2

Surely the Underworld is Carpeted with Weeds

And they are ruled by King Thistle, ably assisted by Lords Kudzu and Creeping Charlie.

                     

I am an intermittent gardener, at best. I can’t blame nurture. My mother grew fruits (raspberries, strawberries, etc.) and vegetables. Both my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother had amazing flower gardens, specializing in roses. Grandpa also had a large selection of dahlias (some of them his own breeds).

My husband has a vegetable garden in the backyard. I wanted flowers in the front. After several years of intense neglect, I decided to take another shot at making it look like more than a weed patch. My son suggested that I salt the earth and put in a rock garden.

I began with a small patch in front of the house. I had to dig out all the weeds by hand (actually shovel). So far, so good. Turn over the dirt; rake out the weeds (and many years of rotting leaves). Hmm, what is that hard thing I keep trying to shovel? We have rocky soil, but this is ridiculous.

Finally, I scraped away all of the detritus. Oooh, it’s the sidewalk! And there are things actually growing on it. How embarrassing. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound (guess that saying survived from Colonial times – otherwise, it makes no sense whatsoever). I trenched along the edge, swept away the dirt. Voila! It was all still there.

So I shoveled along. Guess what? Myrtle grows on the sidewalk even better than weeds! I always thought nothing grew better than weeds. I moved on to a section full of lily-of-the-valley. I love them and wanted to move some of them to my newly discovered soil.

The only problem was that they were “protected” by some really healthy thistles. I’m told that thistles grow in abundance on the moors. I’m going to look into a repatriation program for the ones in my yard.

There is only one good way to get rid of thistles. Dig them up by the root. The whole root. Don’t worry, says a friend. All you have to do is cut off the top of the stalk and spray Round Up on the opening of the stalk, and it will travel directly to the roots. (For those of you unfamiliar with Round Up, it is an extremely toxic herbicide that is dangerous to both humans and animals.)

I don’t believe in herbicides, but the thistles were three feet high. I bought the least toxic type. It didn’t kill the thistle. My husband pulled them out for me (root and all). I threw away the Round Up.

I bought some blue spruce sedum to plant along the path to the garage. It’s been really dry and the ground has never been used for anything except scrub grass. (You didn’t expect Kentucky Blue, did you?) My husband used the tiller, and they went in with no real problems. They like dry soil, so all is well.

The house is on a small hill. It’s almost impossible to mow, so I decided to put in moss (easy to grow, spreads well). My husband offered to till it for me. For logistical reasons, I decided to start at the top, just past the sedum. He had just started to till when he heard a crunch. He’d cut a copper pipe to something. It would have to be fixed before he could root up any more weeds.

My moss was in its nursery containers looking a little unhappy, and my husband and son were leaving on their annual fishing trip. So back to the shovel. In dirt that had seen no cultivation in the fifty years since they moved the house from its original site on a farm. Oh goody.

It was like digging through cement. Once I managed to get the first shovelful out, it became a little easier. (As I’m typing this, I just realized that I should have rented a badger. I read that they can burrow through anything, even cement. I wonder where you rent badgers?)

I finally had enough space for my 12 moss plants. I dug the holes. Hmmm. I bet the soil in Ireland doesn’t look like clay that’s ready to be fired. The lady at the nursery said to mix sphagnum peat moss with the soil to loosen it for the plants. I had a bag. I needed a bog.

So I planted them directly into the sphagnum. I used her extra-special root food and hoped for the best. It’s been a couple of weeks and they haven’t died. Maybe I should play them some Celtic folk music.

I wonder how much the salt and rocks would have cost?

(pictures courtesy of Google Images; creeping charlie via University of Georgia, badger via Liverpool, UK)

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5

Presidential Debate – Invasive Species

In honor of Super Tuesday tomorrow, we are presenting our first debate. The topic is immigration reform.

Moderator: Welcome to our first debate of the election season. We’re honored to have you with us. The format of the debate is that I will ask a question of one of the candidates who will then answer the question. The other candidates will be given the opportunity to respond. No hissing, spitting, biting, or eating. We do not want the voter to confuse us with the Republicans or Democrats.

Let me introduce you to the candidates:

  Charles Scruffikan from Detroit, MI

  Edward “Biff” Kellingham III from Braintree, MA

  Creamsicle from Los Angeles CA

  Jaime Tiggs from Washington, DC

(polite applause)

Moderator: Mr. Kellingham, let’s start with you. How do you feel about the country’s immigration policy?

(Biff looks confused.)

Biff: Would you mind clarifying the question?

Moderator: Are you in favor of allowing foreigners into this country, either illegally or legally?

(Biff still looks confused.)

Biff: Where would they be coming from?

Moderator: Mainly Central America and the Middle East.

Biff: Oh, OK. You’re talking about Chihuahuas and Caucasian Mountain Dogs. That type of thing. I’m definitely against it. We already have way too many dogs here.

(The other cats nod vigorously. Now the moderator looks confused.)

Moderator: No, I meant people.

Creamsicle: I don’t mean to interrupt, but you mean that we would have to decide one by one who gets to come into the country? I mean, how else would we know if they are cat people?

Biff: I agree with Creamsicle. There is no way that the immigration question can be about people.

Charles: I think I know what the humans are talking about. We have zebra mussels invading the Great Lakes. I definitely think we should get rid of them and not allow any more in. They impact the fish population.

Biff (nodding): That makes sense. My favorite trout is getting hard to find. Some other breeds have invaded the water and bred with them.

Creamsicle: And those fish that walk out of the water. They’re really creepy.

Jaime: In Florida, my home state, boa constrictors have invaded the swamps. They eat anything around them. They’ve even killed a couple of alligators.

(The other cats look horrified.)

Jaime: Not only that. There’s all kinds of plants that are coming in from somewhere and killing off the natives. Pretty soon it won’t even look like the Everglades.

Biff: And there are all those plants and trees the rich people imported that are taking over the East Coast.

Creamsicle: And the West Coast.

Charles: We have purple loosestrife taking over all the land it can get.

Jaime: And kudzu is all over the South.

Moderator: I think we can all agree that those are problems. But what about the people?

(The cats stop talking and look at him.)

Jaime: Obviously the humans are going to have to figure that out. We’ll be much too busy.

(The others nod.)

Biff: I heard that if you stand still too long, the kudzu will grow over you.

Charles: I think we’ve handled this question. What’s next?

Moderator (shaking his head): I think we’re done for today. Remember to prep for the next debate. We’ll be talking about the budget.

(More applause and the lights are turned off.)

Biff: Anyone interested in a nice bowl of cream? It’s on me.

Creamsicle: Ooooh, yummy!

(The cats all walk off together talking and laughing.)

Ed. Note: Exit polls show a great deal of indecision about who won the debate. The only comments were on the candidates’ looks and speaking voices.