

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    1. Andrea, We also have knotweed here which I have seen take over an entire backyard. Plants like this are a huge problem and finding ways to control them once they get a foothold is a daunting task I wouldn't wish on anyone.

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  4. I am not sure we have it right here near my gardens. It looks lovely and that is a terrific shot. We all have those native weeds or flowers that we fight every year to keep those beds picture perfect. Like you I am not fighting with them quite as much as I use to.

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    1. Lona I agree that this is something that experience with gardening teaches you.

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  5. So now I know what this is called (goutweed)!!
    We have lots of it.
    Your photographs are just beautiful, Jennifer, especially the Bachelor's Button.
    Such a wonderful color combination.
    Wishing you a happy day!

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  6. Wise decision absolutely. I lost the goutweed war at my last home..I moved! Thankfully none here but my friend N. lost her whole herb garden to it..came with some soil that was trucked in. Still Jennifer, as you show in your photo, it has it's own beauty.

    As for the bachelor button vaariety..it is now on my list of try to find. Gorgeous. A 'traveller'? mmmmm...likely yes. ;-)But not actually invasive I don't think. We can forgive it, for it's beauty as well.

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    1. There are moments of frustration with our quirky old house and garden when I think about packing it in and moving too! LOL

      I picked up the Centaurea montana 'Amethyst Dream' at a big box garden centre (Rona I think), and so you may be able to find it easily Bren. I am sure you are familiar with the more common blue variety with its grey green leaves and blue flowers. The standard blue variety is well behaved in my experience and so I think Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst Dream’ will be very similar.

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  7. What a wonderful, healthy attitude! This is something I have to remind myself OFTEN. Your accompanying pictures are so gorgeous, they drive home your message with their outstanding beauty.

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  8. Goutweed, I think it is the same as ground elder, what we call 'zevenblad'. A terrible weed which I have in one corner and I never get rid of it. Nevertheless, your pictures are of an outstanding beauty. You call the Centaurea montana a bachelor button, funny name, I have to remember.

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    1. Janneke, Common names vary so greatly and I sometimes wonder about using them at all. Centaurea montana do somewhat resemble annual Bachelor's Buttons and that is why they are sometimes called Perennial Bachelor's Buttons. They also have the common name Blue Cornflower and Mountain Bluet.

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  9. Hi Jennifer...I'm so glad you're at peace with Mother Nature. I don't think we gardeners can win the war, so we just do what we can and enjoy our gardens. I wasn't sure if you said you took out that Weigela. It's so beautiful. It reminds me of pictures of the two I just bought...Sonic Bloom Red (I haven't seen them bloom yet.) I also like that pink invasive. Any idea what that is? All of your pictures are beautiful.

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    1. As much as I wanted to get rid of the lily of the valley and the goutweed, I couldn't bring myself to dig up the Weigela, the hydrangea standard or the spirea. As I said in the post, I find Goutweed likes to hide out in the shade at the base of mature shrubs. Getting all of the Goutweed root is very difficult without lifting the shrub. Unfortunately, lifting a mature shrub is hard work and the shrubs roots are likely to be damaged. I did my best to get the goutweed, and left the shrubs be.
      Sadly, I have lost the plant tag for the pink flower. It is really pretty isn't it? The flowers almost make you want to forgive it's spreading habit.

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  10. that backgound just pops those florals

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  11. Good points here. I had an ah-ha moment reading your post. (You photos are gorgeous!) I have some issues as well but my battle is with the squirrels that are fed by my back neighbor...which means we are heavily over populated at the moment. They tear up my plants as they run around burying their nuts and it is driving me nuts! I want to enjoy my space and be at peace. Just trying to find the balance. So maybe I too have to relax a bit and just do my best. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. I feel the same way about the rabbits that eat my vegetables very spring as you do about the squirrels Nicole. I don't wish them harm, but I would like to have a crop of peas this year!

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  12. Jennifer, I must confess that I was given a goutweed (my mother-in-law called it Bishop's Weed) when I first started gardening. I planted it unknowingly thinking it was a 'pretty plant' and to this day, 36 years later, I've been battling it. What an intrepid foe it is! The other weed we planted was creeping charlie (I know! Are we idiots or what?) that a nursery guy SOLD to me as a ground cover. Oh, the naivete of the beginning gardener.

