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All gardeners are faced with pernicious weeds from time to time, and the Savvy Gardening experts are no different. Here are some of the worst experiences we’ve ever faced with weeds… and how we tackled them (or at least tried to!).
Niki says: I get asked a lot of gardening questions during my weekly radio show. One of the more frequent queries deals with eradicating invasive plants like goutweed and Japanese knotweed. A few years back, I would cheekily suggest that the caller consider moving, but oh how that bit of sarcasm has come back to bite me on the ass. You see, it’s easy to offer such advice when one’s garden is free of invasive plants. But that is no longer the case. A few years ago I discovered a slumbering patch of goutweed on my own property. For about a decade, it had stayed hidden, biding its time beneath an overgrown cotoneaster, but then two springs ago, I decided to chop back the cotoneaster and with the increased light, the few sprigs of goutweed began to grow. And grow. And GROW!
It has since invaded a beloved shrub and perennial garden where it is weaving its way between clumps of bamboo, conifers and coneflowers. At first, I tried to dig it out, but soon learned that it was pointless unless I hired a backhoe to remove every soil molecule in my backyard. So I’ve become a smotherer. Which means that a portion of my backyard – right beside my deck – has been torn apart and covered in thick sheets of cardboard which will stay in place for at least a year – perhaps two. Lovely.
On the other hand, I could throw in the towel, allow the goutweed to take over this area of the backyard (which is contained between the house and a retaining wall) and concentrate my gardens in other areas. Or, I could eat the enemy! Young goutweed is edible, often used as a spinach-like green in salads and cooked dishes. Bon appetit!
Tara says: I moved into my current house in the late fall. The garden had been tidied up for the season, so the following spring it was fun to see what popped up where. Unfortunately one of those plants that popped up is a weed that I’d never had to deal with before. And I’ve been cursing it ever since. It looks pretty enough at first – delicate little curvy leaves with small, white, trumpet-like flowers that resemble morning glories.
Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is actually a relative of the lovely blue morning glories one might spot climbing a telephone pole or trellis. But it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, spreading its horrible white roots deep into the soil. There are varying reports of how deep – one article I read said nine feet, another 14 and another said 30 metres! And those delicate leaves become tendrils that wrap around other plants, choking them out like a UFC fighter.
One of my favourite gardening articles of last season was written by Sonia Day for the Toronto Star. The headline read “Bindweed has made me an old BAG” — B.A.G. being an acronym for Bindweed-Afflicted Gardener. Unfortunately I’m a BAG too. I hate how keeping on top of my bindweed infestation takes my attention away from other parts of the garden, but if I don’t want it taking over my yard! Do I bring in a backhoe to excavate or do I concede defeat? I could try solarizing the main afflicted area, but I have a feeling it would be a losing battle…
Jessica says: Sometimes a plant enters your life that just downright pisses you off. Usually it’s because it exhibits some kind of obnoxious behavior, like a too-rowdy-to-be-tolerated growth habit or a fragrance that’s icky or putrid. Well, let me share with you the plant that tops my own “I hate you so much I wish you would just die” list.
Chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata), is also known as Korean ivy, and it exhibits the ultimate trifecta of obnoxiousness (we’ve kindly shown you a photo at the top of this post).
1. It spreads waaaaaay too aggressively.
2. It’s impossible to get rid of.
3. The foliage smells like a high school locker room. Gag.
I cannot believe that growers still sell this plant, and that people plant it ON PURPOSE. It should come with a warning label because once you have chameleon plant, you will NEVER get rid of it. Don’t ever attempt to dig it out because each little microscopic root piece you leave behind will re-sprout, like a bunch of satanic root cuttings hell-bent on turning you into a gardening Sisyphus, forever digging out the same plant over and over and over and over again for all of eternity. I’m serious. Do not plant this S.O.B. or your life will be ruined, and you’ll want to sacrifice your first born to the devil just to get rid of the stuff.