Archive for April, 2011

Its usually just called “Fight Club” weekend, but this year, I was a bit sad that Cottager and his friends would be having ‘guy time’ just when my favourite giant shrub is in bloom – about three weeks late owing to the cold spring. So, to pacify me, the boys weekend was rechristened.

We have been going all out, as we generally do in springtime, to make improvements in advance of the summer rental season. This year, it was new stairs, new gravel for the drive and paths, and a hundred other little things besides.

Cottager pre-fashioned the stairs earlier this month and spent about three hours hauling gravel, half a metre at a time, on Friday morning, so that when his mates showed up they could get right to it.  The arrived on the first ferry, and after bacon and eggs breakfast, they set about giving the cottage a bit more curb appeal.

Here are the before and after photos:

Collapsing stairs and dirt driveway


New stairs – with handrail! – and tidy gravel driveway

Right where those rocks are piled against the shed is where the bears and I hope to soon have an espaliered Italian plum tree – (Mother’s Day hint to my urchins.) 

Doug was a wizard at fixing some problem spots in the deck, and everyone worked together to haul some gravel to the path around the back of the cottage and stabilize a bit of precarious rock wall.  Then they moved on to the beer and barbecue part of the program. Andy took charge of the grill while Doug got the fireplace roaring:

Cooking up a hungry-man dinner


I can’t be sure, since I wasn’t there, but I believe that the rest of the evening was devoted to admiring the Sweet Olive tree.

Thanks guys, for pitching in on this project. You are the best! 

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The more I learn, the more I am afraid.  On forums, I read of people who fought goutweed for years and then gave up and moved! One fellow covered his infested beds with four layers of flattened cardboard boxes, followed by several inches of mill waste and then a heavy black tarp – for a year! 

I peeked into the neighbour’s yard where the weed is originating and it is a sea of goutweed!  It is growing in their lawn! According to the forums, this is a very bad thing:  It is essentially impossible to dig this highly rhizomatic invader out of turf.  It seems likely they don’t know this.  Would it be rude to point out that their overrun garden is infringing on the health and viability of mine? This is a whole new field of etiquette to ponder.

Meanwhile, I am on the warpath.  I broke down and broke out the Roundup. I  am now getting analytical: Where can I reasonably expect to control this invasive groundcover through digging? Where will I –  realistically – have to use herbicide to have any chance at all?  Which areas might lend themselves to the one-two punch of poisoning and smothering?  

To help answer this last question, I sprayed herbicide foam over a bad patch near the fence, then covered it with a plastic garbage bag, followed by a layer of old shingles and then some board remnants. I sprayed a similar sized adjoining area with Roundup and left it uncovered (not enough shingles and wood handy) so that I can compare the relative efficacy of these techniques.  Don’t know how I can keep on top of this once our rental season gears up next month… I am frankly considering a torch!

poisoning and smothering

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I posted a link of my problem weed post at the “Name that Plant” forum on GardenWeb and before the day is done, I have my answer – The amazing Carrieb advises me that what I have is GOUTWEED! 

Carrieb was even kind enough to provide a link to a profile of goutweed on the Plant Conservation Alliance’s list of “least wanted” plants which says in part…

” Goutweed, also known as bishop’s-weed and snow-on-the-mountain, is an herbaceous perennial plant. It is one of several species of Aegopodium, native to Europe and Asia. Most leaves are basal, with the leafstalk attached to an underground stem, or rhizome. The leaves are divided into three groups of three leaflets, making it “triternate.” The leaflets are toothed and sometimes irregularly lobed. Foliage of the “wild” type is medium green in color; a commonly planted variegated form has bluish-green leaves with creamy white edges. Sometimes reversion back to solid green or a mixture of solid green and the lighter variegated pattern occurs within a patch. 

Small, white, five-petaled flowers are produced in mid-summer. Flowers are arranged in flat-topped clusters (called compound umbels) and are held above the ground on a leafy stem up to about 3 feet tall. The seeds are small and elongate, similar in size and shape to carrot seeds, and ripen in late summer. In contrast to the dense foliage cover produced by goutweed, flowering shoots are uncommon in densely shaded areas.

The rhizomes of goutweed are long, white, and branching, superficially resembling those of quackgrass (Elytrigia repens, also known as Agropyron repens). Patches of goutweed typically form a dense canopy and can exclude most other herbaceous vegetation. Because of this, it is often used as a low-maintenance ground cover.

Goutweed is an aggressive invasive plant that forms dense patches, displaces native species, and greatly reduces species diversity in the ground layer. Goutweed patches inhibit the establishment of conifers and other native tree species as well.

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This very innocuous seeming three-leafed plant started popping up along my fence lines – on BOTH sides – two years ago. I didn’t pay much attention at first. Sometimes I plucked it and sometimes I didn’t. Last summer it suddenly filled a small path on the western side and it took me a while to pull it all.  But this year, when I resolved to start the season with a really thorough weeding and timely top-dressing I made a dreadful discovery: This stuff was everywhere! It had huge massy nests of roots like spaghetti that went 6 – 8 inches deep in the soil. 

This is a sneaky invader  The surface plant has a little knuckle, just at the soil level, so when you pull on it, it breaks off.  And it twists itself around existing plants, infiltrating my hostas so when they are split, it migrates with them to a new spot too. 

I spent hours trying to dig every bit of this out, and I have no illusion that I was successful. But from now on, it is enemy number one. Wherever it appears, I am going to have to go in with trowels blazing.  Knowing its name would give me some power over it, so I hope someone can help. I’ve searched on-line without finding pictures or a reasonable description.  Any information or advice most welcome!

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