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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Garlic Mustard

(Original post date: Sunday, May 27, 2007)

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.


Anna said...

I don't want any thank you. I'm glad you warned me about it. I do however recognize the two workers at the nursery. I'm working with them at least three days a week for the next two weeks till my job ends. They are suppose to be watering the plants. They have the same attitude there too. They are letting the plants die of course. And those two have also let other mysterous things happen no one can explain. I'll be glad to be done with them. I think that they work at quite a few places. They don't weed, they don't water, they don't know anything about plants, they ignore customers, etc....

Daphne said...

I love your peonies. Mine are in bud right now. I keep waiting for them to bloom.

Anna said...

Thank you Barbee! I guess you guessed that my boss sometimes reads over there;)( at my blog) You are the most intuitive person I know--hugs!!!

Carol said...

I've been reading more about garlic mustard this spring and confess that I didn't know what it looked like. I saw some pictures and thought how nice I've yet to see it in my garden.

Until yesterday. I found one plant, in my vegetable garden. I immediately removed it and threw it in the trash. I hope that was the only one, but I doubt it. I'll have to be watchful now.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

IBOY said...

That's terrible about the GM; gardener's are going to have it spread to their gardens (just walking on the seeds on the ground will do it). I can't believe a public nursery would allow that to happen. I wouldn't set foot in the place!


Esther Montgomery said...

The Romans introduced Ground Elder to Britain. (For salads?)

They don't get much thanks. It too is virtually impossible to get rid of.


Barbee' said...

daphne, I will be posting more photos of the peonies. Not sure when, because everything is happening at once here and I'm in a tailspin.

Carol, something just told me to post that article even though I wasn't sure if I should. If it saves even one garden and gardener, it was worth it. Happy that you came by here and got the information. That link has good photos, I think.

Don, those were my thoughts exactly!

Esther, I had never heard of Ground Elder so I Googled it. Doesn't look very appetizing to me for salad, but foot soldiers would get very hungry, and maybe it has some good vitamins in it.

If anyone else wants to see photos of it (and those scary roots) here is a link:

Barbee' said...

I should have added: You will need to scroll down the page to find that specific weed. They show good photos.

Laura said...

Gack! You want to bring home plants from the nursury, not weeds! Your Peonies are gorgeous!

megan said...

The peonies are lovely, especially the single white one. Thank god I don't have garlic mustard, but I have many more invasives in my yard, so I know how terrible it can be.

Barbee' said...

Hi Laura and Megan, thanks for visiting and leaving comments.

Did you notice in that photo of the single white peony it looks as if there is an eye in the center?! Appears to be an eye looking at me. Strange. Don't know how that happened.

Amy said...

Lovely peonies!

I hadn't heard of garlic mustard before. Sounds like one nasty little plant!

HappyMouffetard said...

The peonies are beautiful, Barbee. I have two well established ones, which I inherited with the garden, and have just planted another. Such ephemeral beauty in the flowers. Thank you for visiting my blog.

We don't have garlic mustard, but we do have the ground elder that Esther mentioned on our allotment

Piondröm said...

Very nice pictures on your peonys.
We just love peonys,our hav not start to bloom yet.
Here in Sweden we have over 100diferent peonys in our garden, some of them we bought from USA.
Have a nice weeend Ken

Barbee' said...

Happy Mouffetard: Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed the peony photos. Peonies are some of my favorites. Be sure to read Piondrom's comment. WOW!

Piondrom: I gasped when I read that you have over 100 peonies. What a wonderful thing. Your garden must be like heaven.

Melanie said...

Barbee, we have garlic mustard here too and luckily it hasn't really caught hold in my garden.

Hermes said...

Garlic Mustard is a real nuisance here in the UK as well. We ought to try and find a good use for it - perhaps it can be used as a substitute for petrol (gas)! I love the Peonies, my own personal favourite is Bowl of Beauty.

ericat said...

Interesting about the garlic mustard. Thank you for the link to read more. I thought we would have them in South Africa. They brought the snails, why would they not bring the garlic as well. ;-D True! We have that weed. No one seems to take notice of it. No way it will survive the dry summers over here. They will do well in the rest of the country.
I went to your website. It is very well done.
We are also elderly. I enjoy breeding pedigree cats, Rudi is in the garden. Movement (work) is what keeps us young.
Wishing you health for quite a few decades more.

