Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Tell the Truth Tuesday Follow-up

On Tuesday December 18th, following the lead of Alison at Bonney Lassie, I shared some of the ugly truths about my garden.  The first item I showed was the mass of asparagus fern, Santa Barbara daisy, and other weeds growing in front of the mimosa tree that had been cut back by half due to a losing battle with the shot hole borer.

I'd already cut the largest stems of the asparagus fern, some of which were easily 6 feet in length, when I took this photo


One of my new year's resolutions was to address each of my problem areas and, somewhat to my own surprise, cutting back the rampant Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri' led me to try digging it up.  I say "try" as getting rid of a plant like this that has had years, or more probably decades, to spread is difficult to say the least.  (You can find guidance on the steps required to eradicate it here.)  I didn't plant this one, or any of the others spread throughout our property.  They came with the house.  I spent several days digging, a couple hours at a time.

I dug down about a foot, working small sections one at a time

The photo on the left is a close-up of the tuber-like nodules attached to the plant's roots.  I filled about 10 large trugs like the one on the right.  Each trug was so heavy I could barely carry it to the trash.


I dug out an area about 10 feet long and 2 to 3 feet wide.  In addition to removing the tuber-like nodules attached to the roots, I tried to pick up all the berries I saw as each one is capable of forming a new plant.

After I cleared the area, I added topsoil I had on hand from an earlier project and dug in planting mix


I've no illusions that I got all of it.  For one thing, the roots have reached under the paving stones into a succulent bed beyond, as well as underneath the pots positioned below the Ceanothus hedge.  They also may have mingled with the similar tuber-like roots of the Agapanthus planted in the same border.  They even wrapped themselves around the irrigation pipes and I found some attached to the base of the mimosa tree.  Ugh!

This succulent bed is a mess in itself, especially as it was stomped on during the recent tree-trimming exercise.  I may end up digging it up too sometime this year, in which case I'll have another go in battling the asparagus fern.


All I can hope is that I've slowed the fern's progress.  Whenever the plants pop up, which they do regularly in nearly every corner of the garden, I pull up the foliage and as much of the roots as I can get without damaging nearby plants.  My next question is what to plant in the empty space.  As there's a good chance the mimosa tree towering above won't last more than a few more years, I don't want to plant anything too precious as taking down the tree will damage anything in the surrounding area.  I'm leaning toward a low-growing groundcover of some kind but I'd like something tall enough to obscure the mimosa's "wound."  I could put another large pot there I suppose.  Any ideas?

Lest you think I spent the rest of the holiday period eating bon-bons, here's a photo of another project I tackled as the year was coming to an end.

This is an "after" shot of the Pelargonium peltatum (ivy geranium) that chose to climb up a Pandorea jasminoides vine on the north side of our house.  It had grown ratty.  I got carried away pruning it.  It looks a little sad now but I'm hoping the geranium will come roaring back.

In the course of my rabid pruning, I inadvertently disturbed this little fellow, who appeared to have been hibernating peacefully under the cover of the geranium's dead foliage.  He was curled up and I thought he was a snake at first until he moved around a bit.  I left some debris behind the vine and I hope he managed adequate cover to return to hibernating.  

This is what the 2 vines and the Trachelospermum on the right looked like last June.  With any luck, they'll look as good in the summer of 2019.


There's plenty more ugliness to tackle!  However, we've got family in town so I'm going to take a short break.  I need it - every muscle I've got is aching at the moment.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

28 comments:

  1. Wow! who knew asparagus fern had such a root system. I don't envy you the task of removing it. Your ivy geranium is spectacular! A far site better than the sad little pot specimens we can grow in our much cooler climate. Best of 2019!

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    1. I was surprised when the ivy geranium climbed through the other vine as I's previously only seen it meander along the surface. The combination has become one of my favorite summer vignettes.

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  2. I had no idea about the root systems of that fern either... WOW! I like your idea of a large pot that can be moved when the time to remove the tree comes, to obscure the wound. For the rest, you have so many nice low options that grow so well in other parts of your garden to choose from, I'm sure you'll make a stellar choice. The photo of your flowering, verdant archway is stunning! Lastly, I'm glad you left your sleepy little friend some protection after the pruning, and I hope he realizes disturbances are over for the winter. Happy New Year, Kris!

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    1. I felt very badly about disturbing the lizard on one of the coldest days we've had here yet, Anna. I hope he's back to his long nap and the incident's fleeted from his memory.

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  3. What a job! Around here asparagus ferns are houseplants and I had not had any experience with them until I was helping a friend repot one...ugh! Just getting it out of the pot was a battle and those prickly stems...not fun. I can't even imagine having to dig one out of the ground but I have to say, after dealing with a tiny potted one, I'm not at all surprised by your struggles. I'm, quite frankly, amazed you were able to remove as much as you did! P.S. Those vines in bloom are gorgeous!!

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    1. Asparagus ferns must have been very popular with one of our property's prior owners, Margaret. It's a tenacious plant and I can appreciate that someone found it a useful filler but I wish it hadn't been planted so broadly. And I didn't realize until now that each berry can start a new plant but that explains why the darn thing pops up all over. It's like California's version of kudzu.

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  4. Oh goodness gracious! Digging up all those asparagus fern roots was a monstrous task, I'm not surprised you're aching all over. I didn't realize they were so extensive, given they are just house plants here. Would a couple more 'Cousin Itt' Acacias work under the mimosa? They're so vigorous for you, who knows, maybe they'll smother the asparagus ferns.

