My meeting with Duane!

kajaJanuary 14, 2010

I met with Duane today!!

First of all, what a fantastic guy. He's just a great, down to Earth, laid back, very knowledgeable guy. Meeting with him was a lot of fun and very rewarding.

We walked around my backyard (jungle), and he identified that I have:

- Weeping cherry tree

- Japanese maple tree

- Tea olive tree

- Magnolias

- Pecan tree (YES!!!)

- Butterfly bushes

- Azaleas

- Spiria (sp?)

- Eleagnus (sp?)

- Hydrengas

- Crape Myrtles

- Clematis

- Honeysuckle

- Wisteria

- Flowering quince

- Forythias

- Camelia

- Mandina

- Rhododendrens

- Dogwoods

- Viburnum

- Monkey grass

- Landina

- Hibiscus (Rose of sharon?)

- Holly tree

- Leather leaf Mahonia

With each tree/vine/plant he identified he gave a me a quick lesson on the plant. For instance, he pointed out blooms that are just now starting to appear on the plant, described what they'd look like, gave a bit of info on their growth habits, how this or that plant was good for nitrogen, how this or that plant attracts beneficial insects, butterflies, bees, etc. Our walk was very educational. I had no idea about the diversity I have in my yard.

*begin laughing here*

He suggested that one of the things I should consider really soon was to start using worms.

I don't know what he called it exactly, but using worms I think. Whatever the particulars, I'm sure I'll give it a try.

*end laughing*

He suggested that the front yard would be best suited for the food garden; gave me some quick advice on using rain barrels and composting; that he'd be sending me links on worms, composting and other things of interest based on my yard and what I want to do.

Duane pointed out all of the interesting places that are excellent habitats for all sorts of critters and bugs, and suggested that I leave those untouched.

What'll happen now is that - now that he's had a chance to see the property up close, he'll make a plan for putting a garden in the front yard. The back will stay largely untouched for a while. He's going to put a plan together to get the food garden in the front started. He'll follow up with me in a week or two.

I have rabbits!!!!! I know that they may be problematic, but in the interest of creating an eco garden / critter friendly habitat, it's all good. To me anyway. And the rabbits I'm sure. We didn't actually *see* any rabbits. We just saw their... signature, if you will. Since the food garden will be in the front, and the rabbits are in back, I'm hoping the front yard (fenced from the back yard) will be spared from the rabbits.

To surmise, I had a really great meeting with Duane. It was interesting to see him walk the yard and just start giving all this info on each plant we passed. Without hesitation. On top of all that, he politely endured my overt enthusiasm, and was very ok with the fact that I know very little about gardening.

I can't wait to see what kind of plan he comes up with! I will absolutely be taking a lot of "before", and a whole lot of "during" photos that I'll post on my (still unpublished) web site.

I'd enjoy hearing y'alls thoughts about my yard, worms, rabbits - whatever!


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I'm so excited for you! I'm wondering if the Mandina or Landina is NANdina.... Does it have sort of feathery foliage and bright red berries?

With the worm stuff, did he use the word "vermiculture?"

Oh - poo. A friend just called and cut her finger -- needs me to look for a butterfly bandage. More later.... I'm so excited for you and all the great plants you already have!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 7:03PM
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One thing I've learned about gardening in a limited space (I mean when you don't have like 5 acres available to you) is to choose the best spots for the stuff you want/like - even if that means getting rid of or moving the stuff that is there already. Within reason, of course - if you have a 100 year old oak tree there, of course you would not get rid of it or move it. But in my case, the lawn is taking up all the best sunny spots, so some of that lawn is going to have to go!

But these left over garden plants - if you don't like them or, even more important to me, if they are "bad" plants then just get rid of them! Elaeagnus (really spelled that way!) is generally an invasive plant - may not have even been planted there on purpose. Wisteria (you probably have the asian one) and Leatherleaf mahonia are also on the bad list and Nandina is working its way up the list.

Not to be discouraged - you do have some really great things! This will be a lot of fun and it will help to have him give you some direction. That way you spend less time thinking and more time doing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Invasive plant list

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 8:14PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

However if managed well, some of the "invasives" aren't, if they can't re-seed. I just cut the berries off of my ground cover nandinas and they are fine. Also if you have an edible Elageanugnus (not all are invasive!) then you eat the berries and they aren't invasive.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 8:54PM
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I thought about that with the Elaeagnus, but I think that it is most likely she has one of the invasive ones .... GGG, do you happen to know the species name of the one that is worth keeping?

Also, Elaeagnus can require a lot of pruning to keep it under control. My neighbors have them and they go WILD. And babies keep popping up in my woods ....

