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Enemy du Jour

In the past week, I’ve taken a run at eliminating a pretty, but particularly annoying, weed from my garden: Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta). This early in the season, its clusters of dainty white flowers look lacy and particularly decorative. Flowers are especially prevalent in the garden in cool weather, from mid to late spring, although this plant will bloom through much of the season provided plants have adequate moisture. Flowers arise from a mound of pinnate (featherlike) leaves with small rounded leaflets, and the plant springs up everywhere that moist soil occurs, including containers and mulched garden beds.


Innocent looking hairy bittercress in the garden.

How could I possibly identify this small, innocuous plant as my enemy du jour? In another week or two, the flowers from the main spring crop will fade and seed will ripen. Trying to pull plants with ripe seed is simply an exercise in futility. The authors of Weeds of the Northeast describe them as “explosively dehiscent, propelling seeds over 3m.” That’s nearly 10 feet, so pulling seedlings—or even walking through a patch of plants—is basically an exercise in seed distribution. So far, getting angry at the little boogers hasn’t helped at all, so I’m on a pulling mission.

When I’m weeding, I tend to focus on a single species. In this case, eliminating flowering plants cuts back on seeds for next year’s garden. Theme weeding also means I don’t have to change tools from plant to plant: Weeds like dandelions and wild onions require a gardening knife for digging, while hairy bittercress can just be pulled and tossed into a collection basket. (It does mean I have to go back over the beds again, though.) And while my aim is eradication, I know that’s impossible. In reality, I’ll just cut down on the hairy bittercress next season, but that’s good enough for me!


A day’s weeding. More planned for tomorrow!


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Greetings Eastern Shore Gardeners. I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve added a variety of lectures sponsored by Queen Anne and Kent County Extension to the Calendar of Events. I also added several lectures to be held at London Town and Gardens that looked really interesting. (London Town is just over the Bay Bridge in Edgewater).

I hope something on the list piques your interest!


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While our recent wild weather whipped away lots of leaves and damaged a great many flowers, undaunted trees along our creek are really beginning to color up for fall. Despite the weather, in the garden I still have bubblegum pink blooms covering my fall-blooming Camellia sasanqua, mounds of marginally tattered chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’, and aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius) in bloom. Plus, sprinkled throughout are flowering salvias,  roses, calamint (Calamintha nepeta nepeta), and a lone pale pink balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus). I swear next year I need to add some of the fall blooming bulbs to add to the show!



Above: Tupelo and holly on the creek.


Outstanding fall foliage is high on my list when considering trees and shrubs to plant. Tupelos (Nyssa sylvatica) probably top my list here. The one I planted on the bank along the roadside this fall won’t rival the ones growing along the creek during my lifetime, but I’m still happy that it’s there. I’ll get my share of enjoyment from it, and with any luck it will be here for the next person to own this place. I’ve also managed to transplant a couple of oak seedlings that showed outstanding fall color—I think both are black oak hybrids (Quercus velutina). They seem to have established themselves as well. Oh, and then there’s my little, newly planted ‘Ruby Slippers’ oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Now there’s some great fall color!



Above: Oakleaf hydrangea ‘Ruby Slippers’ has maintained scarlet foliage since October.


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While today’s cold wind and rain are whipping the flowers that remain out in the garden, I thought I’d share pictures of a favorite, and unusual, houseplant of mine that bloomed indoors this week: Sansevieria kirkia var. pulchella.


Sorry, it doesn’t have a common name, but as a Sanseveria it is related to the plants commonly known as mother-in-law’s tongue and snake plant. (I have something of a collection of them, but won’t go into detail here, because someone may try to cart me away to the loony bin if I mention another plant collection.) Sansevieria kirkia var. pulchella is native to southeastern tropical Africa. It is as tough and undemanding a houseplant as you can find.


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Sowing seeds is one of my favorite activities this time of year—especially since it’s still too cool and wet to plant much outside. Hardy perennials are easy. I sow the seeds as soon as I get them, mulch pots with gravel, and set them outside in a protected spot to germinate when they will. I get nice, tough, sturdy seedlings this way with a minimum of fuss. Plus, I’ve grown a wide variety of really fun plants this way, from hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) and ornamental onions (Allium spp.) to Devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa) this way.


ABOVE: Bing supervising sown pots of hardy perennials.


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