Wednesday, July 23, 2014 • 7:05 AM Post a Comment

On the borderline

posted by Caleb Rounds

We’ve been hearing a lot about the border recently. Not my indigent boarders, our southern border. One of our major political parties seems to think that an influx of frightened children means we should build a bigger wall.

The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is sending National Guard troops down to the border. I’m not sure what they’re supposed to do about the children (scare them some more?), but he is, apparently, billing the federal government for this action. Yes, that’s stupid. But he is now wearing glasses, so you know he’s a smarty-pants and should be president (will we really fall for that?).

Borders in gardens are a bit different from national borders. In the garden I have few qualms saying that there are some species I don’t want. Sometimes the solution is to build a bigger fence. When I had a persistent ground hog invasion I built a bigger fence and dug it down around the perimeter. Perhaps I should have also donned a pair of glasses.

Fences can be good for varmints, but for plants it’s necessary to use lower barriers. Last fall I spread a tremendous amount of wood chips around one side of my house with the intention of creating a flower garden.

The perennials are underway, barely, but the point where woodchip/lawn interface was blurry. It wasn’t really a border anymore. Woodchips got kicked into the lawn by running children (children not respecting borders). But most importantly the plants did not respect my authority! I declared a border damn-it and they should stay on their side. Look at the glasses!

Most persistent of the scoff-laws was ground-ivy, or gill-over-the ground. Linnaeus himself gave it its botanical name: Glechoma hederacea. It’s not surprising he did as it was a pretty common plant in Europe and was brought to this country intentionally for use as a medicine and as a clarifying agent in beer making.

Ground-ivy, like many medicinal plants is recommended for all manner of complaints it’s: a diuretic, a gentle stimulant, a cough suppressant, and a tinnitus cure. It even helps shy people the strength to get up and do what needs to be done. It’s also good for headaches. For this last cure, one doesn’t eat it but stuffs it up the nose “when all else has failed.” I guess if 800 mg of ibuprofen failed me I might stuff some weeds up my nose, but I’d probably go to the doctor first. A word of caution: my chickens won’t eat it and it’s toxic to horses and cattle. So don’t use it to cure shy cows.

I really don’t mind the ground-ivy in the yard, it attracts pollinators, smells kind of nice and doesn’t get too tall. Of course it’s not such a great ground cover in early spring so it can lead to mud, but it’s better than plantain. I’ve come to accept it, along with clover as a “companion” for my grass.

But it is not welcome in the garden beds, hence the brick border that will keep bad plants out. It won’t be perfect (there are plenty of holes and it’s not very high), but I can easily run the weed wacker along one side. Without this border I don’t think my garden bed would last, it would just become a planting of gill-over the ground. I hope it knows I’m wearing glasses – I’m serious now.

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