GRASSROOTS ACTION and Invasives ARE POWERFUL!

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL!

Today, my usual quote from 1790 by John Philpot Curran, about “eternal vigilance,” [1] is replaced by this – clearly derivative – quote about “incessant vigilance” from 1859:

“At the outbreak of the Civil War, bindweed was becoming quite troublesome … William Darlington (1782-1863) [made] this comparison in 1859: ‘We are told that incessant vigilance is the condition on which alone the rights of freemen can be maintained…I believe the farmer will find a similar condition annexed to the preservation of his premises [from bindweed].'” [2]

REMINDER: Please attend tonight’s May 3, 2016 HWFC Board meeting at 5:45pm at HWFC. Attend & remind others, too. See you there!

REMINDER: Don’t forget to see this month’s Co-op Voice, here.


   LESSER BINDWEED, the POSSESSION WEED

          I am a gardener. So were my Dad and Mom and they taught their children well! My worldview, when push comes to shove, always comes down to a gardening metaphor. Think about it, anything that happens to you in life …is also happening in a garden.

I adore gardening books, with their exquisite botanical drawings – some of which I inherited from my Dad’s wonderful collection  – books I remember flipping through when I was a child. Dad’s well-thumbed 1957 edition of Geraniums Pelargoniums by Helen Van Pelt Wilson, with water colors and line drawings by Natalie Harlan Davis; The Nursery Manual from 1896 and the 1910 Manual of Gardening both by the famous Liberty Hyde Bailey and the 1926 Garden Guide The Amateur Gardeners’ Handbook by Alpheus T. De La Mare (whose wife, Mrs. A. T. De La Mare, had a rhododendron named after her!)

I would recommend not using Garden Guide  The Amateur Gardeners’ Handbook, if you need help narrowing down choices for your garden. I salivated over these descriptors:

the geranium … well deserves its commanding place among the most satisfactory of old-fashioned flowers. …its magnificent trusses of  single, semi-double or double flowers, surmounting a wealth of bright green, healthy foliage … never fails to gain the highest admiration. (p. 115)

The hardy Pinks [Dianthus] rank with the time-honored gems of the old-fashioned garden. Splendidly adapted for beds and borders, they deserve a place in every garden, not only on  account of their great beauty and free-blooming qualities, but also for their usefulness as cut flowers. (p. 133)

The Poppy [Papaver] should be given a place in every garden, it is so graceful and delicate and beautiful. There is nothing more fairy-like than a bed of these grand single poppies, with their long, slender stems surmounted by silken blooms of the most charming tints. (p. 134)

Could the real beauty of the coloring of the Iris [Greek for rainbow] be expressed in words, such a description would be a masterpiece. …it is most dainty and elegant and surpassed by few other flowers. (p. 118)

It is very interesting to grow amusing looking flowers; the Snapdragon is such, for each flower is a lion’s head; one must merely press the sides of the head and the mouth opens. (p. 135)

I remember the time when my father surprised & delighted my brother and me when he expertly snipped off a pink snapdragon bloom for each of us – their fragrance was powerful on a winter’s day in the warm, moist greenhouse! – and taught us how to make the lion roar. Although I do remember pondering at the time, why wasn’t the flower called a snaplion because weren’t we – in point of fact – making a lion snap, not a dragon? (Dad had, quite clearly, read & studied Mr. Alpheus T. De La Mare’s book!)

Totally devoid of color drawings, simply reading De La Mare’s chapter – Some Garden Favorites and How to Grow Them – will fire your imagination, scratch your plant collector’s itch, and have you running to your local nursery (come to HWFC and buy beautiful, local, organically-grown perennials!), spending your annual garden budget in one fell swoop!

Two of my favorite modern gardening books, notable for their exquisite art nouveau artwork, layout and enchanting essays are edited by Ferris Cook: Remembered Gardens and Garden Dreams. And, of course, the 2004 Bungalow Details: Exterior by Jane Powell, with Linda Svendsen, photographer [the bungalow author/photographer team to read] and Paul Duchscherer’s 1999 Outside the Bungalow: America’s Arts and Crafts Garden, are treasures for the owners of modest bungalows & homes who wish to create welcoming outdoor rooms & quiet sanctuary for our guests & friends. [3]

Published in 1870, the short My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner, an American novelist, essayist and onetime co-editor of the Hartford Courant, is a must-read. Warner says,

To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch the renewal of life – this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do. [4]

Warner was a Hartford, CT neighbor, friend and co-author with humorist & author Mark Twain, who contributed this gem to our base of American horticultural knowledge:

A cauliflower? Just a cabbage with a college education. [5]

(As as aside: can you imagine if, every Sunday morning over your cup of tea or coffee, you could read Mark Twain’s blogpost?! O.M.G. ROTFL!)

