Friday, November 18, 2016

Flower follow-up

It’s not everyday that I follow up one photo with another. Actually, I’m not sure it’s been any day before this one, but there’s a first time for everything. So, the photo above updates and expands on the photo I shared yesterday.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the weeds climbing in the trees and dropping their flowers for me to clean up. I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but I had to look it up to be sure: The weed’s Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), which, like so many other pest plants in New Zealand, is an escaped garden plant—that is, a plant gardeners introduced, and then the plants went wild in a place with no natural enemies.

This particular plant climbs and smothers native trees and bushes, killing them. It’s very difficult to kill, but once cleared it tends not to come back—unless birds drop seeds, which is probably the way the weed got to us in the first place. We’d never had it before, now it’s everywhere.

The same thing happened with Tradescantia (Tradescantia fluminensis), better known in this country as “wandering willie”, though I grew up knowing it as a houseplant under the offensive name “wandering jew”. It, too, it very difficult to kill, and it forms a dense mat of foliage along the ground that kills native groundcovers and prevents native seedlings from growing.

This is incredibly common, with many former garden plants going rogue, including woolly nightshade (Solanum mauritianum), and wild ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), also known as kahili ginger, ginger lily. Both of these have turned up on our property.

When I first arrived in New Zealand our property was clear, then one year wandering willie appeared, and the next year it was totally out of control. When it first appeared, I recognised it immediately, and was surprised that what I thought of as a houseplant could grow wild, let alone become such a pest.

Later, I found out that another plant I knew only as a houseplant, “mother-in-law’s tongue” (Sanseveria trifasciata) commonly grows in gardens here, and, unlike the other plants I mentioned, it’s not a pest species—at least, not yet.

I’m actually not much into plants or gardening, but the ease with which plants grow—weeds or wanted—is really astonishing to me, coming, as I do, from a place that has a short summer and long, very cold, winter. Our winters here are so mild that plants just keep growing, so anyone with a passion for gardening can have something to do all year round. This is also why the timber industry is so huge in New Zealand: Radiata pine grows particularly well here.

Still, the fact that weeds grow so well means there’s yard work to be done, whether we like gardening or not. Today I started a little bit of the weed control, then decided it’d be best if I learned a little more about the pest plants I need to control to make it easier to deal to them. And now I will.

I guess you could say my plant knowledge is growing. Even so, doubt I’ll cultivate an interest in actual gardening, but one never knows: It’s impossible to tell what'll happen when the seed of an idea germinates.

I’m here all week; please tip the waitstaff before you leave.

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