Barbee' said...

Amy: The peonies smell so good; the garlic mustard smells, too, but not so good unless one is hungry - it does smell of garlic.

Melanie: you must be up-wind of the garlic mustard, just kidding; I don't know if the wind spreads it, but something surly does. I read that the settlers brought it with them from their home countries to use as a food source, so I'm sure it is all over where they came from. They probably knew it was a sure thing, easy to grow so they wouldn't go hungry. It probably has worthwhile vitamins, too. Some day, I am going to test eating some, but right now, I'm too busy pulling and digging hundreds of plants that are about to drop seeds.

Hermes: :) Wouldn't that be wonderful if we could convert it to fuel! I would have my own personal supply! I was not familiar with your favorite peony, Bowl of Beauty, so I Googled it to take a look.

If anyone else would like to see it here is a photo

ericat: Thank you for your kind words. I did visit your web sites and enjoyed all of these: Feline Talk, Happening once a century, the aloes and wonderful photography, hoodia sounds interesting (by the way your link "my share of the garden click here" did not work - it is a Not Found 404 error, and I am fascinated with the silk worms and silk hearts. Interesting life that you live. The bullterriers, cats and kittens are precious. I had never heard of the American Curl breed. Thank you for showing photos.

Balisha said...

I have garlic mustard too. We battle it in our little woods. When I started clearing things back there...it was everywhere. We just try the best we can to get rid of it. My husband used the weed wacker on the hillside behind the woods and we smelled garlic for days. It is all over our area, so we aren't the only ones. A neighbor put down a barrier and mulched her whole woods and now there is no garlic mustard. I wouldn't do that. I'll just continue the way I am.

Barbee' said...

Balisha: Whew and Phew
Whew what a job! and
Phew what an odor. I know that fragrance very well. We have to bag ours and send it to the landfill. Sometimes the bags sit around for a few days until collection day.

I have noticed that if I cut the plant from its deep fleshy root, there is so much energy stored in it the plant comes back. So, we try to get the roots out.

When I first moved here, I tried pulling some and one broke off. A few days later I noticed a tiny ring of the little white flowers around the top of the broken off root at ground level. So, it was going to make seed in spite of me. Thereafter, I try to dig out that root.

Also, at that time, I piled up the plants into little piles to pick up when I quit working. I missed one pile and discovered a few days later that they were blooming and going to seed right where they lay. There was that much starchy energy in those mustard style roots.

I am working at it the way you are. If I put down a barrier, I would loose many desirable plants that I enjoy which seed about and come up naturally. But, I can understand how desperate your neighbor was.

I am sorry that you have it there; because I know how much more work it causes.

ladyluz said...

Thanks Barbee for the useful info on the garlic mustard. I haven't seen it here in Andalucia but there are plenty of others that have a tenacious hold.

Such lovely peonies. I have some now from the UK to plant in October and I guess patience is needed as I may not see a bloom for 2 years.

Barbee' said...

Ladyluz: Thank you. Glad you do not have garlic mustard in addition to all those other tenaciously determined bad plants. Wouldn't it be great if the desired plants would be so constant.

That is one good thing about peonies, once they get established they are there for years and years. Here's hoping you will get to enjoy your new ones for many, many years.

I can't help but wonder what color they are and if they are singles or doubles or ?

Hermes wrote that his favorite is 'Bowl of Beauty'. That was a new one on me so I Googled it to see what it looks like. Very pretty.

Kerri said...

So that's what that awful weed is. Thanks for the ID. We have far too much of it here as well. I took pictures of it the other day while I was photographing wild flowers. I'll wage war against it from now on!
Thanks for this informative post Barbee.

Barbee' said...

Kerri: You are welcome; sorry to hear it is on your property.

I have learned that some people are using the young, first year, juvenile stage raw in salads. I think I may try that as well.

Both of us being from the south, we like cooked greens. I may try doing that as well sometime. The current year's spring flush of plants has already been weeded out, so will have to wait for the next one.