Of course, the beloved children’s book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – a tale of healing through gardening – cannot be missed by both young and old!

~~~~~

       These old garden books teach our families in words that are as relevant today as they were almost 100 years ago. Once again, looking to the 1926 Garden Guide  The Amateur Gardeners’ Handbook we food co-op people find sage advice:

The hygienic value of fresh vegetables and fruits is beyond question; their value to the family cannot be estimated in terms of money. The writer knows this and thousands of fortunate suburbanites will testify to its truth. A good garden is Nature’s antidote for all ills flesh is heir to; it certainly does not make for a source of revenue to the physician. Fresh fruits and vegetables, each in their season, taken from your garden, are something quite different from the much handled and frequently stale products one buys in the city. [6]

If you have not yet read Jean Giono’s 1953 The Man Who Planted Trees, go now and order it from your library. This book will inspire you to remember that every seed you plant, every plant you tend, matters.

LESSONS IN THE GARDEN

          Now, one of the things gardeners are good at is observing and being aware of patterns: spring comes after winter, for example – that’s an easy one – or the plants which get more than enough sun, thrive, or if you forget to pinch off the tips of your plants they get leggy.

We all know that the plants with the best compost & growing conditions, seem to always grow the biggest, sweetest, juiciest vegetables & fruits.

Patterns that harm are also noticed by the attentive gardener, for example: not enough sunlight, too much water, poor soil, not enough bees, too little NP or K, or an invasive doing its level best to take over …these can all threaten the beauty, the charm & delight, the stability & function and the co-dependence of things in a well-ordered garden.

A striving for balance is most important.

Since I was a kid, my father taught me to look for patterns, to seek for data & answers and to draw comparisons …that’s the gardener’s daughter training in me. Simile and metaphor were Dad’s favorite teaching tools. He regularly questioned my brother and me:

Why do seedlings need their potting soil loose? Why do air bubbles pop up when you water a pot? Why is that good for the roots? Why do tomato plants have prickly, spiny hairs on their stems? What happens when you forget and leave water lying in the soil around roots? What happens to this geranium cutting if you plant the stem too deep? Why did these plants die and these plants live? Why do flowers smell? What’s the first thing you should always do after you transplant any plant? What’s turning these leaves yellow?

What happened when you forgot to water these plants on Friday, Laura?

The most important questions inevitably involved soil, worms (a gardener’s best friends) [Thank you Jessica, for those composter redworms!] …and gold. Gold, as in What’s ‘black gold,’ oh daughter o’ mine and people of my people?

This daughter knew Dad meant – not the shiny, golden metal! – oh, no, he was referring to the deep, dark, rich, moist stuff created, like magic, from garden scraps: the treasure piles tucked away somewhere in a garden’s corners, silently created by heat, micro organisms, decay …and time.

My favorite lesson involved strawberries. Why do these strawberries taste better than those strawberries?

Now this was something I was an expert at. My berry-red tongue could easily distinguish the best strawberry plants, and often did, especially when picking quarts of strawberries for hours on end, for Dad to sell. He kept telling my brother and me we were eating into his profits, we were worse than the bugs. We didn’t care! For my Dad grew a damned good strawberry.

My mother’s chiding of me, as her adult, married, daughter, didn’t touch on the nuclear topics like Are you sure he’s the right man for you? or my delinquent housekeeping habits with Geez, Laura something stinks in your refrigerator, you didn’t notice?

No, as we sat together on my front porch one sunny, summer’s day, Mom’s fingers busily moving, expertly dancing over my baskets of petunias, she gently poked Gee, Laura, you behind on your deadheading, or what? Your poor plants!

INVASIVES

          One spring day, I was about 10, a question came up about invasives in a garden. What were they?

Slugs.

The subject came up while Dad, my brother and I were kneeling around some seedlings. I had just picked up a moist flat of – something, some annual, marigolds, portulacas, alyssum? – shaded next to the greenhouse (Dad had my little brother and I schlepping flats from here to there, and there to here – something we seemed to do a lot of as kids) and underneath my fingertips I felt a mass of wet, thick, cool, gushy, slimy blobs. Like lightening, I quick-released that flat straight down to the ground which, of course, smashed my flip-flopped toes, making me jerk sideways, causing my glasses to fly off, while I screamed in pain. This was followed by me jumping up and down, dancing around and howling, while I wiped my slimed fingers rapidly up and down my shorts. Yeecchhh.

My father and brother stopped dead. In unison, they both turned and quietly stared up at me.

Yes, alright so I got all girly-girl but come on. Gushy? Wet? Slimy? Cold? Can’t see ’em? You know there’s more lurking? A girl simply has to draw the line somewhere.

Anyway, I’m wiping slime off my hands, glaring at the eight market-pac mess of seedlings at my feet, and there goes Dad – squatting to help me rescue my dirt-smudged glasses (and his seedlings) – launching into teaching mode: why’re there slugs on that particular flat bottom? How do you get rid of them? Is there any place you can think of where they really could be a beneficial, Laura? [No.]

You see, most everything – from a gardener’s standpoint – can either be classified as an invasive …or a beneficial.

You know where slugs shake down.

