Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Border skirmishes

Recently a regular commenter to this blog (Hi Kris!) asked me: how do I keep the mint that is growing in a couple of beds here under control?

The short answer?  I don't.  Mint is only one of a number of uncontrollable plants I have mixing it up in the garden beds here.  My approach is to put bullies in close proximity to each other and hope their aggressive tendencies work to keep each other in check.  Here, the photo that triggered the comment.
In this bed close to our house, there is the mint, a mixture of native wildflowers, a few seasonal vegetables, and at least one native ground cover which other gardeners might classify as "a weed".   The mint has been growing here for years, having originally escaped from a pot.  I dig and pull it out liberally to make room for other plants, knowing more mint is always in there somewhere and will find its way back into the mix.  I can't eliminate it but by the same token, I don't have to worry about accidentally killing it by cutting it back or digging runners out.  And that's fine by me.

These wildflowers (bluebonnets, pink evening primrose, prairie verbena) and native ground covers (predominantly wood sorrel) all have a tendency to take over for part of a season and then go dormant and/or seed out.  They each in turn will fill the empty spots created during the others' dormant spells. All I have to do is keep an eye out for those transitional moments when one plant must yield to the other.  At those times I yank and clip fearlessly as needed.

As is often the case here, this riot of competing ground covers wasn't anything I planned in advance. I had open areas I didn't want to spend money on mulching or simply watch helplessly as they filled with weeds, so I "allowed" these aggressive plantings to provide the weed suppression mulch would otherwise.   The zietgeist here is very Garden of Least Resistance.
Their days are numbered
I take a similar approach with oregano and purple heart in another bed just down the path.  The two non-native ground covers are both troopers, taking heat and low water as well as torrential rains in stride.  The purpleheart grows faster than the oregano does - a lot faster.  It also disappears down to the roots once the weather gets cold, while the oregano stays put with a plant mass aboveground year round.

I think of the oregano as a rock with the purple heart functioning like a wave against it.  You can see how the purple heart is both attempting to grow up over and insinuate itself under and through the established oregano.
I love you, goodbye.
For now at least.  Neither purpleheart nor oregano grows here spontaneously, so both will be replaced eventually soon by some combination of native plants. For the moment they continue to keep each other's borders in loose check as the seasons shift, and while preparations are yet underway I have pollinator approved, attractive coverage.




Tina said...

"Duking it out" is how I like to refer to assertive plants battling over real estate in the garden. Those are all great photos, but I especially like the last one, with the purple heart bloom, poking its pretty head up through the oregano--defiantly if you ask me!

TexasDeb said...

Tina: "Defiantly" - I think that characterizes it in a nutshell. I'm pretty sure I heard gloat-snickering as I was walking away....

Debra said...

As Tina says: they are all great photos. The first just takes my breath away. I envy you having plants willing to duke it out. Someday (sigh) someday I might have such a 'problem' ;)

Kris Peterson said...

You have a lyrical way of describing your relationship with "weeds," Deb. I've posted on my own relationship with, ahem, "assertive" plants before, most recently Hibiscus trionum, which was sold to me by my local botanic garden and which I later discovered is a virulent weed in some areas of the country. Regardless, I've allowed it to stay under a careful watch. Of course, I did the same thing years ago with a morning glory at my former house. Despite oversight, that took off and, after becoming badly infested with giant white flies, it took me 3 years to eradicate. I'm definitely more tolerant of the weeds I planted myself than the ones I inherited from prior owners, which include the mint in one of my raised veg planters, Centranthus and Geranium incanum; however, all have their uses and I've accepted each of these in my garden to a degree.

Rebecca Newcomb said...

Ditto to the above - what great photos! I'm partial to the first...I think it would look amazing framed on a wall, or at the very least, a desktop background. The colors are so bright and the textures pop through the page.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: As a gardener I think I have experienced more lessons in "be careful what you wish for" than in any other pursuit. I'm confident with your native plant propagation project underway, that your next garden "problem" will be finding room for everything (which is a very good problem indeed).

TexasDeb said...

Kris: I am a lot more easy going with assertive plants that are limited to a bed as opposed to those bad players that somehow manage to run loose no matter what and insert themselves, unwelcome, all around the town. I've had my share of those that have escaped all confines along the way but don't write much about them because, language!

TexasDeb said...

Rebecca: Thank you! That particular photo is becoming one of my very favorite "but there are no flowers in it!" pictures.

Linda/patchwork said...

Great photos.

I only wish I had something that was rampant, other than deer.

I did learn long ago, though, if you plant mint, you better like it. You're NEVER going to get rid of it.

Hmmm....maybe I should plant some mint.

TexasDeb said...

Linda: Your words are wise.

Honestly, the reason I didn't work too hard to get that out when it first escaped was just because of that tendency - it was lush! It was providing good coverage! It was....rampant. So I let it go.

Maybe you SHOULD plant some mint!