The war on the creeping bellflower continues.

Early on, before I identified the stuff, I hired a gardener to help me figure out how to manage the plants that were taking over. Although bishop’s weed is common in gardens around here, and bellflower is, sadly, more common than it ought to be, she didn’t recognize either one. I wish I had recognized this as a bad sign. However, she did have a good eye for design, and a good team for digging, so she was some help. Nonetheless, she had a naive and touching faith in the power of grass and mulch to choke out weeds, and in short order I was digging bishop’s weed and bellflower out of the newly installed sod.

Later I joined a local gardening group, hoping that there might be some member with good advice. Hah. “Why are you digging?” they said. “Just use RoundUp,” they said. “It’s resistant to herbicides,” I said, and they scoffed.

Well, I am here to tell you that their faith in RoundUp is similarly naive and touching. Last week, I carefully painted it onto the leaves of the bellflower; days later, the weed continued to flourish madly. I said, “OK, no more Ms Nice Gardener,” and spritzed with abandon. The bellflower remains green, healthy, and undaunted, though the herbicide did take care of a few dandelions and similar ordinary weeds in the vicinity. I am really not bothered by dandelions and other such innocent flora. At this point, I am thrilled to see Creeping Charlie spreading in the one bed where I am pretty sure I have eradicated both bellflower and bishop’s weed, because that means that all more serious threats are gone. In all my digging, I killed the iris, but I seem to have succeeded in dissecting the bellflower roots away from the roots of roses and hostas, and I think I salvaged most of the bulbs.

But really, if you have bellflower, you would be better off hiring earth-moving equipment to remove all the topsoil, and then start over. I do not know what I am going to do where it has grown around the roots of the oak tree.

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7 thoughts on “Update from the front lines

  1. That sounds SO frustrating! (And I thought Creeping Charlie was a pain!)

    Is your municipality trying to get people to get rid of it?

    1. No, fortunately. In some places you can get written up for it, but they don’t seem to have caught on here. They ought to, but I’m happy not to have that extra layer of stress in the situation.

  2. See, this is where complete ignorance of plants gets me: I thought it was sort of pretty and didn’t recognize it as a scourge! Hope you have better luck with getting rid of it as the summer progresses.

    1. I didn’t recognize it when we bought the house, either (and if I had known then what I know now, would not have proceeded with the sale). It wasn’t till after the first winter, when the two were taking over the entire garden, that I started doing some research and learned what I was up against.

  3. We have loads of bishop’s weed, which is actually illegal in my state. (Needless to say, we aren’t responsible for introducing it.) Round-up works on that one, right? Our dislike of herbicides notwithstanding, we plan to do our best to douse it this year, although I shudder to think just how much poison it’ll take–we have TONS of it, really, and it spreads so fast.

    1. A lot of my neighbors have bishop’s weed, which isn’t too awful if you keep it in a strictly limited bed. RoundUp has limited success on that one: it wilts the foliage, but like the bellflower, bishop’s weed spreads by roots, including tiny fragments, as well as by seeds. So even if you can kill the leafy part, you may still have to dig out the roots. Both of these plants spread through tiny tiny seeds as well as via roots, so you can at least keep things from getting worse by not letting them go to seed: pluck all the flowers as soon as they get going. Your kid could be a big help here!

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