knotweed not weed?

My gardening experience consists of house plants, a couple of years sharing a Midwestern community garden plot, containers on a deck, and the ivy-choked, slug-ridden shade “garden” that came with my first Brooklyn apartment. (Must find some pictures to post.)

The community garden plot was tilled under annually, meaning that everything had to be cleaned out at the end of the season, ergo no perennials. (Unlike my mother’s “allotment“, located in a park across from my old high school with an amazing view of the Edinburgh sky line and the annual fireworks display. It sports a greenhouse and she has planted raspberry canes, strawberries, and even small trees.)

All this to say that I have no experience with a year-round garden. Awareness of the extent of my ignorance dawned on closing day while walking around the yard and being shown examples of the dread poison ivy. I’m Scottish. We don’t have poison ivy. Why is it so innocuous-looking? With a name like that I expect something evil-looking, not something that might be something else, or might not, to which I might have a reaction, but might not, and which appears to be eating into three sides of the yard, but might not be. I get it now. The fear lies in its powers of sneakiness.

On to the giant bushy things. The leaves look a little like lilac, but I knew they weren’t lilacs (one point to me). What are they? Are they lovingly-planted bushes or are they agressive weeds? I tried finding them online and found this page showing foliage that looks similar. Ha ha! It’s Eastern Redbud, I thought. I’m very clever.

Just to confirm, I posted this picture for identification on the forum over at the newly minted, already fabulous A Way to Garden blog.

Within hours came an answer, complete with link. Japanese Knotweed is a “very aggressive species” listed in one book as “a noxious weed.” My gardening encyclopedia says that if planted in good soil it can take years to eradicate. Good lord. So much for the pretty Eastern Redbud.

I comforted myself with my ability to identify a peony, two small raspberry bushes:

and a whole buncha “weeds”.

9 Responses to “knotweed not weed?”

  1. Margaret Says:

    I was kinda hoping I was wrong w/the ID. Guess not, huh? It’s one of those beautiful but very naughty creatures. Funny how both traits can be packed into one set of genetics.

  2. Katy Says:

    I’m not Scottish, and I lived in a log cabin in the woods for two years, and I *still* have trouble identifying poison ivy! I think I might be immune to it, because I’m certain I’ve accidentally touched it a million times.

    I’ve heard of people purposefully desensitizing themselves to it by eating a few little leaves in the spring (maybe in a Susan Weed book??) but that always sounded nuts to me….

  3. Val Mangual Says:

    Dan turned me on to your site and I have been following your lovely journal for a little while. I think it is a wonderful thing for you to have a home; poison ivy and all. I have trampled the woods since childhood and have never contracted the dreaded infection. I wonder if some of us are not sensitive to its poison? It has always been an elusive ID that silly scrappy plant. Tall boots and gloves are your best friend for a while. I miss you and find your blog a little visit from a birds eye view only. I send a big hug and kiss, love your Pal, Val 0x0x0

  4. Barb Says:

    I’ve always thought the poison ivy plant was deceptively beautiful! Unfair!! I’d be a little cautious about eating any of the leaves. When I was a kid, roaming the woods near us, I had poison ivy rashes many times. Not a pleasant experience. Ivy Dry and Caladryl were the lotions my mom applied to soothe the itching and burning.

  5. jude Says:

    that’s a great link! thanks….

  6. eliza Says:

    I’m so excited for you and your garden! It sounds like it will be a long-term project, but WOW! What fun!

    One thing I do know: Don’t burn the poison ivy. Bad, bad idea.

  7. Ellen Says:

    Yeah, Exactly!! I heard a story about a bunch of girl scouts on a camping trip burning some poison ivy vines (they can get large) on their campfire by mistake and inhailing the smoke … they got poison ivy rashes in their lungs!!! Unimaginable itching torture!!!

    Just another thing to put on those other lists you make of curious things to remember…(smiling)

    Many yippees and best wishes sent to you on this happy, good & wholesome adventure.

  8. buddha_is Says:

    I told M, Garden Claw!

    You’ll get to know the bad stuff, pull it when it’s fall or winter rather than spring or summer… never burn it or compost it.
    Both Poison Ivy and Poison Oak are bright fall colors, easily seen.

    I look forward to hearing more…

  9. Barb Says:

    I think I’d appreciate a Garden Claw and a Garden Weasel for my border flower gardens. Nice to learn about these. Thanks for the tip.

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