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#BotanistLens: BMP for a sustainable landscape: cultural weed control

One of the 'Best Management Practices' (BMP's) for a sustainable landscape, whether it is fragile like a woodland garden or a steady rock garden berm, is to first apply cultural methods of weed control. Firstly, weeds are nothing more than an unwanted plant in a particular location. And as always, prevention is better than control, better be safe than sorry is very true when it comes to weed control as well. Key factors of cultural method include: replacing weeds (unwanted plants) with desirable ones- increasing plant competition; reducing irrigation needs for a habitat- self sustainable, reducing weed seed sources to avoid build up of a weed seed bank in the soil, soil health improvement, mulching, etc.

Arisaema thunbergii ssp. urashima (Jack-in the Pulipit) growing amongst Asarum (Wild ginger) clumps

Understanding what is underneath and what is above the ground is very key for plant health. And adding desirable plants alone will not solve your weed issues, but adding desirable plants that will also suite a landscape will help. For eg., Ostrich fern, wild ginger and Hellebore would make an excellent combination, for wild ginger's compact growth will cover the ground like a mat, Ostrich fern in the right location will enhance and naturalize to outcompete unwanted plants and Hellebore- an evergreen perennial will add color interest in spring.

Here is a short excerpt from our newest Ground Supervisor: Benjamin Lammers. Ben has a passion for working outdoors and with his innate understanding of habitats and, BMP's one could use to make landscapes sustainable, is refreshing and needed for handling fragile landscapes like a woodland. "It is necessary when considering a landscape design centered around conservation to use eco-conscious methods of controlling invasive species and nuisance weeds. At London Town we are aiming to increase the percentage of ground covers in our woodland garden in order to control weeds naturally. A few examples of ground covers we find effective in curtailing the spread of nuisance weeds here at London Town are Wild Ginger, Ostrich Fern, and Hellebores. All of these ground covers are very low maintenance once established.

Wild ginger is best suited for shady partially moist environments, grows in short colonies, and is extremely tough and deer resistant. Additionally, it attracts many pollinators and is a larval host for pipevine swallowtail butterflies. Ostrich Fern enjoys shade to partial sun and is able to withstand floodwater once established. Ostrich Fern canopies become so dense that they can take seemingly unmanageable moist and overgrown spaces and transform them into something much more appealing. Hellebores are another great ground cover and can provide visual interest to an area during the winter and early spring".

Conservation landscapes are necessarily invested in improving the ecology of the surrounding area first and improving visual interest and aesthetics second. The groundcovers mentioned previously are effective in reaching both goals and would make excellent additions to a public or home garden focusing on conservation."

Ecology, conservation, plant competition, soil structure and BMP's that are key to building a sustainable landscape and should all flow together cohesively. London Town Gardens offer exceptional examples of ephemeral woodland gardens and sun gardens bursting with color and nectar for the pollinators. It is key to understand what is underground while observing what is above ground. More on this in the coming weeks!

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