~~~

          Another favorite “it’s gotta go” conversation around the gardener’s cottage was, “THAT damned woodchuck.” It involved a woodchuck who had taken up residence in the compost pile behind the greenhouse one spring. He just appeared out of nowhere, beady little eyes glinting as he waddled here and waddled there. Waddled because he was getting fat off the tasty morsels Dad threw in that pile every day! All he had to do was roll out of bed every morning, open his mouth …and eat! Woodchuck heaven!

Every evening that spring Dad would tractor home from the greenhouse for dinner, muttering and cursing as he came through the front door, replaying his latest scheme to get rid of THAT woodchuck. He tried everything. You name it. He had to because THAT woodchuck had discovered the wooden sill, above the fieldstone foundation of the greenhouse, and he was bent on eating the whole thing, stem to stern.

The compost pile just wasn’t tasty enough for him anymore, he had moved on to bigger and better things – or maybe he was just sharpening his teeth, I dunno – but anyway this now directly involved him cutting into Dad’s time and profit. And that had to stop.

Well, “everything” didn’t work. I know it involved poisons, traps, schemes, and lots of cursing and reading up at night, because we were told, in no uncertain terms, Kids, stay away from THAT compost pile!

Dad’s solution (the one which worked) – we ended up hearing second-hand from Mom, because Dad refused to talk about it at dinner that night – involved his grandfather’s shotgun …and a firm resolve to move THAT compost pile when he had time to get around to it. (Which never happened, gardens and greenhouses and priorities being what they are.)

~~~

          Now, weeds, I won’t even go into the subject of my Dad and weeds. Practical, he was a huge fan of black plastic and, also, straw mulch – which he grew and harvested – and an even bigger fan of one’s children being roped in (as often as possible) after school got out.

Benevolent – rather, damned wily – he (rather, Santa) provided my brother and me one Christmas with portable, battery-operated transistor radios you could hook on your bike’s handlebars, the hottest thing! (Oh, how innocent and thankful we were in December …and oh how jaded by May).

But, the world now opened up to us! We could each tune into our favorite rock & roll station…

…in the greenhouse, that is.

After school, all the other kids had their transistors perched next to their school books on their desks at home. My brother and I, on the other hand, had to search for ours …pushing aside market pacs, fresh with new seedlings or digging with soil-encrusted fingers among the piles of dying weeds we had just pulled, trying to fine tune the dial to AM 77 WABC’s Scott Muni [scroll to 1′ 57″ for a promo to join the Beatles’ fan club] and Dan Ingram [scroll here to 3′ 36″ for a “W A Beatles C” Beatles’ hits promo] and Cousin Brucie [click on the Airchexx icon below the article] and The Beatles.

…Listen, doo dah doo, do you want to know a secret, doo dah doo, Do you promise not to tell? Wo-o-o-oh, Closer, doo dah doo, let me whisper in your ear... [7]

Nobody could stop me from jumping up and practicing my twist moves among the strawberries, when Twist and Shout [scroll to 4′ 51″] came on, lemme tell you!

Yes, my brother and I were among the generation of kids who anxiously awaited each new Beatles’ hit as it came out and listened over & over (driving our parents’ crazy!) ’til we got all the words right (or not). When Hey Jude first aired, I thought it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. Ditto, Let it Be. [This is the first time I ever saw this Beatles’ Hey Jude clip; it has 19+ million views on YouTube! It first aired in the US on October 6, 1968 on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.] [You  gotta just love musicians, don’t you?]

I remember Mom – who always had the radio on, singing while she worked in her flower shop – singing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. (Most parents at that time tried to ignore the youth phenomenon that was Beatlemania and the Beatles. Not Mom.)

There she is, tinny radio blasting into the hot, humid greenhouse, watering the coleus & begonias, alternating swinging her hips with pulling the hose, as she smiles over at her shy, teenage daughter and belts out …life goes on, La la how the life goes on.. [8]

My mom and her beautiful, sweet voice could have been a singer with the band!

And I secretly (I can now finally admit) also adored the Monkees (Micky was my favorite). I lay that shame to rest as I join the Monkees singing Neil Diamond’s I’m a Believer and point you to this 2011 version of them singing Neil Diamond’s A Little bit Me, A little Bit You! [I love the sax player, one of the rare female instrumentalists in an industry rife with boys’ bands.] And here’s WABC’s Cousin Brucie, in 1967, introducing the Monkees’ #1 hit, Daydream Believer [scroll to 1′ 20″] from a special Christmas Show taped and sent to “thousand of guys in Viet Nam…”

~~~~~

Slugs & woodchucks & weeds, oh my! We do have a long history together!

INVASIVES USUALLY HAVE SUPERIOR CAMO

          My favorite invasives’ story – as an adult, now – involves a thing of great beauty. It is a plant – a weed, actually – which is one of the twelve weeds featured on my set of “good dishes,” the “company” and holiday dishes. (Yes, I feed my company on weeds.) It’s a pattern from Portmeirion from Stoke-on-Trent called the Queen’s Hidden Garden. It includes six different patterns, with two different flowers in each pattern, for a total of twelve …weeds.

You will not, however, find these twelve weeds in any old garden. They all reside uniquely and together in the Queen’s garden at Buckingham Palace in England: weeds as treasure which pleases a Queen!

