Thursday, November 26, 2009

Does this bad boy live in YOUR neighborhood?

It's not a northern bamboo. It's not an ornamental. It's Japanese knotweed and it's taking over large swaths of Connecticut, creating monocultures and choking out useful plants that provide homes and food for wildlife.

A fast-growing, aggressive perennial, this knotweed spreads by rhizomes and doesn't appear to be particular about where it infests. I see it on roadsides, along streams, in abandoned fields, and in hedgerows. Like so many invasives, it was introduced to America as an ornamental decades ago and has escaped cultivation to become a noxious weed.

If you have this thug, removal is recommended if you don't want it to take over. My gardening friend, Don Warfield, and I have been working on removing Japanese knotweed from a stretch of Rte. 58 in southern Bethel for a couple of years. Here's the approach we've found works best:

1. Cut down the reddish shoots that emerge in the early spring. They can be tugged out, albeit with difficulty. A hand-held claw works well to evict them from the soil.

2. During the first year of eradication, be prepared to rip out the stems about once every 6 weeks. Try to do it after a rain, when the ground is softer.

3. If you've been diligent, the second year just a few shoots will emerge, but these must be removed as well, or the entire grove will return.
4. Monitor thereafter.

In the area we've freed, more desireable material such as aster, milkweed and chicory is returning. Don and I both check the progress of our little freed area on a regular basis. We feel it's important to do our bit for the land. Won't you help, too?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Let's get familiar with Fothergilla

Such a funny name for such a marvelous shrub. Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) or bottlebrush shrub, is native to the Eastern United States and thrives in sun or shade. It'll grow to 3' high and 3' wide, (Fothergilla major, also native, will grow to 10' x 15', by contrast) Both have several seasons of interest. The fragrant, bottle-brush shaped flowers appear in spring; the somewhat crinkled green leaves stay crisp all summer; and tah-dah! the fall foliage boasts a symphony of orange, purple, and red hues. The shrub colors up late (like right now) and holds it well.

I added fothergilla three years ago to my White Pine Garden, a semi-circular bed under a majestic white pine on the south, albeit shady side of the yard. It's accompanied by Azalea 'Beauman's Pink', & 'Mother's Day'; by witch hazel 'Jelena' and 'Arnold Promise'; by redcedar juniper seedlings which I purchase from Alice Mayer at our annual church Bazaar, (coming up next Saturday, the 14th!); an oakleaf hydrangea which I think is 'Pee Wee', and a curtsey of various hosta. All the plantings are shade tolerant, and though I do apply deer repellent, they've not been bothered in the several years they've been in residence.

It's not always easy to find attractive, native, shade-tolerant shrubs that also lend interest all season. Give fothergilla a chance, you won't be sorry.