The one downside of gardening is that you can lose track of time. If you consider that a downside. I don’t. That and the fact that after a couple of hours of plucking hundreds of weeds from around the strawberry plants (true story!), you may find yourself in need of lying in the grass next to the dog (if you happen to have one handy), admiring clouds and wishing for better shade, which of course it’s not possible yet because it’s early spring and the trees are just about to grow their glorious leaves.
So, you may lie in the grass, have an ant or two crawl on your face or hands, and before you realize what’s happening, you notice that your breathing slows down and the word ‘urgency’ fades away from your vocabulary. Your to-do list has taken a minimalist turn. The only thing left to do is to be.
Spring and sunshine can do that to us, so let it.
For a few minutes. Okay, a few more. But that’s it.
Then, it’s back to weeding, because crabgrass and campanula won’t pull themselves out of your garden beds. Have you encountered any? Both? Yeah, me too.
Campanula is particularly evil, isn’t it?
I know, I know, I lured you in with the dreamy part of gardening and now I take you where dreams go to die. (We may as well say it like it is.)
I have to, you see. This mirrors the reality of gardening: you imagine tending to the wee plants that will grow into heaps of colourful yummy foods, but you get stuck with weeding more often than you thought acceptable.
Because of the two enemy weeds I mentioned above, but I’ll give the spotlight to the one that is almost haunting my dreams: Campanula rapunculoides. (Say it fast five times. If for no other reasons, it will distract you from the real issue: the battle.)
As it stands right now, it’s a bit depressing. This invasive, super prolific and resilient weed is merciless (in case you were wondering who other than bacteria and bugs will inherit the earth…).
If it lives in your yard/garden, you’re probably getting shivers down your spine just reading this. You may know it by its English name, creeping bellflower.
You see, it’s not the creeping part that bothers me. I don’t mind the spreading of plants in my garden even when not planned. Raspberries, for example. I have some red, some golden and even a black one thriving in the backyard. They are taking over areas they were not supposed to. But so it is, they pay their dues in bright berries, so I let them be. Ditto for strawberries. I don’t fight their expansion. Borage can be a tad annoying in how it spreads but hey, bees love it and the flowers are edible. Even spearmint can become a nightmare if left unsupervised (as of this year my mint crops are restricted to pots) but oh, the deadly grip of the Campanula monster is another level.
I am not being dramatic when I say it’s a monster. The actual plant may seem small and inoffensive, plus the sweet lavender-coloured flowers (aww…) but make no mistake. It’s roots go deep and far. Pulling the new plants in the spring (or any season) may give you some satisfaction, but it’s like scratching a mosquito bite: temporary relief with no actual solution.
If you are to eradicate this monstrous uninvited garden guest (good luck to you!), you need to dig deep. Deeper than you envisioned and deeper than you think you ought to.
A few chilling facts about the creeping bellflower:
- It prefers damp soil, but it tolerates any kind of soil; ditto for sun or shade. Basically, anything will do and don’t I know it.
- It can grow from seeds, which they produce in the thousands. That’s on top of the taproots (storage roots) that know no bounds. They’ll push their way underground further and further and then grow the plants you see and pull optimistically out of the ground (but to no avail – sorry!).
- Smothering it may help kill it. This is the route I will take this year, but before I cover these green monsters, I will also serve them some used coffee grounds*.
*Contrary to what you may have read/known for years, coffee grounds are not the panacea to happy, healthy garden soil. In fact, they may stunt the growth of your beloved plants, hence the advice to use freely on the evil Campanula rapunculoides. I’ll leave this story for the next post, though.
- Oh, one more bit of knowledge, courtesy of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (University of Michigan): plants with storage roots can skip a year. Sad, but true.
I wish you well on your war with the creeping bellflower. Next post will be about what I actually grow willingly. It’s good and worthwhile, I promise.
But in the meantime… the battle is one. Because, in my foolishness, I refuse to let the creeping monsters have the last word.
PS: Special thanks go to my ever-so-patient gardening team member, Poppy. She’s there for the worst and the best of it.