The book, by Sir David Bellamy, called Queen’s Hidden Garden: Buckingham Palace’s Treasury of Wild Plants, tells the story and includes the exquisite botanical paintings by Marjorie Lyon, used to adorn Portmeirion’s lovely dishes.

So, a few years back I was in my garden, in the morning, and I notice this beautiful, delicate, viny kind of plant. Thin, elegant leaves. It had trumpet-shaped blossoms that looked just like a morning glory, with paper-thin, delicate white petals and a blushing, light pink tinge toward the center.

The blooms appeared in the morning – unraveling exactly like a morning glory – and faded as the day waned, just like a morning glory.

I admired the plant, assumed it was some kind of a wild morning glory, decided to let it alone, and moved on to weeding down the row.

A few days later, I wandered over to that same area of the garden. This time, that beautiful, delicate plant seemed to have spread. And there was a defined thickish web of vines present now. No matter, I admired the blooms – again, this time so many more of them! how lovely! and made a mental note to come back in a week and tackle this area.

In the back of my mind the subtext is Beautiful flowers, multiplying effortlessly …and I didn’t have to do a thing. Jackpot!

I was taken in: I got schnookered. Bamboozled! Conned!! Flimflammed!!!

Well, three weeks later I made it back. Talk about muscling in! I, literally, could not find my garden. (And, you have to understand, my garden consists of perennials which – my gardener girlfriend “C” and I both agree on this – have to pass the litmus test of can’t kill ’em with a blowtorch before we’ll ever plunk down hard-earned cash: hostas being just one example of same.) I could, however, beneath a 2″ impenetrable mat of thin, delicate, viny, green stems, see the tips of what once was my garden …layered atop with an absolute profusion of glorious, smiling, delicate morning glory blossoms, beckoning and waving gently in the morning breeze, singing Come Hither! to any bee wandering the neighborhood.

Something clicked in my brain. Something looked familiar from somewhere.

I threw off my gardening gloves, ran into the house, and opened the corner cabinet with my good dishes and searched among the six different dinner plates ’til I found the one I was seeking. (Yes, in my family we run to dishes to check horticultural facts, as opposed to the more customary pages of a plant encyclopedia.) Clover blossoms and the corolla of those morning glories, paired so beautifully together, thank you God for artists like Marjorie Lyon!

There, in front of me, blooms painted in pale pink colors with grey-green, arrowhead-shaped leaves, was my morning glory plant. Or, I should say, that plant that looked like a morning glory, behaved like a morning glory and charmed like a morning glory. So innocent looking! So, delicately drawn! A flower a Queen adores! One of twelve. [Carolynn, that one is for you.]

Its name, my book now informed me, is: Lesser bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis L.).

THAT WHICH WE CALL A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET…[9]
(In other words, it ain’t what it’s called but what it is that counts)

Byndweed…is as it wer[e] an [imperfect] worke of nature learning to make lilies.
1562 [10]

          Lesser bindweed is also know as Field bindweed or European bindweed, Withy wind, Withwind, Bellbine, Corn-bind, Sheepbine, Bearbind, [Anythingbind!], Creeping Jenny, Devil’s guts, Laplove, and Possession vine. The ancient Romans called it volucrum majus,  literally meaning “a large worm that wraps itself in vines.” Its scientific name, Convolvulus arvensis, comes from the Latin verb, convolvere, meaning “to roll together” or “to entwine,” and arvens, Latin for “of the field.” [11]

A 1710 herbal, Botanologia The English Herbal or History of Plants Adornd with Figures The whole in Alphabetical order, written by William Salmon, M.D. (and dedicated to, who else but The Queen), gives us woodcuts of bindweed, including Bindweed Common (looks very familiar doesn’t it!) and informs us,

This Great Bind-weed is so like unto Scammony [a bindweed native to Eastern Mediterranean countries], that … one would think it to be one of the kinds of Scammony, whose many slender winding Stalks run up, and wind themselves upon whatever stands next, or near to them. [12]

What?! Stalks that run up and wind themselves on whatever stands near to them? You mean the names “Sheepbine” and “Bearbind” may actually have a basis in reality? I suspected as much.

Being a curious soul, I decided to check further back in history, maybe this 1710 citation was an aberration. Let’s go back 100 years or so, to the most popular 17th century herbal. This 1597 London herbal, John Gerarde’s The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes dedicated To The Right Honorable His Singvlar Good Lord And Master, Sir William Cecill Knight, Baron of Burghley [etc. etc. etc.] … and Lord High Treafurer of England (of course, the Lord High Treasurer of England …not the Queen, but Gerarde knew where his bread was buttered) had this to say about Blew Bindweed:

Blewe Bindweed bringeth foorth long, tender, and winding branches, by which it climeth vpon things that ftand neere vnto it, and fouldeth it felfe about them with many turnings and windings, wrapping itfelfe againft the funne contrarie to al other things whatfoever, that with their clafping tendrels do imbrace things that ftand neere vnto them… [13]

So, in 1597 Bindweed’s clasping tendrels embraced things; not quite so bad as in 1710 when the stalks ran up and wound themselves around whatever stood nearby! Not much else new here, except I am a teeny bit worried about “wrapping itself against the sun contrary to all other things whatsoever,” and that term “fouldeth it felfe” (which is probably “foldeth itself”) but – I’m now thoroughly jaded – sounds a little too close to “soldereth itself” for my comfort.

