Monday, August 16, 2010

Vinca battle

I neglected to get a "before" photo of this corner. It contained a clump of some verigated, trouble-making grass, which I suspect to be invasive, volunteered Japanese barberry, Asiatic bittersweet, and gobs of periwinkle. I had a large round cone of black plastic left over from the top of a failed compost bin. I stuck that on the grass to kill it, and for a few weeks in the Spring we could lift it up to see a dozen surprised-looking snakes inside.

The plants under the cover cooked nicely. Then, this weekend, as I walked by, I couldn't resist tugging one strand of periwinkle out of the yew. The nasty stuff was entwined all through the shrub. Then I tugged another. And another.

This is what the bed looks like a little farther on: a nice, dense mat of periwinkle. It would be nice if it weren't sending out runners into the grass. Left unchecked, it would do this to my meadow. And to the woods beyond. Periwinkle, Vinca minor, does not play nice with Massachusetts woods. It carpets the forest floor and prevents native plants from growing. I don't know why it didn't rank the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant list.

I kept yanking and yanking. The plants went into a plastic bag, to make sure they are well and truly dead before I compost them. I'm not taking any chances. Here is the bed after I've cleared out some space.

A lot of work remains to be done in this space. But I suppose the dawning question is: what should I plant here?


frank@new york city garden said...

There is a patch of vinca in the woods of central Maine where I used to work. It always seemed way out of place, with not even a garden adjacent to have escaped from.

Diana said...

I've tried to removed vinca [shudder] from around other plantings. It's not an easy job. That is one annoying Invasive Exotic plant!

Looking at your spot I'm wondering if some Aqueligia (columbine) would be happy there. A. canadensis is a nice plant that's good for hummingbirds, is native and spreads gently by seed.

Michelle said...

Frank: there may have been a house there many years ago. That's typically what vinca does: it sticks around after houses and gardens vanish. Perhaps the one trait that kept it off the prohibitted plant list is that it doesn't tend to produce seed here. I have only seen a seed-pod on vinca once, myself.

Diana - yeah. . . I'm not looking forward to repeating this effort every year at the root fragments regrow.

I do have one columbine in this row already, but the darn thing looks terrible. Leaf miners have chewed it up. Are there any (preferably organic) ways to control leaf miners?

Diana said...

I don't know of any ways to deal with leaf miners. I haven't had a huge problem - I tell people the leaves are supposed to look that way - it's variegation!

There are varieties of the native columbines. You might want to try one of those to see if there's less of a problem. I've had great success with A. canadensis Little Lantern.

And of course if you cut it back to the ground when it gets leaf miners it will regrow. Just be sure to solarize the cuttings before putting them in the compost bin to be sure you kill the pests (solarize, a fancy word for put the cuttings in a black plastic trash bag out in the sun).

Columbine is one of my fav plants so I'm willing to put up with the leaf miner issue.

Michelle said...

Thanks for the tips Diana!