Friday, May 4, 2012

Border Wars


            The low, pink-flowering plant sold under the Steppables brand called “Amazing Mazus” is spreading and blossoming its little heart out. It was probably peaking last weekend when I took these photos (which are already, I notice, on Google images, so I trust the rest of the universe is enjoying them).
            It’s also almost completely covered an area which I had been fondly thinking of as a “path.” True, because they’re “Steppable” these plants are supposed to survive a little footwork, but who wants to step on a patch of little pink flowers. So, what to do?
            The Mazus (technically Mazus reptans; here’s a reference: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/e190/mazus-reptans.aspx) is also in a constant border war with some of its neighboring groundcovers. It gets pressure from the large, aggressive vine whose name I have never known although the creature seemed to come home with me from a shopping expedition years ago, and which I have lately taken to calling “demon plant.” The plant makes fat shiny green leaves looking somewhat like overdeveloped stonecrop sedum, only shinier, produces a yellow flower in May or June and is not bad looking – but it just takes over. When it aggresses into the Mazus patch, as it does continually, I pull it out as vigorously as possible. Demon plant grows under other plants’ roots however, so I end up pulling up some of the Mazus as well, which have the most shallow roots imaginable. They live lightly on the earth.
            The Mazus also runs into the thyme (thymus albiflora, I believe), another low, thick, earth-hugging groundcover, which occasionally offers spring flowers of its own, little white ones, but is really picky about conditons. It’s more like a really cool-looking mat than a flowering plant.
            This is a more difficult boundary dispute. It’s hard to pull up the Mazus here, especially when it’s flowering, but the thyme is the weaker partner, at least in this climate, and is already suffering from the dry winter. There are bare brown spots where this colony has receded, and serious decisions are yet to be faced about its future.
            In addition to the Mazus, I also remove violets, demon plant, vinca and white-flowering sweet woodruff from the thyme patch.
            After years of regarding my wild violets as the universal solvent for bare patches, I have come to the point of recognizing the need to simply recycle these to the mulch plant instead of trying to find new homes for them somewhere else in the yard. They’re way too adept at finding their own new homes.
            The Mazus and the thyme aren’t the only borderland patches that require policing. Things don’t stay in their places, they don’t respect other species’ places, and some plants (like my columbines this spring) simply pick up their roots, pack their bags, and travel to another spot in the garden they like better. Only big shrubs or trees with deep roots and a happy connection to the conditons of their neighborhood seem secure from year to year. Or solid native colonies like day lilies. Almost everything else has a mind to wander, and requires minding by me.
            It’s probably my fault though, because that’s the way I like it. Something different every day.
            I’ll get that path back, by the way, but only after the Mazus stop flowering.