I'm s-o-o-o-o predictable at this time of the year. As soon as the sap starts rising I'm out to dig up all the mistakes that I made last year. Shrubs that I've miscalculated on are a recurring theme. Do you ever plant something, that looks really good in the garden centre, forgetting to read the disclaimer about how tall/ wide it will grow? I'm a sucker for that one. My back garden is modestly proportioned, and there isn't a lot of room for bamboo glades and shrubberies, but, thanks to my gormless lack of forward planning, that was exactly where we were headed.
Right now I've got a bamboo forest, hacked out, dug up and sworn over lying prone on my front forecourt waiting to be carried off to the local council's composting facility. Several too-big for the plot shrubs went the same way last week. And now I'm all set for a perennial border in the very finest of English country traditions.
A perennial border has been on my wish-list for quite some time now. I've got dahlias and gladiolas lined up, and a sweet mixture of aquilegias, which seem to grow really well on my clay soil. I even bought some hollyhocks yesterday. I've got big plans, but I've got two real nuisance features to contend with.
One is a huge population of humungous slugs. These big fat mamas belong in a horror movie. And what's even worse this year is that they don't seem to have done the decent thing and hibernated. I've got this sinking feeling that they've been whiling away the winter months making babies. Eugh! I'm limited to what I can try by way of a slug cull because I don't want to poison the WonderDog, who's still given to eating odd things. And no label that claims its highly synthetic, dodgy-looking pellets are totally safe to man and beast is going to make me believe what it's saying.
|Walpole Park, Ealing, London -NOT my back garden!|
And the other nuisance thing that I have to contend with is an invasive weed that one of my (very ill-advised) predecessors appears to have planted for ground cover. I have tried to find its name. I've asked an array of gardeners, but no one has ever known what it is. I've paged through dozens of publications - both online and on paper. I'm just thankful that it's not Japanese Knotweed, but it is a real pain with a huge tap-root system that enables it to creep for meters across my flowerbeds. It grows vigorously, blocking out the light for everything else and exercising a thuggish mafioso stranglehold over the flowerbed where it's squatting.
Thinking that I could turn to technology I downloaded a zippy new app called Smartplant. They very kindly gave me 2 credits for free, one of which I immediately spent on getting their experts to identify my annoying long-rooted squatter plant from a photograph that I sent to them.
A message came back confirming that it was a tricky one! Strewth, tell me about it! The national panel of experts didn't have an answer for me, but they were going to escalate my inquiry to their international panel. Another day passed, and then this morning I got another message saying that it was Asarum sp, a variety of wild ginger.
I've been a little horrified by the internet accounts of how difficult certain types of wild ginger can be to get rid of. They seem to have a major problem with it in New Zealand with lots of websites offering the same advice: dig it out or use a herbicide. I'm grateful at least that mine doesn't seem to be one of the most prolific varieties, which form rhizome banks and totally block out the chances of anything else surviving. But, still, it's going to be a long hard slog to get rid of it.
And the moral of the story is: be really careful with those saviour ground-cover plants that promise to solve your problems with vigorous foliage for difficult shady areas. I think the monster Japanese Knotweed was introduced by the Victorians on just that pretext. There's a real danger that they'll outstay their welcome and crawl all over everywhere!
All the best for now,