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1) plant bamboo in my garden

2) use weed-suppressing membrane with pebbles/stones over the top unless I’m planning to move house within 5 years

3) plant ivy in my garden

Just been spending the day working up a serious sweat in a client’s garden wrestling with all the above three problems. First, I had two massive black bamboos (Phyllostachys nigra) to pull out – the clumps were about three foot across. Said clumps had also send out inch-thick runners across the top of the weed-suppressing membrane, something akin to iron hawsers in thickness and durability. I do like Phyllostachys, but it’s not quite as well-behaved as the books would have you believe, and you do need plenty of room for it.

Then there was the membrane. The trouble with designs that use these otherwise very sensible precautions against weeds is that they don’t actually envisage the garden ever growing, or developing, or in any way behaving like a garden. Shrubs and other plants (like the bamboo), surprise surprise, GROW!!! And if you ever want to look after your plants – that is, lift and divide them, pull them out, or move them – you then have the awful task of pulling back stones and destroying the membrane to get to the plant. The result is a lot of expense: we’re having to consider replacing the membrane completely (without the plants – the client wants it cleared for a paddling pool, thank god). And most of the stones either disappeared into the ground or got covered in mud during the wrestling match with the bamboos, so we’ll have to replace a lot of those, too.

And don’t even get me started on ivy… why this is presented as a cultivated plant is beyond me. It is, quite simply, a weed, and a very invasive one at that. When I moved into my house five years ago, the previous owner kept what must have been a national collection of different ivies in the back garden – he really liked them, and it’s true that they have pretty leaves, grow in tricky places, etc etc etc. But I’m still pulling out their wretched invasive little fingers five years later. Never, never, never plant the stuff. However pretty it looks. Under that delicate exterior lurks a thug with a heart of steel.

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