Everyone has their crosses to bear, even in the garden. Whether it’s deer who drop by for the buffet almost every night, soil that is better suited for making ceramic bowls than growing vegetables and flowers or the plant you thought was an excellent choice for that particular spot which has now run rampant throughout the flower beds, we all have our struggles.
My cross is Gypsophila paniculata. Most gardeners know it as Baby’s Breath. I call it the bane of my gardening existence. I also refer to it by other names under my breath, but I can’t put those words in print.
The publication “Field Guide to Noxious and other Selected Weeds in British Columbia” indicates that Baby’s Breath is a nuisance weed not regulated by the BC Weed Control Act. It notes that Baby’s Breath is an escaped ornamental originating from Eurasia. And, it tells us that one plant can produce 13,000 seeds.
I’d like to give you a few insights of my own about Gypsophila paniculata, and I feel that I’m extremely qualified to do so. We’ve been doing battle for about fifteen years at the Austin homestead. I’d like to tell you that I’m winning, but I’m not.
Our acreage (actually it’s .20 of an acre) is uniquely situated. The south end of the property affords a lake view, if you stand at the very southernmost point on the tip of your toes and crane your neck. We are at the top of a very large south-facing slope, composed entirely of sand and gravel that eventually ends below at Highway 97.
It’s the ideal breeding ground for Baby’s Breath and its 13,000 seeds.
We’re also fully exposed to the winds that roar up the south end of the valley. Do you see where this is leading to? If you look at an individual stem of Baby’s Breath, you will no doubt notice its resemblance to an umbrella. By October the plant has dried completely, the stems become brittle and break off quite easily.
What happens when the fall winds begin to blow? The stems begin to move upslope, tumbling and swooping with each gust until they reach their ultimate destination-my garden.
It must have been a calm day in April when we first inspected the house and property fifteen years ago. The Baby’s Breath was lush and full of moisture, staying in place, not on the move. We settled into our new house in June, but by October I could see the storm on the horizon.
Windy evenings that rattled our windows would be followed by the discovery in the morning of piles of broken stems in our driveway. They would fly past on either side of the house and settle on the north side of the house, much like foam and floating garbage in the eddy of a stream.
I quickly determined where the source of the Baby’s Breath was and put up a line of defence in the form of posts, fencing that I “borrowed” from the right-of-way of the KVR and three grape plants at the top of the slope. I was confident that this barricade would trap the stems behind it and keep them out of my garden.
I was wrong, and the battle has continued every fall and winter. I can easily fill up the bed of my truck with Baby’s Breath after an especially breezy day and each trip out to the garden finds me pulling embedded stems out of trees and shrubs. I’ve grudgingly dealt with thousands of stems over the years and the onslaught shows no signs of slowing down.
I guess if that’s all I’ve got to complain about then life is pretty good. I’ve got to go now, pick up my cross and start collecting. It’s been a windy night and the stems have been on the move.