Invasive invasives

Invasive Wisteria has begun to overtake this large hardwood tree.

Wisteria vines, large and small make their climb up this large landscape tree. Years of neglect allowed the vine to take hold but honestly, in Virginia, that would just be 2-3 years. Vines grow like crazy here! I also wanted to note the poison ivy at the base to the right. It’s rampant here. Photo taken by Robin Arnold in Woodbridge, Va. 

Large invasive wisteria clings to trees

Look how huge this wisteria vine has gotten. At my level the vine is as big around as a gallon milk jug. It reaches high into the canopy of this woods . The purple blooms are overhead. Photo taken in Woodbridge Va by Robin Arnold

Wisteria choke hold

Ducking under the thick overgrowth you can see how the wisteria vines are wrapped around this landscape specimen tree and have a choke hold on the main branches as well as the canopy. Photo taken in Woodbridge Va by Robin Arnold.

I’ve been thinking about invasives. Not just the plants discovered growing right under my nose here in my own garden and considered invasives here in Virginia, but other invasives. Invasive things like people, situations, words, and images. Just like invasive weeds, those other things sneak in, subtly taking advantage of the conditions that they very likely will thrive in, and will become so overbearing it’s hard to get rid of them, or even, to think they are a bad idea…it’s just easier to let them be. But lets stick with plants.

When we first moved to Virginia, which happened in the months of late May through July, I think I may have gone into environmental shock after 18 years in San Antonio, Texas. Rain was especially fascinating. Things were so lush and green, plus so soft and pretty verses prickly or dry. How lovely the Wisteria seemed, how aromatic the honeysuckle perfumed the air. And, back in Texas pots of this stuff sold for big bucks at the nursery.

Here in our new yard outside Stephens City, Rose of Sharon grows tall and thick and I thought how wonderful it was to have such a splendid old-fashioned plant to remind us of back home. The next year I found myself “lucky” to have several volunteers and even transplanted them to better locations. And I did the same with the mounds of ornamental grasses I actually purchased but soon found multiplied like tribbles (it really should be called tribble grass). Soon there were so many volunteers we couldn’t keep up with the landscape. Still I was happy for the free plants. Free is good, I wasn’t thinking free is more work. But it was.

So now this is the year I intend to take remedial action and remove the list of invasive species in our yard. We’ve already gotten rid of a Mimosa Tree. We’ll remove four large Rose of Sharon and multiple small ones. And the mounds of grass will go as well. I’m adding removal of several kinds of mint as well because in our yard it IS an invasive weedy thug.

Is this the easy or cheap thing? No, not at all. It will leave gaping holes until they can be filled and whatever we decide to put in their place matures a bit. But it will end up being less work over time, and less costly in what I call garden coping…those allowances one makes for a badly behaved plant, like dropped seeds, extra raking, spreading to inconvenient spots to choke out more desirable perennials. And, it will be better for overall garden quality. It will give room to natives I really want to grow to encourage birds and wildlife, and be better for yard maintenance.

It took some research to realize I indeed had invasives. I started here on the website where I’m employed afternoons. I confess I read the list to become familiar for my job answering phones etc. It’s an eye opener!

State Arboretum of Virginia Invasive Alien Plant List

Note that list has some very helpful resource links as well. Bookmark them. There are other lists available. Like this one at the Va Dept of Conservation and Rec.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Invasive Plant List

Not in Virginia? Each state has a list of alien or exotic plants that should NOT be sold or planted. A responsible gardener checks them out. Don’t do the easy cheap thing.

Almost a year ago I made the decision to change jobs, to go back to my non-profit roots, back to an atmosphere where I am more gifted, more at peace, even more appreciated.  Perhaps I was considered an invasive weed where I used to work or maybe it was the job that was invasive to me. It just was wrong. They say a weed is just a perennial out of place. However you want to look at it, it felt invasive, intrusive, overwhelming, so stressful on a daily basis, and, now it doesn’t. The right atmosphere and environment does make a difference. I have to say I’m thriving.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28


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Hope Springs in a Garden

It was 62° today and I only had to wear two layers! Things are looking up. I saw the first nubbins of daffs coming through the mulch and the first robin bachelors have arrived to scope out the neighborhood and make some test nests for the ladies when they arrive in a few weeks. Maybe it won’t be endless winter. Maybe Spring WILL arrive.

And maybe it’s okay to be looking at seed catalogs and planning my garden. Speaking of seed catalogs, let’s take a look at what the Smithsonian now has available. What a treasure trove of beauty for someone who loves vintage labels and marketing art. Here’s a favorite. Look how delicious those vegetables look.

Smithsonian Collection Seed Catalogs

I attended a talk last Sunday by the author of Epic Tomatoes, Craig, LeHoullier, and already caught the Spring gardening bug. He has a production mindset when it comes to seeds and planting from his years as a heirloom tomato seed tester. There was a lot to be learned that was contrary to most of what I’ve learned about seed setting and growing plants for transplanting. I’m excited to try them.

1-Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers seem to do very well in black plastic containers, 5-10 gallon size. The extra heat absorbed from the sun seems to give them a good head start. They may need to be watered twice daily. I think this will work for me since my soil temps last Spring were so cold so long.

2-Cast seed thickly on the soil and let the seeds germinate tight together. Once up they are actually easy to shake apart then insert one at a time into their own pot. I confess I was skeptical but watched him demo the technique and describe it as tough love.

3-Indeterminate tomatoes like to climb and want to get quite tall. This I know so, duh, I need to put them on a taller trellis system or taller support. Stupid tomato cages are stupid.

Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier speaks at Blandy

Craig LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes speaks Mar 8 in the Blandy Experimental Farm Library.

So at last I have some hope but realistically it’s only the middle of March and no doubt the March Lion may not be done roaring. How’s your hope?

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