It’s not so much of a case of what to do at Little Acre, it’s more where to start.
Before I can even begin thinking in the most basic of detail about garden design, there is a need to establish what exactly we are dealing with.
A lifetime of having instilled into me the importance of ‘save the pennies….’ & ‘waste not, want not’ (as I write those words the voice of my Gran echos loudly through my subconscious!) leads me to want to simply observe the garden over the coming months to see what springs up where, what surprises it may have to offer and what of the already present plants I can incorporate into the new layout.
That being said, before I can undertake the enviable task of sitting back, glass undoubtedly in hand, and watching the delights unfold before our eyes, I’m going to have to get my hands dirty. The nettles are slowly but surely attacking on all fronts, appearing in borders along the length and breadth of the garden. These however don’t even come close to main threat. Woven amongst unsuspecting plants, stealthily invading beds of perennials and shrubs alike is Calystegia sepium commonly referred to as bindweed. Its long tendrils slowly choking all they come into contact with, winding its way through, up and under all in it’s path.
In spite of knowing all of this I can’t help being slightly charmed by its beauty. It’s elegant bell like flowers contrasting vibrantly against the leaves of those shrubs it envelops, leading the eye along the path of its vine and adding light into corners of the garden which have been untouched for years. Although no matter how much I can subjectively admire its grace and tenacity, its a brute…..and it must go!
Before jumping in and starting removal it’s time to consult with those who know best. So…..to the forums. Over the previous year I’ve been establishing a social media presence and come across a number of sites where advice is willingly given and gratefully received. Horticulture is certainly built on lessons learnt and I’m attempting to absorb every nugget of wisdom thrown my way.
For those not clear, bindweed is a invader of extensive proportions. A perennial which spreads through an underground network of rhizomes, brittle roots which, if broken, can produce regenerated plants all ready to continue the invasion where it’s predecessor left off. Removal is simple, just dig up every last tiny morsel of the plant leaving nothing behind. Which is all well and good but the root system can spread up to 5 meters, becoming intertwined with those of adjacent plants.
Currently bindweed is abundant through the raised fruit beds, so much so that the sheer weight of them is pulling the raspberry bushes to the ground. As there is an still an abundance of fruit being produced I’ve simply decided for now to cut the vine where I can, to free up the surrounding plants and hopefully weaken the weed where it sits. Once the fruit has been harvested (either by ourselves if we act quickly enough or the local wildlife of we do not!) we’ll start with a second more aggressive phase of attack. When the raspberries have started to die back, the old growth will be pruned and the plants will be moved into temporary pots (ensuring the root system is clear of all things bindweed before replacing during the winter months). From here we move to the back braking relentless part, digging through the empty raised bed, removing every part of the bindweed that’s encountered.
An alternate ‘aggressive phase’ is what I intend to bring to the rest of the garden. There were a number of approaches suggested from those in the know although I like the concept of ‘organic’ gardening and I may move more that way going forward, the reality of the extent of the bindweed leaves me with little choice if I want to be able to start developing the garden any time this decade. As the bindweed is entwined amongst established shrubs and perennials the task of digging them out without doing too much damage is improbable. As a result using a type of weedkiller is the logical option.
The suggested way to do this, without causing spread onto the surrounding plants, is as follows; by pulling the bindweed down as far as possible, placing the weed into a plastic bag then spraying into the bag/placing gel on the leaves and leaving it (weighed down) in situ, allows the chemical to work its way through into the roots of the plant, destroying it from within!
Next year should anything remain, canes will be placed throughout the garden to draw up the bindweed, raising alerts to its presence and allowing a much more targeted plant specific approach………but that will be a problem for next year. Right now I’m going to enjoy its elegance whilst I can, hoping that soon it will be no more!