    I do concede that your attitude is the right one; sometimes we have to throw in the towel with these thugs. It just makes me so mad that I planted them here in the first place, but gardening is a learning experience. And I've learned not to plant anything with 'weed' or 'creeping' in it's name without checking it's credentials first!

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    1. Karen, What you say about checking a plant's credentials is so true! It is a bit sad that asking nursery staff isn't always the best reference. These days I am over cautious. If I bring something new home, and have any nagging doubts, I plant it in one of my raised beds. Then keep a very watchful eye on it. Sometimes you have to wait 2 or 3 years to really determine if something is invasive.

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  13. I also have goutweed, and I will never be able to eradicate it. But I remove it as soon as I see it, and now I can live with it. Nobody has a perfect garden without weed or insects that invade the roses. If they do it´s because they use pestcontrol, and that is forbidden here. A garden should be enjoyed, and not be a battleground. I like your attitude :-)

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    1. Gitte, I am not sure I will ever be able to eradicate it either. I find if any of the root remains it comes back and that it is what makes it such a hard weed to cope with.

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  14. Somehow my goutweed just stays under the big old magnolia in the front garden pretty self-contained. Each spring I dig a smal trench around the edge and that may ward off the invasion. It's not one of my favourites, but it actually provides a pretty good ground cover under that tree. The first summer I thought I would try and eradicate it (knowing it's tendencies), but now I think I'll just let it be.

    As for the lily of the valley - it seems to be swallowing up one side of my shade garden - lovely but ruins everything else. IT'S getting a big haircut this year. After it blooms of course - who can't love the fragrance.

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    1. Heather, Goutweed actually has nice variegated leaves and can look quite attractive in a contained situation. I sure it looks great under your tree, and with the trench, it probably won't get out of hand.
      I have lily of the valley under a tree in the back garden and I don't mind it there at all. As you say, it has a really nice fragrance. Where I do mind it is in the front garden, where it spreads and chokes out other things.

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  15. What a lovely post. The first pica are fantastic weeds or not.

    I think we've all been there battling nature at some time or other. Like you I learned the hard way and gave up the never ending battle and took a more relaxed approach. Now I actually leave a few weeds and nettles, they are good for pollinators.xxxxx

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  16. All of your pictures are truly beautiful.
    Happy Easter! :)

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  17. I don't know. Although I've been thinking lately about leaving some weeds (those I will never get rid of anyway), I think I'm still going to have to go to war with my Bermuda grass! Of course, digging up a beautiful shrub just to get rid of a weed does seem a bit drastic! Although I may have to do that to get rid of some briars I have growing in my roses! I guess, just as in all things, we each have to pick our battles. I loved your sentence about the run in the stocking and no amount of dressing up would camouflage that imperfection! And I do agree with the commenter of years ago - the first photo is really pretty. The floral background gives it another dimension and really shows off the goutweed beautifully.

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    1. To put your mind to rest Holley, I don't imagine I will ever hand over my garden to goutweed. I just refuse to make myself crazy fighting it. To truly get rid of it, I would probably have to rip everything out, including my shrubs, and start over. For now, I am just going to tackle the fresh shoots as they pop up and try to nip them in the bud. Hopefully, I can still keep the goutweed in check, and maybe eventually eliminate it.
      Failing that I can always stick a for sale sign at the front gate and move like Gardeningbren says she did. Just kidding! LOL

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  18. Goutweed was one of those pass-along perennials I somehow managed to avoid as new gardener. That and Houttuynia. Surprising because I'm a sucker for foliage. I've seen both contained and effectively used in gardens but have heard the stories.

    Calamintha nepeta is one of my favorite perennials as well. Last night I attended a presentation by a local plant nut/nursery owner about her favorite perennials. Centaurea 'Amethyst Snow' was on the list. A beautiful flower and captured beautifully in your photo.

