Wednesday, 21 September 2011

One Weed to Rule Them All

Urban Dystopia

At the weekend I returned to a garden that I made about eight years ago to show it some love. Funny, you turn your back for five minutes (or five years as the case may be) and everything goes berserk.
The formerly modestly proportioned planting was level with the fence and swathed in a thick blanket of bindweed. Not simply bindweed growing through it, more a dense shroud over straining shrubs, the stems coiling up from the ground in fat ropes. Stringy corpses from summers past providing a ladder for this year’s growth. The mat of foliage covered a good third of the garden, swamping the shrubs and reaching up into the cherry tree.

Working my way into the murky green understory to undermine the menace, I considered a dystopia; humans gone, neighbours no longer trimming the tree and battling the bindweed on the boundary. Where the fence collapsed and the spreading, new, layered plants of Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, Lonicera fragrantissima and Forsythia marched across the neighbourhood like a slow motion ornamental army, the joyous curling bindweed fluttering like flags unfettered.
Despite my machete-work the bindweed flying carpet remained suspended, apparently held up by sky hooks. A different tactic was called for. I grabbed bunches of the stuff, cutting across to remove it in progressive sections. That showed it.

Next, the monster rose. Deep red, beautifully scented Rose ‘Etoile de Hollande’ was to trail prettily up the kitchen extension in a romantic, roses around the door sort of way. With a maximum size of 12ft (according to the label*) it should have been a tidy solution. But it too had made its way into the cherry tree. The flowers could be seen if one glanced upwards from the upstairs windows and the stems, now several inches across, threatened to rip the guttering and outside tap off the wall.
Rosa 'Etoile de Hollande'
If one were, for example, shopping for plants to surround a castle in which one had locked ones daughters away from young oiks with unseemly ideas, ‘Etoile de Hollande’ would be an excellent choice. If one, for example, wants subsequently to extract ones daughters, or simply to do a spot of pruning, the results are markedly uncomfortable.

A 480 cubic foot heap of brash in a 25 foot garden is daunting. I went and bought a shredder. I am normally a total machinery wuss, and shredders are just a step down from chainsaws in terms of noisy and scary. But I am now a total convert. Munched it down properly small it did. And didn’t die on me either (so far).
So I took the presents that the garden had given me; rose cuttings and the new shrubs from old. I comforted the miserable Cotinus, got in the car and drove onto the north circular. Dystopias is as dystopias does.  If the A406 is on the side of righteousness, order and light then I am with the bindweed and the dark army.

*Crocus says that its eventual height is 5.5m, however. Um.....