I’ve spotted some ground elder in the garden. I thought I have removed it all when we put the polytunnel up but it looks like I missed a few roots and there’s now quite a row of it along the back plastic of the tunnel. I should go around there more often but I tend to just let the area do its own thing to attract wildlife. I might need to be a bit more vigilant in future.
Ground elder(Aegopodium podagraria) goes under a few names, gout weed, bishop weed and jump-about are all good names (it’s used as a remedy for gout and sciatica) and the ‘jump about’ one fits when you see where it’s popped up in my garden. It’s an herbaceous, invasive, perennial weed. It spreads via rhizomes (underground stems), which can regenerate from a just a tiny fragment left in the ground, which is what I must have left four years ago.
Ground Elder Habits
Spreading by rhizomes, ground elder can easily creep in from a neighbouring garden or nearby wasteland. It can also be unknowingly introduced with new plants if pieces of its fleshy, white rhizome are hidden within the compost of the rootball or are tucked away among the roots of the plant.
As its rhizomes are close to the surface of the soil, it is possible to reduce infestations of ground elder by removing it carefully with a garden fork or trowel. However, eradicating it completely needs vigilance as the smallest portion of root left in the soil will result in a new plant growing.
- Tackling large infestations of ground elder in a well-planted bed can be difficult. To get rid of it completely requires time and patience. Here are some non-chemical approaches:
- Lift cultivated plants and carefully remove and destroy any pieces of ground elder rhizome from around their roots.
- After you are sure it has all been removed, replant your garden plants in clean soil or pots.
- The ground elder can now be evicted by digging, or by covering the ground with black polythene to starve the weed of light. It may take several seasons until the ground elder is completely destroyed. I have found this method to be the least effective as it can grow through a hole the size of a pinhead in the plastic.
- In new lawns, ground elder will usually be starved by repeated mowing, and shouldn’t persist for long.
We’ve a few very attractive small fuchsias growing in pots. Some survived the winter as we really didn’t get any frost and some we bought as annual bedding plants. They aren’t the hardy red types, but all come from the same family.
A Bit of History
The first fuchsia was bought to our attention by Fr Charles Plumier, a French Catholic priest and botanist who came across the plant that is now classified as Fuchsia triphylla while on a plant-hunting expedition in the Dominican Republic in 1695.
He named it in honour of the 16th-century German doctor and herbalist, Leonhart Fuchs. Plumier's samples were lost in a shipwreck, but he published drawings of them in 1703. Most of the plants originate from natives of Central and South America - occurring in the interior of forests or in damp and shady mountainous situations, so they are ideal for our climate. Fuchsias have two natural homes, in Latin America, which is home to 120 or so species, and New Zealand, which has just four.
The first species of fuchsia cultivated in England, where it was long confined to the greenhouse, was brought from South America by Captain Firth in 1788 and placed in Kew Gardens.
The red flowered hedgerow plant lines many of our roadways. A popular variation and more commonly told story is about a sailor who sailor brought the flower from South America in the late 18th century as a present for his wife. James Lee, a nurseryman, saw it in the couples’ window and persuaded the sailor’s wife to part with it. From this plant he raised 300 cuttings, which he sold at a guinea each in 1823 which would be €116 euro each in today’s money, a bit more than the 6 for €3 now. I think the plant is often called the Sailors Slip, or I might just be making that up! So like most weeks, don’t believe everything you read.
Other plants-people set to work. By 1842 the first white fuchsia had been raised and the first tricolour appeared in 1872. Since then many varied types have appeared practically every year. The numerous hybrid forms now existing are the result chiefly of the intercrossing of that or other long-flowered with globose flowered plants. You might even have a unique variety in your own garden.