Weeds, Weeds and More Weeds – Attacking the Island Bed

My son Joey is coming to visit early next week to help me with garden work. We’re going to start out working in one of the toughest spaces – the island bed between the split in my double-wide driveway. That bed is so weed- and grass-infested that the only way to clean it up is to take just about I want to save out, pot those things (after removing any weeds from the soil on their roots), and then attack the weeds full blast.

First off, here’s a picture of the island bed when I first saw the house in the fall of 2008:

The island bed, Fall 2008

The island bed, Fall 2008

(I’ve added and subtracted a lot since then.)

The plants to be removed and saved are:

          • Iris ‘Immortality’
          • Variegated sedum (#5 in picture above – variety unknown). They may or may not go back in this bed, as the flowers are rather pinkish. I’d prefer a white-flowered variety.
          • Heliopsis ‘Loraine Sunshine’
          • Daylilies ‘Happy Returns’ and ‘Stella d’Oro’ (#1 in picture above, finished blooming). These will stay potted until they bloom, so I know which is which. I loathe Stella d’Oro, so she will either be given away, put into a plant sale, or composted.
          • Daylily ‘Mighty Chestnut’ (the plant you see in my blog’s header).
          • Achillea ‘Paprika’ – which is the wrong color for the effect I wanted and will eventually be put somewhere else. As I noted on Pinterest, the picture’s color is not correct.
Thuja Teddy Bear

‘Teddy Bear’ Arborvitae – before I ran over him.


        • Thuja ‘Teddy bear’ – a dwarf arborvitae. I ran over poor Teddy last winter because I couldn’t see the edge of the drive, and what should be a globe is now half a globe, so I’m not sure where he will wind up.
        • Lycoris squamigera – 5 “Surprise Lilies” that need to be lifted and separated anyway because they are not blooming. These have pink flowers and don’t really belong in this bed, which I plan to limit to orange, blue, yellow/gold and white, so I’ll have to find another location for them.
        • Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ (#2 in picture above, finished blooming). This is a nice plant, with small yellow daisy flowers, but it doesn’t do a lot for me, and it has spread too much. I’ll probably keep 3 small clumps.
Gold Thread False Cypress

Gold Thread False Cypress (in spring – it goes green in winter)


      • Chamaecyparis ‘Gold Threads’ (I think that’s the right variety). It’s a semi-dwarf golden false cypress that is also too close to the driveway and will have to be replanted elsewhere, though probably in the same bed.

#4 in the picture is Echinacea purpurea [coneflowers] gone to seed. They were pink and have already been removed. I’d like to find a shorter variety, white or orange, because the seeds provide winter food for finches.)


Weeping pussy willow

Weeping pussy willow – sparse bloom after tough winter

I think that’s everything. Two plants that can’t be removed are the weeping pussy willow (salix caprea ‘Pendula’) and clematis durandii, a deep blue non-vining clematis I plan to train each year up into the pussy willow.

I’ve put many more plants into this bed over the years, but only the ones above – some I planted and some I inherited – have survived.


Perennial Sowthistle

Perennial Sowthistle. Picture by Theodore Webster, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.

Once that’s done, we get murderous. Weeds around the tree and the clematis will have to be pulled by hand (or painted with Roundup). The voracious trumpet vine shoots – which come from the parent vine across the driveway – may require brush killer, as will two volunteer trees, but I hope not, because unlike Roundup, brush killer does persist in the soil. Macleaya (#3 in picture above, very wispy tan flowers) is rather a pretty plant, but it spreads too much and will have to go, as will great swaths of Queen Anne’s lace. Perennial sowthistle (seen at left) – GRRRRRRR. It pulls up easily enough, but spreads underground by runners.

Worst are the grasses. I’m hoping grass killer or Roundup will take care of them, because digging them all out would be a monstrous task.

The weeds and things probably won’t be dead before Joey leaves, unfortunately. As I said, Roundup doesn’t persist in the soil, but it doesn’t act very fast, either. We can get around some of this by cutting the trumpet vine runners back before applying weed killer, and by digging down around the two volunteer trees so I can get at the roots more easily later on. With the sow thistle, our best bet would be to pull a lot of them and paint the rest. (I can do that my own self!)

This will mean Joey and I will be able to turn most of the soil over, amending it liberally with compost. Then we’ll replant and mulch. The bed will be kind of bare for the rest of the year, but ready to be beautified next year.

And that’s just ONE bed – the second smallest bed on the whole property. Before Joey has to go home, there’s much more to be done.

What do you think? Is this a good plan? Have I missed anything that needs to be taken into account? I’ll be reporting our progress throughout the entire process.

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