We are well into June, the garden is blooming, and I have resumed my hand-to-hand combat with the Queen. What is that supposed to mean? You may ask.
Allow me to take you back to the beginning.
When we bought our house twenty-six years ago, there were no established gardens, and I was still a novice gardener. There were mature trees and bushes, an abundance of rosa multiflora (wild rose) which is an invasive dense shrub, a 90-ft weeping willow, and pachysandra, hostas, and periwinkle growing along the stone walls and near the house. There was a stream cutting across the backyard and into the woodland beyond. The property was wild, beautiful, and brimming with wildlife.
The wild roses had overtaken most of the backyard and made it difficult to reach the stream and cross to the other side. We were well aware that they offered shelter and food to many birds, but if we were to enjoy the yard, we would have to clear the space between the house and the stream.
We decided to clear enough to create space around the house and let the rest be as it were. We had a small bridge built across the stream. Creating perennial borders and a vegetable garden came next.
And then, the Queen appeared.
I don’t remember when I first noticed the flowering ground cover growing along the stone wall in the front. It flowered in mid-June. I fell in love with its flowers which looked like little white lace umbrellas on top of tall stalks.
I decided to take some of that lovely groundcover and introduce it to my perennial border along the driveway. Over the next few years, I came to know this “lovely” groundcover really well. Its common names include wild carrot, bird’s nest, bishop’s lace, and Queen Anne’s lace.
Don’t get me wrong, its flowers are beautiful and ethereal, and the pollinators love them. Its seeds have medicinal purposes, although ingesting parts of the plant can be toxic for some people and animals. But, it is also wildly invasive. It can outcompete other species “due to its faster maturation rate and size.” If I only knew then what I know now.
The invasion and its aftermath.
It was not long before I noticed the Queen Anne’s lace was aggressively taking over the garden and popping up everywhere. Its root system is tightly woven and creates a web almost impossible to remove completely. It began to suffocate everything.
Initially, I tried to maintain the garden by clearing and weeding. I soon realized that I was never going to win this uphill battle.
I have always resisted using herbicides and was not about to start. I also did not want to completely eradicate a plant on which many native species depend for food. My goal was to remedy my mistake and protect my garden without using chemicals. I started reading about it. I soon learned that if I wanted to control the Queen, I had to accept my limitations and adopt a different attitude.
On damage control and setting up boundaries.
As I mentioned in Life Lessons My Garden Taught Me, about five years ago, I started to feel the need to slow down and simplify in many areas of my life. That included the garden that had expanded way beyond what I can handle at this point in my life.
I decided to maintain the perennial borders in front of the house and around the back deck and let the rest go. I put the vegetable garden to rest. I started growing my favorite herbs on the deck instead. I dug out plants, carefully separated the Queen Anne’s lace roots from theirs, and gave them away to friends … fair warning included. Some plants went straight to the compost pile.
What remained is carefully nurtured and maintained. This year I can finally see the fruits of my labor. Yes, there is still the occasional Queen Anne’s lace popping up through the peonies, the rose bushes, and the daylilies, but I am vigilant, merciless, and quick to act.
Queen Anne’s lace can still grow and thrive by the rock walls, around some trees, and by the stream. The forget-me-nots, comfrey, and meadow rue don’t seem to mind. On the other hand, I have finally managed to establish clear boundaries in my relationship with this beautiful and invasive Queen.
What has Queen Anne’s lace taught me about boundaries and balance over the years?
I have been contemplating the lessons for a while now. Every time I work in the garden, sit on my front porch and look out, or walk around our property, I am reminded of the consequences of my decision to invite the Queen into my garden, no questions asked.
Of course, there she is, past the lawn and along the rock wall, blooming, beautiful and ethereal as ever, reminding me that she will always be there and ready to take advantage of any lapse of judgment.
In closing, here is what the Queen has taught me over the years.
- Just because something is beautiful and attractive, it doesn’t mean it’s safe or healthy for me. I don’t have to invite something that can be invasive and suffocating into my garden to live rent-free.
- Before I roll out the welcome mat, it would be wise to do some research. This way, I can make an educated decision as to what I want to invite into my space. Doing so takes less time and is a lot easier than trying to do damage control after the fact.
Note to self: Wait before opening the door wide-open to something that can take over the garden. Take the time to observe its patterns of behavior.
- Something that is part of the ecosystem and can benefit others is not necessarily beneficial for me. On the other hand, just because something is not beneficial for me, it does not mean I have to destroy it. Balance is key. My job is to develop clear rules and boundaries so that what I am trying to grow can thrive.
- If I want to contain an unwelcome invasion, I need to be vigilant, willing to act swiftly, and choose my battles mindfully.
Queen Anne’s lace has her place in nature and deserves to exist. So do the plants in my garden!
What about you?
What comes to mind as you read about my encounter with the Queen?
Is there anything in your life that has expanded and taken hold beyond your comfort level? How do you feel about it? Are you ready to make some changes?