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  19. The only sensible approach, especially when it comes to minor insect damage. As to goutweed (we're taling about aegopodium, right?), it can be nasty, though I find the variegated variety much easier to control. One thing that has helped me a lot is always removing the flower stalks when they emerge, or at least before they go to seed, though you may have been doing that already. Of course they will spread by root as well.

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    1. The Goutweed in my garden is variegated and I believe the latin name is Aegopodium podagraria. I did not know there was a solid green leafed variety of Goutweed and I had to look it up out of interest.
      For me the hard thing about this plant are the roots. If any root remains, the plant can come back. Getting all those fine white roots is tricky.

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  20. Conversation 25 years ago about digging out goutweed from my Aunt's farm garden to plant into mine.
    My Aunt to me: I wouldn't plant that if I were you. It's a spreader.
    Me: Oh that's great! My garden's brand new and I need a plant that fills in quickly!
    My Cousin's wife to me: No, she's right. If you plant that, you'll regret it.
    Me: Oh come on now - Surely not!!!
    Flash forward 25 year to now:
    I regret it :(

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  21. Jennifer I have gotten to the same point with the J beetles and some of my invasives I battle. I will still wage the battle but not kill myself. The problem with these invasives that people don't realize is many will take over and push out your other plants. That goutweed picture is gorgeous though.

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  22. True perfection is always imperfect. It's the idea that perfection is flawless that's the myth. Your pink invasive is gorgeous! Blow some seeds my way! I had goutweed in my garden in NY and it drove me crazy, too. But I also loved how pretty it was. Working with nature instead of against it makes gardening more enjoyable. :o)

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  23. Your photos are lovely :-) Even the bishop's weed, as we call it here in Britain. Gardening might feel as a battleground at times, so do i, with red lily beetles, red spider mites, vine weevils, aphids and squirrels - and the occasional fox too - had to go and chase one out of my garden here the other night, before it could do too much damage! But in-between the battles it is important to sit down and enjoy the garden, just look at what the garden wants and if there is an imperfect spot due to a previous battle then – never mind, it will soon be filled with a new plant :-)

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  24. Jennifer, I love Weigela as well, but it grows badly here because of frost in winter. Some years it was frozen at the snow level!
    Great photos!
    and happy Easter!

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  25. Jennifer, the pink flower you have is Saponaria officinalis, a double variety called Flore Pleno. I had no idea this was invasive though. I have some of this tucked away in a far corner of our property - a remnant of the old homestead. The plants never seem to spread any further though. I was planning on collecting seed this year and planting it elsewhere in the garden, has it been a big problem for you?

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    1. You are right Marguerite. It is a double variety of Saponaria officinalis. It was well enough behaved the first couple of years. Then it went wild spreading by rhizomes throughout the garden bed and choking out other plants. I would use it with caution.

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  26. I've had a few battles of my own.

    I love your photos!

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  27. I have to admit the Goutweed does take a good picture. Now that just reminds me of my old mother who would say of someone not exactly endowed with good looks! (aye, but he does take a good picture)

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  28. Marguerite beat me to it. The double form of Saponaria officinalis is a "pretty pink invasive" in my back garden -- of the same vintage as the house, I think. And the single form is a "slightly less pretty pink invasive" in my front garden -- a hitchhiker from the country that came with a batch of Hemerocallis fulva -- that "pretty orange invasive" ditch lily (a gift from my sister in the days when neither of us knew better). In my dry shade garden, a garden that has -- wait for it -- killed goutweed, I have been happy to let anything that grows, grow. In my maturity, however, I'm trying to mend my ways and my garden.

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  29. What a beautiful post, Jennifer. And, like you, I was inspired by the video of Ninfa. It brings so much calm to us gardeners to know we don't have to live up to some expectation of making nature conform to something almost impossible. I have my struggles in the garden, too, but I hope I can remember the lesson you have shared here today as I weed and prune my way around it. Thank you for the mention.

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  30. There are some battles you just can't win and have to admit defeat and like you have done learn to live with it - everything has its purpose I'm sure - it's just sometimes we can't see what on earth that purpose is - like slugs and wasps and invasive weeds!

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