Yesterday, I shopped at an old, well known, nearly historic nursery and greenhouse business here in town. I needed (well, maybe that should be “wanted”) thirty pink hardy begonias, Begonia grandis, to plant atop the Queen of Sheba tulips. (More about that idea another time.)
There were not many clerks and having difficulty finding the begonia section, I walked through a few greenhouses.
Finally, I saw two young women sitting on the floor chatting as they cut back plants that I did not pay any notice to, but I did notice they talked and their busy hands moved gracefully in what seemed to be a very slow rhythm as they talked.
I asked where I could find the hardy begonias and one gave me good directions. As I found my way through I became upset as I noticed one of my old nemeses, garlic mustard. It was everywhere!
I was unable to overlook one fully mature and healthy looking plant in full regalia of seedpods about to open. I pulled it and returned to the two young women who were chatting on the floor with syncopated, slow motion hands.
I said, “This needs to go to the landfill! It is going to seed!” They seemed uninterested and hardly glanced my way. When they saw I was not going away, one said, “What is that?” Just as the other said casually, “Oh yeah, we have lots of that. Just put it here.”, motioning to the floor beside her. And indeed they do; it is growing all about in the greenhouses: six plus one double greenhouses! Maybe not in all the greenhouses, but in and nearby to the ones I walked through. Needless to say, I will not be buying any more plants there. Garlic mustard is an insidious, noxious, pernicious weed! I have battled it since 1989.
It is a horribly invasive plant. Always some unseen, hidden plants escape detection and manage to sneakily go to seed, usually hidden under a shrub. That means another five years I have to battle it for the seeds are viable for that length of time.
The biennial plants are pretty little things and they sport clusters of tiny white flowers their second year. Those are not innocent tiny little flowers in the clusters. Each flower makes 200 seeds and, as I wrote, the seeds are viable for five years as they lie there in the duff and leaf mold. I pull and dig sheets of it, and it comes on and on.
I have read that it is a potherb brought over by the settlers. A possibly useful plant that escaped (no wonder it escaped, there is no controlling it!) and now it is on the invasive plant list of several states in the U.S.A. I do not know if that story is true. I have never cooked it, but I will say the young plants pulled in late winter have a aroma just like its name, that of mustard greens with a touch of garlic. I even nibbled on one out there once; I’m still here to tell about it. I will not cook and eat it on hearsay, but if any reader has ever made use of the plant for the table, I would be very interested in hearing from you. Maybe I’m wasting a serviceable plant. Am I?
I hope you never see it enter your garden. It is up and down all our local roads. Two of my college age helpers told me they saw areas in some of our state parks (where people hike) that were solid with it. They should know, they have dug and bagged enough to cause them to see it when they close their eyes at night, and maybe have nightmares about it, too.
A few years ago three of my helpers were roommates and had to dig LOTS of the stuff. They worked here through the summer until the fall semester began, so I haven’t seen them any more. Then came Christmas. Among all the mail the postal carrier brought was one envelope addressed to me; the return address said it was from “The Three Wisemen”. I thought: “Who in the world!” When I opened it, I laughed out loud; it was from the three friends and each wrote a short note and signed the card. One of them wrote, “Don’t let the garlic mustard get you!”
If you are interested or just curious about it, here is an excellent article about garlic mustard with good photos.
The best I have seen.Click Here
The peonies are beginning to bloom.