Overgrown Ivy and Other Gardening Nightmares

I am going on a rant about things that I do not like to see in the landscape/garden. You may have read some of these things before in this column but I have encountered them recently and think them worthy of attention.

1. Tree volcanos. When soil or mulch is covering the flare of a tree, the tree puts out roots into this soil or mulch, which is detrimental to the plant. This can happen because new trees are often burlapped several times before planting, the flare is lost and the tree is planted too deeply. This soil needs to be excavated and the flare exposed. Each time mulch is applied; the existing mulch should be removed, if needed, so that there is only about two inches around the tree, but away from the flare. Covering the flare can cause roots to encircle the trunk and eventually strangle the tree, possibly killing it. Other roots form here also instead of deeper in the soil where they need to be for the health of the tree.

2. Too much mulch in the garden. When the crowns of perennials or annuals are covered with too much mulch they can rot, as mulch keeps moisture in the soil. If you need to mulch a bed, use a mulch that will feed the plants, like compost, and apply it sparingly. Wood-based mulches are not appropriate for perennials and annuals but are good for trees and shrubs.

3. English ivy. I recently visited a property that had beds of ivy where it was no longer wanted. The ivy had also moved into and up the privet hedge. Removing the ivy beds would require rather extreme measures involving a lot of digging, or applications of black plastic for a good bit of time, or smothering with a lot of newspapers for a long time; digging being the best. Weed killer does not work well work because of ivy’s surface. Any of these techniques must be repeated for SEVERAL YEARS to be affective. The most difficult removal is from the privet. Perhaps it would be best to remove the privet and the ivy and plant again. It can even escape from pots by growing over the edge and rooting on the ground!

Some people like ivy in trees or on houses. Ivy can kill the trees by strangling them and/or become so heavy that the tree falls. Its presence makes the trees more susceptible to wind. Ivy on houses retains moisture next to the house and is a haven for insects and rodents. It can lift roofs and remove siding.

4. Wisteria. It is a lovely plant in leaf and bloom. The trunk structure can be very sculptural. But it can lift the shingles from your roof, pull the siding off, grow through cracks, pull banisters from their moorings, lift stones from patios, etc. It grows into the canopies of trees and sends runners along the ground. It invades its surroundings far and wide. Removing it requires much digging and then diligence over time to remove all of the plant. However, it does very well as a tree form in a pot!

5. Trumpet vines. These also send out runners and try to colonize the entire area around them. They climb houses leaving foot prints that are very difficult to remove. They can also lift shingles and siding. This is another plant that needs diligent maintenance.

6. Uncontrolled bamboo. I love bamboo but it must be planted in the proper way. Even a stand that has been planted inside the recommended 30-inch-deep heavy plastic barrier must be diligently maintained. If the barrier becomes covered by only one inch of soil, the bamboo will escape and, if left untended, becomes a monster. I recently went to a property that has a bamboo stand that is so large and so invaded by trees that to tame it will be a huge and expensive task. The roots have grown completely through the yard and almost into the neighbor’s yard. The answer might be a bulldozer, a lot of new soil and a new lawn.

Beware! Mistakes in your landscaping and garden can be difficult to remedy.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener and consultant, for gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.

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