Gerarde’s 16th c. woodcuts of some “Rough Bindweeds” and some “Great smooth” and “Small gentle” bindweeds are … well, as viny then as they are now!

Gerarde informs us that Plinie (C. Plinius Secundus or Pliny the Elder who died in 79 CE [AD]) knew of Bindweed; Gerarde states: [Plinie] “who writheth in his 24. booke 10. chapter, that it is also surnamed Nicophoron.” (BTW, Pliny’s book was dedicated to the Emperor Titus. QueenLord High Treasurer of EnglandEmperor. I’m beginning to recognize a pecuniary pattern here, as an author.) [14]

Well, I went back and checked Pliny’s Natural History, here and here. Some scribe got something wrong – unless I got it wrong, more likely; I couldn’t find Nicophoron in Chapter 10 of book 24. (And BTW, the first click-on is the 1847-1848 re-publication of the first English translation done by Dr. Philemon Holland in 1601. The second click-on is the more complete 1855 English version translated by John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. and H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A.)

Pliny’s Natural History was among the first of the classical Greek and Roman texts to be printed (mass produced books using moveable type, as opposed to being hand-written in manuscript form) during the Renaissance; it was published in Venice in 1469! (The Gutenberg Bible was first printed by moveable type in 1454 or 1455, so you can see how important Pliny’s book must have been to Renaissance culture.)

Pliny, himself, was born in 23 CE [AD] in Verona, Italy; Verona is the same city which Shakespeare memorialized in Romeo and Juliet roughly 1,574 years later!

Now, did you happen to notice what you and I  have just, together, done? We stepped into the equivalent of the Ancient Library of Alexandria, built in the 3rd c. BCE [BC]!! Indiana Jones’s we are, indeed! Lured by the tantalizing trail of books and manuscripts, which begins when you but open to a page… …or click on your browser!

STOP. AN OFFICIAL ASIDE, SOTTO VOCE: LIBRARIANS, MY HEROES!

          Do you realize what we just did? We just jumped from a 21st c. blog, to a 1710 book, to a 1597 book, to a 1601 English translation of a book (in Latin) started in 77 CE. (Yes, I said 77.)  That book’s author, Pliny the Elder, died in 79 CE during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius at Pompeii!

We were just perusing the words of an author who started writing his book 1,939 years ago!

Marvel at this for just one moment.

Up until very, very recently, you  could only view these books at a physical library, maybe somewhere far, far away. You had no chance in your life of ever seeing these books and, as important, of reading & studying their contents.

Now, here we are thumbing the pages of books and manuscripts, going back 2,000 years, virtually!

I’ll bet you never thought you’d end up taking this kind of a journey when you started reading a blogpost about flowers and invasives, did you!

You have simply got to love libraries and the librarians, who are the most unsung heroes I know of! Thank you to all librarians out there for the work that you do for all of us, including all the digital librarians out there! (Especially to David Lasocki, music librarian & recorder researcher extraordinaire!)

Please consider donating to the 501 (c)(3) Internet Archive, here, which is one of the groups responsible for digitally archiving books & manuscripts from many centuries, so that we all may benefit. Brewster Kahle is the Founder & Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. Support their work!

See also the awesome Project Gutenberg which “offers over 50,000 free ebooks … free epub books, free kindle books…” here; read about its founder, Michael S. Hart, and consider donating to Project Gutenberg.

BACK TO THE 16th C. AND BYNDWEED

         That 1562 quote, above, (“Byndweed…is as it wer[e] an [imperfect] worke of nature learning to make lilies.[10] ) even earlier than Gerarde’s 1597 herbal, doesn’t pull any punches; it states right out there that byndweed is a mistake of nature.

In a future blogpost I will report back what Shakespeare himself, who lived from 1564-1616 (and who was two when somebody astutely deemed Bindweed a mistake of nature), had to say about Byndweed. He can’t have ignored a plant so rich in metaphoric possibility!

Trust me, he didn’t, and what I uncovered is truly very, very interesting for those interested in horticultural history!

I LIVE, THEREFORE I WEED.

          Any gardener who has ever had to tackle Lesser bindweed knows that what you see on the surface is only 1/1,000th  of what’s going on underground. In fact, that last time I saw the profusion of blossoms – making a mental note to get to it – I remember thinking: Jeez Luise, this plant spreads like it has roots all over the length and breadth of our backyard and down to China!

Turns out I was not too far off. The hidden root structure of lesser bindweed is famous for just that pattern. It starts out its life – just six weeks in – with tap roots down to 2 feet and six lateral roots, for good measure (a belt & suspenders kind of a plant). One lesser bindweed plant can spread outward ten feet in just one season. Three seasons unchecked and its roots spread laterally 18 feet and penetrate to a depth of 30 feet!

