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Old 23-02-2005, 01:47 PM
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In article , Jim Lesurf [email protected] writes
In article , Kay

When I first started trying to dig the surface there seemed to be a really
thick 'mat' of entwined roots that was about 2-3 inches thick. Could at
times peel this back, but in many areas it was well rooted into the soil
under it. At one point I was cutting it out in 'carpet squares' and
riddling some soil from it before discarding the roots into a bin.

That's about right. Then fork about 6 inches under the 'mat' and get the
fatter roots out. You end up with a lot of very nicely broken up soil

A friend advised that if I accidentally spray a leaf on a wanted plant to
either simply pull off the leaf,

yes if you do it immediately before the stuff has time to work through.

or to rub it with soil.

That's because glyphosate becomes inactive on contact with soil - so it
says on the packet. I don't know the mechanism. Does rubbing a leaf with
soil actually work?

However I assume that a snag with ground elder is that one or two leaves
may be attached to quite an extended root system, and so digging up a small
'weed' may leave the roots behind over a wider area.

Yes to an extent, but once you're in the scenario of having a few 'small
weeds' to dig, it's easy enough to track back the roots. And remember
that there's a limit to the length of time it can go on regenerating
itself from its stored food supplies in the root without getting some
photosynthesis going - if you keep digging up the few remaining bits,
eventually any roots left won't have the energy to put up new shoots.

You do know that there is a variegated form of ground elder which is
sold by garden centres as a garden plant? ;-)

Ivy? :-)

No. Ground elder. Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegetum'. see, for example,

The bluebells were (mostly) in the garden when we bought the house. Hence I
don't know anything about them apart from seeing them come up each year.
That said, since my wife like bluebells I bought some 'english' ones last
year and planted them, so will also look to see if these seem the same when
they flower.

English - darker blue, flower a narrow tubular bell, stem slightly
floppy at top, flowers tend to be all on one side, flowers scented
Spanish - lighter blue, flower a more open flaring bell, stem sturdy and
erect, flowers all around, not scented.
The two readily hybridise.

I can appreciate the value of the systematic names as I have a background
in science - alas nothing to do with biology, botany, or gardening, though.
Hence I've never learned any of the names, or their meanings or information
content. I hope to pick up the 'language' in due course, but the snag is
the obvious one. The sheer range of plants and the complexities of all the

Take it gently, but get into the habit at the start. Try to remember the
latin in preference to the english, and make a point of finding out
which family the flower is in. So your bluebell is in the lily family,
along with the lilies (obviously), all the onions, the daffodils, and
some oddities like butcher's broom and asparagus. Start looking at the
flowers and you'll see that they seem to have 6 petals (whereas 5 petals
seem generally more common amongst flowers) - actually it's 3 sepals and
3 petals, but the sepals and petals are the same colour.

Whereas if the individual flowers have 4 petals in a cross shape, it's a
fair bet that it's a member of the cabbage family Cruciferae (which
includes wallflowers (Cheiranthus) and candytuft (Iberis)

And the carrot family (Umbelliferae) has lots of tiny flowers in a sort
of 'umbrella' shape. Ground elder is an umbellifer ;-)

Worth finding out, since they are clearly the things that enjoy your
conditions, and you may find they have relatives that you like which
would also grow well.

At present I am suffering from the 'dictionary problem'. How to check the
spelling of a word by looking it up when you don't know how to spell it.

Try asking here. We're quite good at guessing what a misspelt flower
name might really be ;-)

In this case, how to determine what a given flower/plant may be when you
don't know anything about how they are systematically organised and named
and by what detailed charateristics. I understand the process in principle,
but have almost no idea of the details. :-)

It's especially difficult with garden plants as the books classify them
by everything under the sun! Look out for books by Martyn Rix and Roger
Phillips - not only do they have superb photos, but the do have a
tendency to cluster together at least a few plants in the same genus.

meanwhile, by a wildflower book to identify your weeds. Get one which is
ordered systematically and not, eg, by colour of flower - I'd recommend
the Collins guide by Fitter, Fitter and Blamey. That will start giving
you an understanding of family relationships, which you can then read
over into garden plants (many of which are non-british species of
families which have representatives in the UK, or varieties of UK

I am currently approaching this in various ways. Buying some magazines and
books and reading them, etc. However one of my plans at present is to ask
on u.r.g. I am hoping that I can take a photo when baffled, put it on a
webpage, then ask people here if they'd mind having a look and letting me
know what I have photographed.

Yes - lots of people do that. I don't know about others, but I enjoy the
puzzle aspect of trying to identify. I'm OK on wild flowers, others here
are much better than me on the garden ones.

That's a great attitude - trying something and watching the results is a
good way to learn.

Yes. I've always found books, etc, useful. But I have also generally found
'try experimenting yourself' and 'ask someone who knows from their own
experience ' work particularly well. My experience of books is that they
often contain mistakes, or things that aren't relevant in a specific case,
or which are not clearly explained. Dealing with this requires the
'interaction' and the experience. I have always learned more from trying
things and discussing them than from books.

Discussion also helps you to understand the rationale behind the advice.
I find understanding general principles rather than just knowing a lot
of specific cases is much less of a burden on the memory, and it enables
you to extrapolate to new situations.

Try Chiltern seeds. a) they have a very wide range of seeds many of
which are difficult to obtain elsewhere b) they use the latin names, and
tell you the family as well, and there's nothing like having to use the
latin to help you in remembering it. No pictures in the catalogue, so
it's useful to have something like Thompson and Morgan to read
"Do not insult the crocodile until you have crossed the river"