Friday, May 13, 2011

Sometimes You've Gotta Be Ugly

Showy primrose. Lovely.
We are hosting a 3rd birthday party for granddaughter Ivy on Sunday. It is nearly a month late because of various scheduling obstacles, but the time has arrived.
That means we'll spend tomorrow mowing and trimming outside, and cleaning inside.
It also means my husband will probably ask me again how long the large pieces of plastic weighted down with boards and rocks must stay in place.
"At least until the end of the month, until I am sure it's dead," will be my reply.
Until what's dead? you ask.
The showy primrose.
I don't blame him for wondering when the plastic can be removed. It's ugly, I agree. And it is at the front of the house, where everyone sees it. However, I am not removing the plastic until I am certain the primrose is good and dead. Long gone. Pushing up daisies. Not before the battle is done and the war is won.

I know, dear. It is ugly.
When we moved here nearly four years ago, no garden beds had been prepared. The only hospitable places for the bits and pieces I transplanted from the garden I had lived in for the previous five years, were right next to the house. I had considered this a temporary siting for the plants. For most, it became permanent. Some have been divided for use elsewhere, and others are just now being moved to other locations.
Knowing the invasive nature of the showy primrose (Oenothera speciosa) I did not plant it in the ground, but kept it in a pot. That winter, I sunk the pot (as well as those containing comfrey and some others) into the ground to protect the roots from cold.
The next spring, much to my chagrin, the pot contained no sign of showy primrose. However, the plant had somehow crept out of the pot and into the soil around it. It immediately began consuming real estate.
Showy primrose is a beautiful flower. A mass of the large pale pink blossoms is quite lovely to behold.
But once the blooms are gone, it is not much to look at. And it is not just invasive, it tries to take over everything. Oh sure, other plants come up through it. Just look at all the weeds. It makes weeding more difficult and doesn't look pretty when the flowers are gone. Ugly, in fact.
The showy primrose hasn't gotten too uppity in this spot.
Other priorities have kept me from dealing with the primrose in a dramatic way. I've just had to be content with holding back its borders. Yet it continued to gain territory.
So this year, I decided something had to be done. I knew it would get ugly.
A couple of years ago I planted a couple of bits of the primrose in a little decorative spot in our gathering area, by the fire ring, where it had less cushy conditions -- hard clay soil, for one thing. At first I thought it was going to die. It rallied, although it has not exhibited quite the enthusiasm for conquest as the stuff in the flower bed. Perhaps I speak too soon, but it's wanderings won't be as unwelcome there as in the flower bed by the house.
Primrose with one of the stone people.
Last year I saw bees visiting the primrose blossoms, so before I laid the plastic, I dug up a few bits and have planted them in a grassy area near the beehive. They'll have plenty of tough competition for space, so I don't expect it to spread much.
I spent part of a day rummaging for large bits of plastic -- the packaging from my large rolls of row cover, heavy trash bags, etc. It's only about an 8x8 foot square, but that's a lot of area. I weighted edges with scrap lumber and rocks.
Every so often I find a bit of green peeping out from the edge, but I crush its advance.
It has been in place about a month, maybe more. And I'm not removing it until I am sure it's dead.
I know it's ugly.
Sometimes, you've just gotta go there.

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