If you thought I was kidding about the bindweed root system, see Gerarde’s 16th c. woodcut of the roots of the Rough Bindweed of Peru.

Now, that’s just one plant! What about the seeds?

The seeds of C. arvensis may remain viable in the soil up to 50 years and around 144 hours in the stomachs of some migrating birds. [15]

A bird, traveling up to six days from somewhere, can fly over your garden, deposit some bindweed seeds on the fly, behind your back, and with you none the wiser?

So, although this plant is featured as one of the twelve weeds beloved in the Queen’s hidden garden by the Queen of England herself, and I greatly admire its beauty in my hidden garden (hidden, at the moment, by Lesser bindweed)…

…as a gardener I know to ruthlessly rip it out when I see it beginning to wind its innocent, delicate, thin fronds and tendrils up to the tippy tops of my tall vegetables, herbs, best-loved perennials and, especially, roses (those things with thorns which draw my blood when they and lesser bindweed meet). I don’t waste a minute, I don’t fret or mourn, I simply strip it away from the garden plants I cherish …and deep six it in a hot compost pile. Burning it is an even better option because when your back is turned, bits of its rhizome can re-sprout – repeatedly!

I don’t have the luxury of a bevy of Under and Over and Head Gardeners, tending to the Twelve Royal Weeds. If its gotta go, its gotta go now, while it’s in front of my nose!

Seeds, rhizomes, lightning-speed growth, birds spreading its progeny from the air, and monster tap & lateral roots: coupled with its innocent & fetching beauty, this plant is a force of nature, evilly propagating itself into eternity here on earth!

This noxious plant is, in fact, the evil perennial relation to the innocent annual Morning glory I tenderly baby in a south-facing bed near the porch. However well-camouflaged, however pretty, and however fetching, it is an enchantress, an invasive and a parasite of the worst order. Weak-stemmed, with no spine of its own, it grows up and over everything and anything in its path, gaining ground by stealing its support from other plants. It gains, I’m sure, 12″ a day, each & every hot summer’s day (of course snickering while your back is turned, like that monstrous, evil Venus Flytrap, Audrey II, in the 1986 movie Little Shop of Horrors).

It is a gardener’s worst nightmare. It will choke, smother and kill any patch of garden it attaches itself to. It will assume charge and take over. That is its nature as a parasite (well, technically it’s not a parasitical plant, it might be an epiphyte …well, technically it’s not an epiphyte …and since there are no agronomists to hand… …ahem  …oh, except my brother and he will know, when he reads this. Back atcha, bro!)

Not only is Lesser bindweed on the noxious weed list for 35 states, it

has an impressive array of survival techniques which has enabled it to become one of the world’s 10 worst weeds. [emphasis added] [16]

So, I have to do my job, and protect the plants I both need for life & health …and cherish for beauty.

Therefore, I weed.

It is an evil twist of fate that this plant is not called Greater bindweed, it is called Lesser bindweed. Lord help me, I wonder just how bad Greater bindweed is? Lesser is clearly the Greater of two evils and someone clearly misnamed it! (By the way, just like butterflies. Shouldn’t they be called flutterbys? Somebody got that wrong, too!)

Perhaps in the naming, that first gardener sought to provide needed camouflage to this deadly, invasive beauty. [17]

It’s name belies its power!

Lesser bindweed lives by supporting itself upon the backs of other plants, creeping, choking, twisting, entwining, binding, smothering, and killing to gain the upper hand.

Nice.

The utter, destructive, planet-wide power of this camouflaged, invasive Lesser bindweed must have come from a curse: the Bindweed Curse, I’m guessing. (Do you have a better answer?)

Allow me drop into fantasy for just a moment: I’m imagining the hypnotic, powerful & frightening voice of the wizard, Gandalf the Grey (the beloved Ian McKellan – you did see him in Mr. Holmes?!), darkly and invisibly intoning a curse uncovered, placed secretly over the world – and my little patch of garden – centuries ago. (Please do not utter out loud, ever Ash nazg thrakatulûk   Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. …One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind[weed] them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.) [18]

Now, it did not escape my attention when I first read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring when I was 12, that it was a gardener whom Frodo Baggins chose to go with him on his perilous journey to Mordor. Whom else? I’ll bet Master Samwise and his old Gaffer were old hands at dealing with the likes of Lesser bindweed in their Hobbiton garden!

INVASIVES (IN THE LAND OF MORDOR WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE)

          Well – here comes the gardening metaphor, you knew it was coming (thank you Dad) – there is a pattern of invasives emerging at our food co-op you cannot help but notice, once you pay close attention. There is camouflage: people, circumstances, events appear one way when they are, in fact, another. The invasive roots keep re-invigorating, popping up where you don’t expect them and where they do great damage.

Turn your back, and they’re back.

So, to fellow gardeners at HWFC – and there are a lot of us!: Notice. Be aware. Tease out patterns. Note anomalous behavior. Learn to recognize camouflage for what it is and seek what’s behind the camouflage. Observe repeated, destructive patterns. See when something just doesn’t fit …or when it fits like a glove.

