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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Buena Vista Garden, by Yarddawg

How About Earth Year?

As the years pass by, I get more and more jaded about specific days when people (who are these people anyway?) designate days like Earth Day and Arbor Day as a way to save all humanity.

Let's tackle Arbor Day first since April 30, 2010 has been chosen for this year. Many well meaning people will go out that day, plant a tree, maybe even an invasive tree, tell everyone how great they are for saving the planet and then forget to take care of it when it gets like 1000 degrees in July and August with little or no rainfall. The poor root system will never develop properly or be able to cope with the heat and moisture loss. Late April is a rotten time to plant a tree if you aren’t willing to take care of it. Arbor Day is a great concept poorly executed. Arbor Day should take place in early fall when tree planting success odds are much greater and less care is required for success.

The latest IN movement of the moment is Earth Day. I really don't know where to start. As one writer in Seattle recently said of Earth Day, "Special days are for stuff you treat like crap for 364 days of the year and then think you can make up to with one Special Day of flowers and favors and whatnot". My question is why not celebrate earth day (no caps required) every day and just treat this place we live with respect and caring.

Here's my proposal for a really meaningful "Earth Day". Don't plant anything else until you’ve done your part to address the problem of invasive plants. Did you know invasive species have been identified as the second most important threat to the natural environment in the United States, behind only habitat destruction?

Please go outside and survey your own property and rip out every invasive plant. It is OK to rip out plants that don’t belong. Think you don’t have invasive plants? Chances are you unknowingly do. Do you have English Ivy? It's everywhere and invasive and left unchecked, capable of killing 80' foot oak tree. How about that cute little purple blooming Periwinkle in your yard and mine too? Invasive. How about Bradford Pear? A crappy tree anyway and invasive as the devil. How about Leather Leaf Mahonia? These are planted all over Buena Vista and invasive. Japanese Honey Suckle? Invasive. Japanese and Common Privet are everywhere and also invasive. Nandina or Heavenly Bamboo (pictured here in my yard and about to be ripped out) another Boovee favorite is also invasive. Chinese and Japanese Wisteria, like English Ivy, are choking out huge native trees and, you got it, bad, bad, invasive.

This is only a partial list. There are many more. Invasive plants are nearly everywhere in our area. I was dismayed a few weeks ago while out walking Sally around the trail at Reynolda Gardens. Virtually the entire trail is being overrun with multiple species of invasive plants. The area adjacent to Lake Katharine was especially noticeable. It will likely take quite an undertaking to rid this local treasure of the problem.

What's the risk of doing nothing? Our native plants, here for centuries, will be literally smothered out of existence. Native plants which are homes and food for native wildlife are disappearing in Forsyth County and not just because of development. A recent walk in the woods with a group of Master Gardeners in southern Forsyth County revealed the ugly truth of leaving things unchecked. We encountered huge swaths of impassible areas completely overrun with Multiflora Rose, Tree of Heaven, and many other invasive plants. The thicket took us well over 45 minutes to navigate around in what should have taken less than 10 minutes.

I'm not trying to alarm anyone but....OK I am trying to alarm everyone who is really serious about this planet, any day or everyday. There are great alternatives for landscapes without invasive plants. The alternatives are to plant at least some native plants alongside the many good non-native, non-invasive, plants. Just GO NATIVE and do us all a favor. The North Carolina Native Plant Society is another good starting point for what's good and what's bad and invasive in the landscape.

Sadly, many of the aforementioned invasive plants are still offered for sale in many local garden centers. Nursery owners are not bad people. Many are just offering what is in demand. You can help though. If you don't buy them they will stop selling them. Trust me on that because they are in business to make money. No demand will equal none being offered.

If you live in Forsyth County and still in doubt about what is or what is not invasive, a Master Gardener is just a phone call away at 336-703-2850.

Just make every day Earth Day.
- Yarddawg
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