“To be, or not to be? That is the question—Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?” Hamlet.
Is the question we face as gardeners as simple as, To ‘root wash’ or not to ‘root wash’, before planting? To some today it has become ‘heretical’ to suggest that it might not be just a necessary corrective, but an unmitigated good…and not doing so dooms a plant to failure. The practice of ‘root washing’ in its present form, is relatively new to gardeners. Horticulture, which is a system of techniques, traditions and science, that goes back to our own species’ first intentional involvement growing and selecting plants, has not always included it. Practices develop over wide spans of time. Many are retained, others pass away. Root washing has been around as a method to assess damage to root systems, to ease and make more efficient division, to study root growth or cleanse them of particular infestations. ‘Bare-rooting’, during a plant’s winter dormancy in temperate regions, has historically been done in the field when harvesting or transplanting many deciduous trees and woody plants for shipping and ease of transport. In some circles today root washing has become an almost literal flash point, pitting proponent against opponent, ‘science’ against ‘tradition’…yet another fracture line to divide society. The road of the absolutist, as with many other human practices, tends to create conflict as evidence of correctness is lobbed back and forth. My own view is that, like so many other things today, the subject is somewhat ‘grayer’. Science can be on both ‘sides’, or neither, and reality is rarely so simplistic. Continue reading →
I wrote the piece that follows while still a horticulturist working for Portland Parks about 20 years ago. It remains largely in its original form with a few additions, corrections and updates. Both plants are still under addressed in the landscape today. While employed I maintained my license as a public applicator of pesticides, a job requirement. I no longer have one, nor do I have a consultant’s license. In many cases herbicides can be an essential part of an effective strategy for the control of an established population of invasive plants. Invasive plants, like these, which are listed on your State’s Noxious Weed List, are there because of the the threat they pose to the environment and their capacity to infect and dominate a landscape, any landscape, across our region. In more than a few cases manual and mechanical methods of control alone are insufficient to ‘control’ the invasion and sole reliance on them will assure the failure of the establishment of a desirable landscape on a site. Herbicide use is thus justified. Large scale restoration projects are often dependent upon it. On a smaller residential property, with commitment and persistence, a homeowner may be successful, but even then they need to understand that there will be a continuing and significant threat of reinfection from surrounding properties, via birds carrying the fruit of Ivies and wind blown seed from Clematis. For some species, especially when the scale of the invasion and property are larger, its use may be essential. For many weeds this herbicide ‘threshold’ is very low before its use is a requirement. In this way scale works for homeowners as their properties and problems are smaller. Too often though properties are neglected and then the buyer inherits a serious problem. Using any herbicide will always have potential adverse effects on the environment, so if you choose to use it make sure you do so effectively. If you choose to use any of my herbicide suggestions, you are on your own. Do your research, understand your problem, to assure that your actions are effective, safe and responsible.
Getting Down to it: Your Viney Culprit is Probably Hedera hibernica, Irish Ivy, or More Rarely H. colchicum
English Ivy, a friend and co-worker announced early on in a then still continuing series of work meetings concerned with various issues of invasive plants, has been a kind of “anti-poster child” for those working in the regional conservation and restoration field. Its spread and control has been the subject of innumerable meetings, proposals and actions both fruitful and not. Eradication is no longer considered a realistic goal by many. The focus, rather, is on limiting its spread and control. Like other exotic invaders and introduced guests now run amok, from diseases to various shellfish and weeds, once a particularly well adapted species establishes a viable population base, it becomes a part of the disturbed novel landscape…it’s here and we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with it. This has always been the way of the world. The difference today is the rapidity with which these changes have been introduced through trade, the peripatetic travels of man (Man in the generic sense) and our never ending appetite for the consumption and disruption of land.
All Ivies have a juvenile and mature phase. The juvenile leaves tend to be more angular, deeper lobed and smaller than the mature leaves. Wikipedia
Hedera hibernica with its more ’rounded’ mature leaves and fruit.