For example, are you aware of the pattern of notable disruptions, which seem to keep happening, over and over and over again, keeping our co-op in a constant state of agitation and divisiveness?

Not hard to spot …once you start paying attention.

The fact of the matter is, we at HWFC, have a former Board which spent – very recently – $500,000 (!) to end Member-Owner control & ownership of our co-operative corporation. They invested this half-million dollars (our dollars!) – behind our backs, camouflaged by national .coop consultants, a local consultant, two law firms, and a Strategic PR  firm, in an attempt to re-structure our co-operative corporation.

The Bylaws Task Force (with its Bylaws Research Team advised by CDS Consulting Co-op who were also members of the Bylaws Task Force) and the Strategic Planning process – both appear now, in hindsight, to have been camouflaged operations of this former Board with a true motive of manipulating us and securing our buy-in so that we would, willingly & unwittingly, let go of our own corporate control and ownership.

A bloodless coup attempt.

An Organizational Change Agent was employed to shepherd the Strategic Planning process and, likely, “smooth ruffled feathers” should any co-operative corporation owners start seeing through the camouflage and ask uncomfortable questions (“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain![19]). This Organizational Change Agent could help create the bridge between the old corporate order…

…and the new one.

This amount of  planning and money being invested was not just a lark. They meant business.

And remember, we were never supposed to find out about these plans and the $500,000 utilized to implement them. It was just supposed to go down. We did find out because a bunch of us are “eternally vigilant” …and we saw through the camouflage of the invasives.

However, the influence of that $500,000 didn’t just end & disappear when two (former) Board members did not stay Board members on November 30, 2015, or when four (former) Board members resigned on January 5, 2016, when two (former) top Managers resigned (and one did not), or when a brand new Board of nine got reconfigured on April 17, 2016.

A half-million dollars – and all it purchased, both locally, as well as nationally, especially nationally – can leave behind a lot of roots, both tap & lateral roots, which then need some camouflaging…

…which will require constant uncovering if the garden is to survive.

Patience, observing patterns …and weeding out invasives with vigor, when needed, seem to fit the bill here.

We are a locally-owned food co-op tended for forty years by a bunch of – a veritable tribe! – of families down those four decades: a beloved, thriving, local community-owned food co-op. We have a long and strong history of families supporting other families, producing, buying, sharing and eating fresh, high quality, local, organic, real food, and working co-operatively and together.

Our food co-operative is a community institution …as are all the locally-owned food co-ops across the United States, started by families, farmers, grandparents, hippies, and economically-smart, ecologically-smart, community-minded people. We are part of the long and honorable history of American co-operatives (and farm granges, 4-H clubs, and the like) which have blessed & economically supported local groups of U.S. families since at least the 18th century. (And, as my study of history assures me, groups of families must have certainly been behaving co-operatively together for many, many more centuries before this, especially around the issue of food.)

It does so figure that Benjamin Franklin is credited with starting the first American co-operative in 1752 …a mutual fire insurance company which is still in operation! [20]

That this institution – locally-owned & operated American food co-operatives – is under attack is clear.

We owe it to all those HWFC families, to the institution of American co-operatives – and to ourselves – to continue to defend our independently-owned, locally-owned and operated food co-operative. Watch-dogging of our borders (“eternal vigilance“) is still very much needed.

LESSER BINDWEED, THE POSSESSION WEED

          Most of us – I would say the great, large majority of us! – seek to create and maintain the beauty, the charm & delight, the stability & function and the co-dependence of things at our well-ordered food co-op: that is, we are striving for balance in our “co-op garden.”

Many, most of us at Honest Weight are gardeners of one sort or another: and gardeners are good folk.

However, it does appear that there is a camouflaged invasive doing its level best to gain ground. That’s what invasives do.

We do appear to have a bad case of Lesser bindweed, the Possession weed, going on.

With yearly sales of $24 million – one of the top-producing food co-ops in the entire United States – invasives, from a gardener’s perspective, cannot, I suppose, be avoided.

Like slugs and weeds, they need to be managed.

