Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Good News, The Bad News, The Borage ...




Haven't been blogging much recently because I've been too busy gardening. First a week getting the back balcony clean and tidy, and seeds sown ready for summer. And then a week in the UK, sorting out my London garden.

Now, if you've been following my vain attempts to keep the garden decent at a distance of 600 miles, you'll know that I've spent the last two summers battling with borage. When I left last autumn, I'd spent two months digging out taproots nearly as thick as my wrist. I cleared the garden, but I knew it wasn't the end of the story. Not only does borage self seed like crazy, but if you don't dig out every last inch of root, it just bounces straight back. And I knew that I hadn't. So the bad news is that when I got back, this is what confronted me ...




It was clear that another week of digging was ahead. Except that you try sitting at a computer for six months and then decide to spend all day digging. Balcony garden may be good for the soul, but the exercise that you get when coping with a real garden is sadly lacking.

Anyway, I did what my back would allow and managed to clear and plant several flower beds, as well as cutting the grass and the hedge and deadheading the hydrangeas. And the good news was that when I started, I found most of the borage didn't come from old taproots at all. It was from last season's seed - and came out of the ground like butter. Weeding in the spring when the soil is moist is also a different experience from doing it in the summer when the ground is baked hard. Even those plants which did have well-established taproots were far easier to deal with.

But back to the bad news. This year it wasn't just the borage. There were three other invasive plants covering the garden. One was this ...




In one of my posts last summer I remember saying that the garden was filled with hundreds of tiny bulbs which I couldn't identify. I even collected them carefully and replanted them in clumps. Well there they are, valiantly competing with the borage to swamp the flower beds, destroy the lawn and, in general, dominate the garden.


What are they? No idea. Wouldn't mind if they showed signs of flowering, but only one in about a thousand seems to be in bud. Which leaves 999 per square foot just putting out straggly, unattractive leaves. I yanked them all out as I cleared the beds, but much of the garden is still swamped. However, at least they're providing ground cover for the parts I didn't get round to.



There are some bulbs though which I've been quite happy to leave. Little clumps of muscari are dotting the garden, together with some tall, broad leaved plants which aren't flowering and which I can't name. But I've seen them flowering in a neighbour's garden and they're lovely. I think they're Snowflake, either Leucojum vernum or, as they're not yet in flower, possibly Leucojum aestivum. If so, they should be flowering by the time I next go back - I've planned another trip in early May - so I should see.




Some tulips are also in bud, and the daffodils which I planted last year have been glorious. The roses and lavender which I put in are also coming on well. More good news.



And back to the bad. There's a weed in the garden which I've never seen there before - but which is quickly taking over. Horrendous stuff - but luckily fairly easy to pull up. This is the compost heap...




Occasionally shy little flowers attempt to poke their way through ...


The third invasive plant is good news, however. Last summer I posted asking if anyone recognised a plant which was gradually creeping over the lawn and flower beds. It had clearly flowered in the spring because it was full of seed pods, but I had no idea what it was. Several people suggested violets, but I said no, I'd already thought of that and rejected it because the leaves were too pale. But what do we have here ...



Bright green leaves and little violets everywhere. So humble apologies to Disquina, Wendy and Jan - you were right all along.

So, it was a week of weeding. I did about a sixth of the garden thoroughly, hoed a bit more where baby borage seedlings were sprouting, and, on the last day, gave up and sprayed the rest with weedkiller. I'll be back in a month to see if it had any effect. But I suspect the borage may well have just lapped it up ...


19 comments:

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Your violets are lovely. But I'm somewhat dismayed at the borage. I bought some borage seeds this year to plant in the vegetable gardens to attract pollinators. Good thing I haven't sown them yet...I think I need to do some homework before I do!

Jan said...

Well, the plant by your compost is goosegrass I think... if it sticks to your clothes? Those narrow leaves could be wild garlic, they look similar to what my dad has all over his lawn and borders. I'm glad you're being careful with your back, although a week isn't really long enough to get in training!

pamsenglishgarden said...

Sue, I've said before, I am amazed how you keep two gardens going! The grape hyacinths are adorable. Have a great gardening year. Pam x

Cameron said...

Oh my! I sowed borage seeds. Thankfully, I planted them in a temporary garden bed that is only seed-sown herbs and annuals--not in with perennials in my main garden.

jeansgarden said...

Sue, You have my sympathies. I also have two gardens that are 600 miles apart. When I go back to Pennsylvania in August, I will be going back to a garden that has been neglected for two growing seasons. I shudder to think what will be waiting for me there. -Jean

Helen at summerhouse said...

I have only just starting reading your blog so had no idea you had two gardens to keep. As for the top weed, I think it's actually Digitalis. could be wrong, but it looks it. It's biannual. This year I've got it everywhere but I like it.

gittan said...

Hi Sue, I can't wait to see more from you London garden!

Sue Swift said...

CVS and Cameron - you should be all right with the borage if you make sure you cut the flower spikes before they go to seed. And I'd dig them up every year or so and start again rather than letting the taproots get so big that in the end they're far too deep to get out properly.
Jan - I think you might be right both about the goosegrass (it's horribly sticky) and the wild garlic. I'd thought of that as when you break the leaves a really strong garlicky/oniony smell comes up. What's it like when it flowers?
helen - no, I think you're confusing the borage with digitalis. This is very, dvery definitely borage. I only wish it wasn't ...

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I also believed the hype about the wonders of borage.

I planted it under my beehive, which was I spot where I hoped not to do a lot of future digging.

Shiny New Allotment Holder said...

Wow - long-range gardening - that must be a challenge in Spring-time! I feel your pain over the Borage - I've got some growing between paving - all I can do with it is chop the leaves back regularly & hope it'll one day give up!

A Garden of Threads said...

Violets are nice in the lawn, just mow them over when finished flowering. Hope the back is feeling better, I take a bath with Epsom salts after a day in the garden.

Jess said...

This post makes me scared to ever go on vacation again.

AaronVFT said...

The flowers, especially daffodils are so beautiful. I want to grow so many temperate flowers but my tropical weather is not suitable. :(

easygardener said...

I can guarantee you will have the wild garlic (Allium triquetrum)until the end of time if mine is anything to go by :-)
The flowers are like drooping white bluebells - quite pretty - but that does not compensate for their thuggery!

Jan said...

Wild garlic is a reall pain in the neck as you have to get all the little bulbs out... which is impossible. Weedkiller, although I don't suppose you'll like that idea... it has it's place though.

Melanie said...

I love your violets Sue . I bet they smell lovely, they do self seed like crazy though. I have borage because I couldn't live without it. I pull up all but one plant in late summer and throw them away, not on the compost heap. In spring, when the seeds germinate, I pull up a few more plants. For you, living so far away from your English garden, it would be hard to keep up this kind of maintenance.

OffalyGoodLife said...

Hi Sue. Fair play with keeping the two gardens going. We were thinking about sowing some Borage this summer - apparently its good for bees. After your warning, we'll make sure its well contained!

Rowena... said...

Because of this post, I ran out to check of my borage from last year reseeded itself - no such luck, yet. I actually hope some of it will come back as I did like to use the flowers in making ice cubes!

This year we had a lot of occhi della madonna coming back and wood anemone...they definitely intended to take over the garden this year!

Beth said...

Oh my gosh, is that awful weed barbed in a way that it sticks to hands and clothes, and just about everything else? I have one that looks very similar to that one in my yard, and it is so "sticky"! I feel for you!

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