I’m in the middle of an early fall garden rescue. I have six garden problems, ‘er weeds, I’m trying to eradicate this fall.
While I was traveling, temperatures around the world, including in my own state, soared, and my garden became a tangle of terrible tyrants. The plants you like may die in extreme temperatures, but the weeds march on. The back garden is over 30 years old and is the worst place for these garden problems.
Some aggressive plants are true weeds. Others are native adventurers, and some are my own mistakes I planted years ago.
Which six garden problems? Let’s discuss.
Mulberry weed, Fatoua villosa, looks innocent when it’s small, but it is an absolute nightmare. It tagged along in a nursery pot a few years ago, and there is no way I’ll ever be rid of it. It is difficult to pull the multitudinous seedlings when it’s small. Then, mulberry weed grows a bit bigger, and if you don’t get your fingers right down by it, it snaps off and continues world domination. Mulberry weed produces seeds fairly quickly; its common name derives from them. They look like mulberry clusters along the stem. It grows quite tall, and if you touch it at the right time, those seeds fall off. I hate it. However, I like how the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden calls it a dirty dozen plant. Yes, it makes the top of my terrible list.
I have a love/hate relationship with obedient plant, Physostegia virginiana, which is native and naturalized throughout much of North America. I wrote a poem about it once. When I found the poem today, it made me laugh.
It’s said that native plants can’t be invasive, but this one certainly tries. It’s commonly called obedient plant because the stems stay bent for a while when you bend them. I would argue that being a part of the mint, or the Lamiaceae family means this plant isn’t obedient at all. With square stems and really happy roots, obedient plant likes to spread. If I had my garden to do over again, I wouldn’t plant it, but that ship sailed 30-plus years ago.
I’ve been doing a little series of videos on Instagram where I chat about these naughty plants and other plants I actually like, and people seem to enjoy them. Discussing bad plants is rather amusing, except when I’m sweating out in the garden trying to at least rid myself of some of them.
I now accept that I won’t get them all. There will always be a stray seed or root I miss.
Floss flower, ageratum
Floss Flower, Ageratum spp. arrived on the wind one year, and it’s been here ever since. I’m not sure about the species, but it’s one of the wild ones. Again, like all weedy plants, ageratum has happy roots and lots of seeds. Pollinators love it, including the Monarchs and other butterflies, so while I remove as much as I can in spring, I leave some too. Now, I’m editing out some of those.
Everyone who listens to my podcast with Carol Michel, the Gardenangelists, or reads anything I write knows how much I hate autumn clematis–I refuse to put the word sweet in front of the common name of Clematis terniflora, which is often confused with the native virgin’s bower, C. virginiana. After a long, hot summer, I start to see this aggressive Asian plant blooming all over Oklahoma City and Edmond.
In fact, it’s being sold at a local nursery as I write. Three people sent me the nursery’s advertisement on Instagram.
I also start getting questions about it this time of year. People can’t help being ecstatic about a plant that made it through the summer, is flowering abundantly, and has a sweet scent. Still, there’s a fluffy seed cluster forming at every flower group, ripening and getting ready to spread.
I’m sure autumn clematis is blooming up in Tulsa too. I planted this menace in my garden over 30 years ago, and it will outlive me, I’m sure.
While it smells sweet–too sweet for my taste–don’t be fooled. Autumn clematis is considered invasive in much of the U.S., especially as you move northeast into forested areas. I think it will be invasive in Oklahoma before long. Often plants don’t get identified as invasive until it’s already too late. My advice is to plant the native vine instead. I’m sorry if you already have this terrible plant in your garden. If there ever was a good reason for the big “R,” this aggressive plant would be it.
Oriental lady’s thumb, aka bristled knotweed
Oriental lady’s thumb, aka bristled knotweed, Persicaria longiseta, showed up in my garden a year or so ago, and it’s quite tenacious. According to Wikipedia, it came into America in 1910 and spread via the railroads. It’s not too hard to pull out, but you don’t want to put it in your compost. As with any weed that spreads via seeds, throw it in a plastic bag in the trash.
I bought garlic chives, Allium tuberosum, way back when the back garden was still a vegetable and herb garden out of Kitchen Gardener magazine. I remember the day well. I went to an herb festival, and a seller enthusiastically said I should grow garlic chives. I do not think good thoughts about this person. Yes, pollinators love it, but it escaped my garden years ago. The only way to keep it in check is to dig it out and, truthfully, to use the big “R” on it. In my Bermuda grass lawn, we mow it down until it finally gives up for the year. It returns every spring, though unfazed by my attentions.
Those are my garden problems this week. If you’d like to listen to my podcast with Carol Michel, the link is embedded below.