Eternal vigilance  – and weeding – truly are the tickets called for.

~~~~~

[1] See the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. and Suzy Platt, ed., Respectfully Quoted, p. 200, #1054.

[2] See the website of the Weed Science Society of America, here. Quote from:
Darlington, W. 1859. American Weeds and Useful Plants. Orange Judd & Company, New York.

[3] Every gardener I know has a long must-get list of garden books. Mine includes: the 2010 Gardens of the Hudson Valley by Susan Daly; Jane Garmey’s 2013 Private Gardens of the Hudson Valley; the 2010 Landscape Gardens on the Hudson by Robert M. Toole; the New York Historical Society’s 2009 The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision and the brand new 2014 Historic Houses of the Hudson River Valley by Gregory Long. I can usually score affordable copies at Biblio or E-Bay.

[4] Warner, Charles Dudley. My Summer in a Garden. New York: The Modern Library, 2002. Page 5. (Originally published in 1870) Print.

[5] Ibid, [p xi].

Take a day trip! Go visit the Mark Twain House & Museum, in Hartford, CT.

[6] De La Mare, A. T. ed. Garden Guide  The Amateur Gardeners’ Handbook. New York: A. T. De La Mare Company, Inc., 1926. Page 8. Print.

[7] Lennon, John and McCartney, Paul. “Do You Want to Know a Secret” from Please Please Me. Perf. The Beatles. Parlophone, 1963. LP.

[8] Lennon, John and McCartney, Paul. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from The Beatles (also called the White Album). Perf. The Beatles. EMI Studios, 1968. LP.

[9] Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2. Print.

[10] See the website of the Weed Science Society of America, here. Quote from:
Simpson, J. A., and E.S.C. Weiner. 1989. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

[11] See the website of the Weed Science Society of America, here.

[12] Read the chapter about Bindweed Common, from the 1710 Botanologia  The English Herbal: or History of Plants written by William Salmon, M.D. The chapter was proofread by Nick Jones and this electronic version of the translation appears on the website of Helsinki, Finland herbalist Henriette Kress. Thank you Ms. Kress for providing access to this wonderful 18th c. herbal! See the story about this online reference here.

See also this electronic copy of the book itself at the Internet Archive: here. Awesome! You can read this 1710 book and even more herballs from the 17th and 18th centuries! Please consider donating to the 501 (c) (3) Internet Archive, here. Brewster Kahle is the Founder & Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. You gotta just love librarians!

 [13] You simply must study the delightful cover of this late 16th c. book!

The complete dedication continues: Mafter of the Court of wardes and Liueries, Chancellor of the Uniuerfitie of Cambridge, Knight of the Most noble order of the Garter, one of the Lords of hir Maiesties most honorable priuie Counfell, and Lord High Treafurer of England [NB: Working on this citation.]

[14] (NB: Working on this citation, as well.)

[15] See IDAO, “an open source plants identification software selected to be a part of the global PlantNet project,” here, and its page about C. arvensis here. What a fantastic tool!

[16] See the website of the Weed Science Society of America, here.

[17] Please also see endnote #11. The 1710 Botanologia, or The English Herbal written by William Salmon, M.D. makes a distinction between the Common Greater Bindweed and the Lesser Blew Bind-weed: “The Lesser is like the Greater in most respects, except the Magnitude.”

[18] Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966. Page 60. Print.

[19] LeRoy, Mervyn, & Fleming, Victor. 1939. The Wizard of Oz. USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Also see IMBD for movie quotes, here.

[20] See the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Co-operatives website, here.

© Laura Hagen

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8 thoughts on “GRASSROOTS ACTION and Invasives ARE POWERFUL!

  1. Susan Longtin

    Yes, and I am a gardener, too, with bindweed! Sigh. It’s everywhere in my neighborhood. Laura, you have a gift for words. Thank you. See everybody at the board meeting tonight.

    Like

  2. You are amazing! I knew where you were going, but breathlessly I continued reading …wondering how you would describe the HWFC invaders. Brilliant. You must have spent a lot of hours on this masterpiece! The HWFC is so lucky to have you.

    Like

  3. Susan Longtin

    I do agree with Judith. Would somebody please post a short synopsis of the board meeting last night? I was so tired, I left early. See you membership folks on Monday!

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  4. kelsong2012

    Ooh, Laura, you captivated me in this piece from the first paragraph: “Think about it, anything that happens to you in life …is also happening in a garden.” Such gorgeous narrative defies my imagined angst that defines your motivation to share this awakening with those of us gardeners who may not be so politically involved in the inner workings of our beloved co-op. The metaphor so vividly captures the essence of your underlying message captured, too, in a phrase borrowed from the Sierra Club: “The price of wilderness is the eternal vigilance of people who love it” if only we substitute “our co-op garden” for the word wilderness. I will copy and savor the contents of this beautiful piece for a long time to come. Thank you. Susan Fiehl

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  5. Laura

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for your very kind words! I use metaphor in my recorder & music teaching all the time. Almost effortlessly we absorb new concepts!

    You must be a Member-Owner or shareholder? Someone who loves HWFC, clearly. The next board meeting is May 17, 2016 at 5:45 pm at the co-op. Consider coming and please introduce yourself. Committee work is fun & important too, as is a monthly shift in the store. We truly need “all hands on deck” and you always meet great people!

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  6. Susan Longtin

    Speaking of bind weed, there’s some growing on the Watervleit side of the Co-op near the bus shelter. I have plenty in my garden at home, though I haven’t seen any recently. I also have something called “buckthorn” which is an invasive tree or shrub. I doesn’t kill anything like bindweed but it steals the nutrients from the soil. I’ve tried so hard to get rid of it and it just keeps coming back!

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  7. Laura

    Susan,
    Oh no!!! NOT BINDWEED! Soon we won’t be able to see the bus shelter! Maybe we should have a lesser bindweed weeding day at the co-op!

    Oh, buckthorn, another invasive! Good luck on that one!

    Like

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