The Flora of Virginia calls it "a rapidly spreading and potentially invasive Asian exotic". This is Youngia japonica, or Oriental False Hawksbeard. I have found it now on four trails, three all-purpose and one mountain bike, as well as in one off-trail spot, so it is no longer just "potentially" invasive. And it does spread quickly once established. To control it without herbicide (and avoid killing desirable vegetation), each plant must be uprooted with a weeding tool, before it blooms and makes more seed. At this point, with just five patches, I hope to get it out of the park, at least for a while.
Last year's plants and this year's seedlings start growing on warm days in the winter. The photo shows plants from last year developing rosettes of leaves. Flowers will develop in early spring.
The weather has been on the warm side lately, with a record high of 74 yesterday. The winter weeds are responding to the stronger sun and warmth: dandelions, common chickweed and hairy bittercress are blooming. At the District Office, I spent about an hour micro-weeding, mostly small vetches. The ground is moist but not soggy, and most perennials are still dormant, so it's a good time to transplant. I brought a clump of Blue Wild Indigo from home and spent another hour adding it to the Heritage Center garden. It probably won't grow enough this year, but by next year my hope is that it will provide some shade for the Wild Ginger on either side of it, which is in a too-sunny location at the east end of the building.
Weed control: dig out? spray? smother? Sometimes smothering with mulch makes the most sense. Some of the winter weeds in the Park Office landscaping can't be dug out without damaging the perennial crowns Here again, as in the Rain Garden, shredded leaf mulch seems to be the best choice. It settles down densely enough on top of dormant perennial forbs (wildflowers) to smother the weeds, but doesn't lift and fly away when the wind blows. Here at the Park Office, it may even be feasible to use shredded leaf mulch all year instead of the more expensive shredded wood mulch. The shredded leaf mulch is free while it lasts, so I'll be spreading more of it here in the near future.
I dug out a few weeds and did general tidying up at the Native Plant Garden this week, and for a change there's nothing more to be done there for the time being. Likewise at the CCC Museum. On the other hand, the CCC Field and Aquatic Center beds need attention in the form of weeding and/or mulching. A life coach, on hearing that my only hobby was gardening, advised me to find an additional interest because gardening was a seasonal activity. Not!
The photograph below of a site in the park shows how nature uses mulch to manage "weeds" in a forest after abandonment of a large man-made pit.
I was dismayed this week by how much bittercress (photo below) is returning to the Native Plant Garden. It's hard to believe that so much seed is in the ground from prior years, nor can I conceive that we let so many plants go to seed last year. Well, it is what it is. I've weeded out all the plants that are large enough to get hold of, unless some are hiding in the tall grass. And I've added some mulch where they are just too thick to weed out. Fortunately, I had a fine, warm day to get my fingers dirty. More weeding will be needed in January but the weather may not be so accomodating.
Small weeds and grasses are still a problem in the Rain Garden, so I mulched that bed, where leaf mulch hadn't already collected, with chopped leaf mulch donated by a neighbor's lawn service.. When the perennials begin to sprout in March, all the leaf mulch will need to be cleared away. Hopefully, the mulch will have smothered the unwanted weeds by then.
To fill out my afternoon, I finished dormant season clearing of the Powhattan Dining Hall garden. There were just a few weeds in that bed. The wood mulch covering the landscaping fabric that was used there is getting thin in spots, so I added a couple of bucketsfull. With landscape fabric, there isn't much choice but to continue adding wood mulch as needed, since the fabric prohibits the use of a living ground cover.
Thoughts on the park, its residents and how to preserve its natural beauty.