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Archive for September, 2010

The Mysterious Foe is Identified

My mystery weed has been identified. While browsing Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, I came across the genus Robinia, which is made up of Locust trees. The plant that has been sprouting in the middle of my lawn is Robinia hispida, bristly locust, sometimes called by the more inviting name of rose acacia.

Apparently some people intentionally plant these thorny buggers. They actually aren’t quite as thorny as they look- the red bristles on the stems are more like fuzz than thorns, but there are thorns hiding near the base of the leaves. I expect that the former owners of my house didn’t plant it in the middle of the lawn- thorny locust is known to aggressively spread by suckering. I’ve been told that some nurseries solve this problem by grafting thorny locust onto Robinia pseudoacacia, black locust, which is a less aggressive plant.

Thorny locust gets pretty, sweet-pea like flowers in spring, which may be the feature that entices people to buy this overly aggressive plant. Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’, golden acacia, a close cousin of bristly locust, sounds like a prettier and more controllable plant, though I’d still watch out for suckers. Yellow-leaved plants can be less robust than their green-leaved counterparts, though, so it may be a trade-off between disease resistance and pretty foliage.

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A Scientist in the Garden

What got me started as an evidence based gardener instead of someone who trusts the advice of my friends, family, neighbors, and the occasional newspaper column?

Mostly this all started because I bought a house. I now own a lovely house, a large lawn, nice trees and shrubs, and lots and lots of weeds.

I’m currently in the process of ripping out the weeds, but I’m wary of the cycle of pulling them up, only for them to come back again and again. This time I want to vanquish them the first time by using smart extermination techniques. Or, since that isn’t always possible without turning my garden into a hazmat site, I want the satisfaction of believing that I’m not on the entirely wrong track.

Some people are gardeners, and some people are garden planners. I’m not talking about professional landscapers, I’m talking about people like me who meticulously research each plant and then draw grids of the garden and sketch in where each plant will go. I’m even considering using CAD models.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t just sit inside looking at horticulture websites. Ultimately, I do all this research because I want a garden that thrives, and because healthy, well-planned gardens are much more pleasant to spend time in. There’s no sense in me using trial and error to find out what plants need when someone has already figured that out and published their results. Except, of course, when the trial and error turns into a fun experiment.

And, not to neglected the long-term influences, I am both the product of a household of gardeners and trained as a scientist. What do most scientists do when embarking on a new project? A literature search.

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Meet the characters

Meet the characters in the story of my garden.

The protagonists:

Brian, aka The Weed Killer

The Literature- enough to make an evidence based gardener weak in the knees

The antagonists:

Hedera helix, aka English Ivy

Calystegia sepium, aka Hedge Bindweed or Morning Glory

The mysterious foe (whose secret identity will be revealed as soon as I figure out what it is)

The comic relief:

Picket the bearded collie

And the narrator:

Yours truly, Michelle, aka the evidence based gardener

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