LAST YEAR IT WAS WISTERIA VINE that was the bane of my gardening existence. The stuff was so out of control it had taken down a shed and killed trees by strangulation. Hired landscapers hacked down much of it; I pulled and cut many trash bags full; and in late fall, my daughter and I applied Round-Up to the cut ends of sprouting wisteria with surgical precision. Though we didn’t eradicate it completely, the situation is much improved.
This year it’s goutweed, or aegopodium podagraria, a super-invasive groundcover that, left to its own devices, would take over the entire backyard, that’s driving me crazy. I have huge sheets of it in several areas. I tackled one of them yesterday, on hands and knees, using a claw tool to pull up as much as I could of the roots, feeling like a prisoner trying to dig his way out of jail with a teaspoon.
What makes goutweed so pernicious is that it spreads three ways. First, by underground rhizomes, or horizontally running roots a few inches under the surface. It also puts down taproots, like dandelion, and it seeds in late season, below.
It’s practically unkillable, according to contributors to the forum on Dave’s Garden, a very useful site for all things plant-related. “Aegopodium laughs at Round-Up,” one person wrote, and indeed, mine did (see the pitiful results of my spritzing, below).
Once I’ve removed all I can of the root (it can re-sprout from any tiny piece you may miss), I cover the bare soil with cardboard and old rugs, below (porous landscape fabric isn’t good enough, apparently). Soon I’ll put a thick layer of leaves or wood chips on top. And if anything dares to re-sprout, which I’m sure it will, I’ll hit it again with the more concentrated form of Round-Up. Sadly, when it comes to aegopodium, organic solutions just don’t cut it.
I’m pretty sure that both the wisteria and the goutweed were originally planted as ornamentals, perhaps thirty years ago — the goutweed possibly as the prettier, variegated bishop’s weed, which then reverted to all-green and ran amok during years of neglect.
Weed-killing is a nasty business, but it’s got to be done — if you want a garden, that is, and I do. Lucky I don’t have a day job.