After extensive thought and research, you plan the layout of your flower bed, you amend the soil to provide a rich growing medium, you select plants that are suited to the space and your tastes, then you put it all together.
Now that your flower bed is planted, its just a matter of occasional watering, and feeding for the more hardcore gardeners. Okay, its time to sit back and watch your garden grow, right?
Well, not quite. Unfortunately, there are numerous plants which persist on showing up in flower beds, uninvited. We call them “weeds”. In my case, chemical solutions are out of the question since I maintain ponds in the area as well. And I am not a big fan of laying down landscaping fabric and bark dust to keep the weeds at bay. So for me it comes down to long hours of laboriously pulling weeds by hand.
Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time in the garden. I would go as far as to say it has a therapeutic quality to it. But the never ending process of managing the weed population is not my favorite pastime.
There are three weeds in particular that I put on the top of my not wanted list. Each has its own diabolical means of getting a foothold in the garden and making them difficult to deal with.
Commonly known as horsetail, equisetum has a hollow reed-like jointed stalk which features a ring of long delicate branches at each joint. This plant looks more suited to a prehistoric environment than to present day. That is because horsetail is a plant that lived in primordial times, even before the dinosaurs. For a plant to have survived this long, it must have something going for it.
For starters, horsetail has no natural predators, is not susceptible to any known diseases or viruses, and is resistant to most weed killers because of its waxy coating. Already it is starting to sound like a formidable foe.
But wait, there is more. Horsetail is extremely fast growing. I can pluck all the weeds in an area, and have all new full size plants within a week or two. This wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that horsetail can end up taking over an area with vast numbers of individual plants. Reproduction is achieved by spores which can transfer the plants great distances, and spreading rhizomes which branch out up to three feet below ground, and ensure an ever growing local population.
Horsetail can even grow right through asphalt, cracking and lifting the surface as it grows. It is hard to believe that such a wispy delicate looking plant can be so tough.
I must admit, horsetail is a very beautiful plant. It is exotic, primeval, and unlike anything else you will come across. But its attractiveness is only a cunning ruse. This weed thrives at the edge of the pond liners in my back yard, so the highest concentration of equisetum is around the rim of the ponds. It always looks so nice coming up between the large boulders which surround the water. Every year, I fall under its spell and allow this weed to grow unchecked. By the time I come to my senses, it is too late. It is because of this trickery that I add horsetails to my list of weeds I despise the most.
Yes, I realize this plant is really called bindweed which is a much more appropriate name, but I only found this out recently. After calling it morning glory for my whole life, it may be tough to make the change. Besides, “morning glory” has a more ironic tone to it. And from what I understand, bindweed is from the same family as “true morning glory”.
So let’s take a look at morning glory, I mean bindweed, and what it can do in your flower bed or garden.
Bindweed is on a mission. It desires to establish itself as the dominant species. And to that end it goes on the offensive, taking out the competition. The first evidence of this exasperating weed is a flexible reddish stem the diameter of dry spaghetti. At this point, the leaves are small, and the plant can easily go unnoticed. It often finds the base of an unsuspecting plant to wind it’s stem up through, sprouting leaves as it goes. Many times, bindweed is not discovered until it breaks through the top of the plant it is twining around, exposing its large heart-shaped leaves. Now it is difficult to remove, without damaging it’s victim. I have been known to just yank out a daisy instead of spending the time required to uncoil the stubborn bindweed from it.
It does not matter how much love, care and energy you put into your garden. Bindweed does not care. It desires to spread carnage everywhere within it’s reach. But bindweed is not satisfied to stop there. This overachiever also works tirelessly below ground, to create an extensive network of roots. This makes the weed extremely difficult to contend with. It will snake around anything which grows, as well as stationary structures likes fences. Bindweed will even take on English ivy, a plant with a reputation of choking out everything in its path.
And in a final show of defiance, the bindweed displays large, pure white, trumpet-shaped flowers. These delicate blooms, in other circumstances, would be seen as stunning and majestic. But their sole purpose is to taunt the gardener. This show of defiance earns morning glory a place on my list of despised weeds.
Bittercress is easy to pull, has a short life cycle, and is not considered to be an invasive weed. So why is it on my list? Well, like the weeds above, bittercress has a secret weapon.
As long as you leave this plant alone, it is rather innocuous. It grows, plays out its life cycle, and then dies away. But if you just barely touch it, the reaction is instantaneous. The bittercress seed capsules explode, sending seeds in all directions, up to three feet away. If you encounter any bittercress, don’t be surprised to get a barrage of tiny seeds in your face. I have been told that a medium sized plant can release as many as 600 seeds. My own estimation would be far less, but when you consider how many plants can grow in a small area, and shoot seeds, this would have a significant effect on a garden area, and translate into a great deal of weeding. To compound this problem, the germination time is short and growth rate is quick with an estimated life cycle of around six weeks, allowing for several generations to grow in a single season.
Fortunately there is no bittercress growing in my area at the present time. However, this means I will have to make due with available photography until I am able to take my own pictures. The bittercress in the collage was provided by AnneTanne, and the use of the photo above was generously supplied by Rebecca-Lee.
I really don’t hate these three weeds. I admire their tenacity as they have found clever ways to not only survive, but to flourish. Yet I must remain diligent in my quest to nurture my garden in a way that suits me. This means I will continue to match wits with these three weeds in the continuing battle to claim back my garden space.