Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Weed by Any Other Name is Still A Weed

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a bumper crop of weeds this year.  My weed control efforts now consist primarily of pulling those intruders out and keeping my good plants heavily mulched.

When I first moved to my home, though, I inherited large areas of bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria).  Yes, I know they sell it in garden centers and that it can be useful in controlled settings but in my back yard, it was a weed.

So I tried spraying the heck out of it with glyphosate (AKA Roundup) but couldn’t get rid of it.  Then I read about weed suffocation in a magazine and decided to give it a shot.  The next fall, I mowed the plants down as low as I could, removed the cuttings and covered the area with 6 layers of newspaper.  Then I placed bricks all along the outer edges of the newspapered area to keep sunlight from sneaking in.  (If you wanted, you could cover the edges with soil instead.)  Finally, I covered the newspapers with a one-inch layer of topsoil and, over the winter, threw vegetable scraps and other compostable items on the topsoil.  By spring, the earth worms and other elements had done their jobs so I had a nice fertile planting bed free of bishop’s weed.

If you want to control large areas of weeds this summer, you might consider solarization, which works well in hot weather.  In a nutshell, solarizing means watering the weeds thoroughly, covering them with clear plastic and letting the sun steam them to death.  Be sure to remove as many seed heads as possible before doing this.  You can find more details about solarization in Colorado State University Extension’s Fact Sheet 0.505, Soil Solarization, at

Besides being effective in many situations, pulling, mulching, suffocation and solarization stand among the most environmentally responsible ways to control weeds.

Weeds - July 2012

These two young weeds met an untimely death when they were yanked mercilessly from the soil.


Filed under Garden Maintenance

Bring Backlighting to Forefront In Garden

Allium 'Globemaster'

Globemaster Allium. Sunlight streams through the translucent head of this dramatic bulb. Plant it in the fall for May/June bloom in Denver.

Is your garden ho-hum?  Do people yawn as they walk by?

Then maybe it’s time to add a little drama.  There are many ways to do this.  For example, you can add plants with arresting shapes and colors, create movement, frame a view, display garden art, install well-placed lights or take advantage of backlighting.

Let’s explore backlighting today.  I’ll discuss other approaches later.

If your garden faces east or west, you have concentrated sunlight in the morning or late afternoon to backlight your landscape.  Now all you have to do is take advantage of it.  How?  By installing translucent or glossy plants so light can shine through them or make them sparkle.

Purple smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ or C. ‘Velvet Cloak’), with its semi-opaque spoon-shaped leaves, glows in the sunlight.  So do ornamental onions, especially Allium ‘Globemaster’ with its massive drumstick-shaped heads.  Then there are ornamental grasses, such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and giant sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii), with their narrow leaves and often eye-catching plumes.

For sparkle, you can add a glossy-leaved plant such as hawthorn (Crataegus).  I planted a drought-resistant thornless cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis) at the end of a grassy expanse in my east-facing back yard.  Every morning, that baby just lights up and steals the show.

Other glossy-leaved plants you might consider are Frau Dagmar Hastrup rose (Rosa rugosa ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’) with its delicate mauve-ish blooms, Prague viburnum (Viburnum x pragense), Manhattan euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus) and Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium).  Hollies in the genus Ilex also have glossy leaves but can be difficult to grow in Colorado.

By planting strategically to use backlighting, you can turn those yawns of passers-by into gasps of delight.

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Filed under Landscape Design