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    1. 'Cousin Itt' is a definite possibility, Alison. My only hesitation is that its foliage may mask any resurrection attempted by the asparagus fern.

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  5. Never has the phrase "renovating an established garden one step at a time" seemed more apt. Congratulations on tackling the job and sticking with it, despite aching muscles.

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    1. Thanks Pat. We'll see if I have the energy to attempt removal of the tentacles the fern has extended into nearby areas. It may be a while before I can face another chapter.

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  6. The pruned geranium doesn't look sad at all to me, but character-ful. I bet it blooms even more beautifully in June 2019! Mind-blowing to see a Pelargonium cover an arch like that; without being clued in, most of us would just assume the red flowers in the bloom shot were roses.I

    I vote with Anna on using a container to screen the tree cut, giving you a freer choice of ground cover.

    You've already accomplished a lot for this new gardening year. May it have just the right amount of rain, and none of the terrifyingly torrid stretches you all endured last season. Happy 2019!

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    1. Thanks for the rain wishes, Nell! There's a decent chance of rain Saturday night into Sunday, although predictions as to just how much rain we can expect are fluid (pun intended). While I've found the amount of rain we've had thus far this season disappointing, I heard one report that our totals are currently running slightly above normal. Of course, the reporter didn't say whether that was a reference to our former normal or the new normal...

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  7. Sprengeri is supposed to have soft thorns. Like its foxtail / cat's tail relative I have just planted. I also inherited a few huge asparagus ferns - we have an amicable truce. And I removed the one that was climbing in the kitchen door. No thorns at the door, thank you.

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    1. I imagine the fern is more aggressive in some climates and soils than others, Diana. It seems to love ours. Based on what I've read, the fern's behavior can be managed if one pays careful attention to it, cutting it down to the ground at least annually, but that didn't happen here and, frankly, I was unaware just how aggressively it can spread. I've only planted one and that one has lived its entire life in a pot.

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  8. Hi Kris, I think we need to prune energetically from time to time. I did this recently, and now everything has grown back beautifully. But I think it's important to have breaks and eat bonbons as well ... Thank you for taking honest photos. It's tempting just to photograph that lovely corner, but then we end up idealizing our gardens, pretending they're always looking good.

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    1. The recent exercise in having half my trees pruned hard seems to have released my own inner pruning impulses, Sue, although I've begun to fear that I'm going overboard. Fortunately, I think my body is currently demanding a break. The roses have a temporary reprieve.

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  9. Well, that was an impressive feat Kris. I remember all too well trying to eradicate A. sprengeri in my San Diego garden (also an inherited plant) and it was not pleasant. I'm voting for the large container as well, maybe even a grouping.

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    1. One article encouraged the use of Round-up but even limited, targeted use of that stuff scares me, especially as many of the areas infested with asparagus fern are densely planted. Your vote on a container (or 3) seems to be popular and, in that I probably don't want to dig close to the base of the struggling mimosa, that's probably the most prudent approach.

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  10. I have seen those nodules on Asparagus ferns I have grown over the years. Of course they don't live through our winters. They are tough plants though. I have never seen an ivy geranium so big, wow. I wish I could tell you something that might grow under your mimosa. The soil looks good so anything you decide should grow well. I unearthed a snake in a log one time on my property. It was angry to be awakened on a cold day. Your little guy looks perplexed. I bet it was wondering what in the world is going on.

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    1. I was happy to see how good that soil looked, Lisa. Poor Mr. Lizard thought he'd found himself a great place for a long nap, only to be jostled by a big human poking him to see if he was alive. I hope he sleeps peacefully for the balance of our brief winter.

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  11. Impressive that you did so much. Funny that asparagus fern is grown as a houseplant here and it's such a weed in your climate. Now, get back to those bon bons, you've earned them!

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    1. So I see that there are benefits to winter cold, Peter ;)

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  12. You’ve been a busy lady! I am very impressed with your digging and eradication efforts and think you deserve something fun to plant there. Maybe an annual flower? That way you won’t have to worry about an investment that might get trashed with tree removal?

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    1. Funny, I was looking at flower seeds last night and wondering where I could plant more annuals, Loree. Even if I plant groundcover foliage in that area, I may throw in some larkspur seed too.

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  13. You've got me worried as I planted that Asparagus in a garden bed a year or two ago. It has not gone crazy yet but I think I need to get it out of there right away. But all your work is pretty impressive especially as I try to think of holidays as a time when I should slow down. Clearly you are on a different system. Though I think it makes a difference that you can work outdoors whereas I can't at the moment.

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    1. It sounds to me that the spread of the fern can be managed by cutting all the top growth to the ground at least once a year, Linda, but then, in your climate, freezes or snow may effectively do that for you. As to work in the garden, fall and winter are our peak seasons for work - we need to get plants in the ground when they can still benefit from our winter rain, if we get any :( Planting in summer is a big mistake here and even late spring can be dicey.

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  14. Impressive work on digging that fern up, Kris. Maybe you can plant one of those nifty lotus plants there?

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    1. I love my Lotus 'Amazon Sunset' but I'm not sure I could take the color mix with the mimosa if they bloomed at the same time. I was going to take my time with the decision but, with a garden center gift card itching to be used in my pocket, I caved and picked up 7 Centaurea 'Silver Feather' and 5 Pelargonium sidoides I found in 4-inch pots on a fly-by stop on my way home late this afternoon. Bare ground never stays bare long here...

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