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 9:31PM
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Thank you! I'm very excited as well. About the Mandina or Landina, I can't say on the foliage, but there were a few plants out there with a bunch of bright red berries. He didn't use the term vermiculture, but now that you said it, I know I have read about it. Duane seemed to think that composing goes much faster via vermiculture. I'm going to take some photos soon of all the stuff in my back yard. Then **try** to match them up per the list I created today, and then start learning about all this stuff. What a fun thing, no?

I hope you're friend's cut isn't too bad, and that she's ok.


You make good points. In fact, that's some of what Duane and I spoke about today. The "lawn" in the front is mostly clover and other stuff, and that's the part that's getting full sun. Thus, a good place for the food to grow. I was thinking the back might be a good place for the garden but after hearing the points Duane was making, it make sense to move the food to the front yard.

As for the back, I told Duane that over time I'd like to replace the non-natives with natives, but within reason like you said. He mentioned that some plants would get very invasive - honeysuckle and wisteria for sure, and I'm certain he did say that some would be better off if they were gone. Becuase this was a preliminary walk through of the landscape, he kept most things brief. When he comes back again I'll be sure to ask how best to deal with the plants that could be problematic if left to themselves.

GGG, Duane did mention that some of the berries on one of the plants was edible (can't remember which), though he said he's never tried them. He mentioned something about being adventurous... I think this may be what you're referring to.

Duane also mentioned that some of the plants would require a lot of work to keep under control. I think I'll have a better understanding when 1) Duane comes back and I can get some more detailed info, and 2) when the spring and summer gets here and I can look up the plants based on foliage and blossoms. Right now, most trees are bare and I don't have a clue which is which. But when spring gets here it'll be a lot easier to see what's what.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 9:46PM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

All I can say is...

Kill the Wisteria, Mahonia, Nandina, Honeysuckle (if asian yellow/white bloom variety) as quickly as humanly possible.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 12:54AM
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Hey Satellitehead...

Why do you suggest that I kill those? What is your experience with these? I'm kind of a newbie gardener, so any info you can provide would definitely be helpful.



    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 6:11AM
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Awwww.... I know all of you know better than I... but I really like my mahonia. It hasn't been invasive at all. The cedar waxwings love it! And I think it may be one of those edible berries Duane mentioned -- but don't rely on that to be true!!!! The blossoms in late winter smell beautiful -- and it's evergreen. Anyway - that's my commercial for mahonia. (Oh and the leaves are deadly sharp, which can be good in certain placements.

My friend's "boo boo" is fine. She probably needed a stitch, but didn't want to mess with the e.r., so she sent her husband over for a butterfly closure.

So -- back to the yard.... when did you say Duane is going to have a plan for your front food garden? That will be fun to hear about!!!!

OK - gotta go make oatmeal!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 6:32AM
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but I really like my mahonia. It hasn't been invasive at all

bagsmom, just a point of education (I can't help myself!!):

Plants like these don't necessarily "appear" invasive to the person that has it. Birds eat the berries and then fly AWAY, pooping them out elsewhere where they sprout and grow new plants. I don't have a single mahonia in my yard, but I pull out about FIVE babies a year thanks to my neighbors' plants. That doesn't sound like much, but over time, 5 babies a year left in place will multiply, grow up and create more and more.

One way to manage it is to cut off the berries (and throw them away) when they form each year so that birds don't spread them (or eat them yourself if they do happen to be edible, I don't know). But of course if you ever move, there is no guarantee that the next person will responsibly manage them.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 7:02AM
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By the way, it is Mahonia bealei that is the invasive one. If you really like the idea of having Mahonia, the one that is native to the Pacific Northwest does not have those tendencies: it is Mahonia aquifolium. They do have slightly different leaves (thinner, more textured) and plant shape (more flowers than just at the top), you could tell the difference if you saw both of them. Mahonia repens is another native one (creeping Mahonia it is called).

I do believe there are some other, less well known mahonias that are not native. But around here, people generally have Mahonia bealei in their yard, thanks in part to the birds and the sharing of prolific plants that people have done over the years (similar to Rose of Sharon and Confederate Rose, both of which have also been shared a lot)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 7:17AM
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I like to be educated. (But I still like my evil plant.) :)

I am going to put up a sign by them, instructing the birds to only poop in my yard!

hee, hee!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 10:41AM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I too am keeping my low growing nandinas. I'm not a fan of the taller ones, but the low growers can fill my hard to plant space and look good for now. I've not found another plant that will succeed there.

I am also keeping my mahonia because it is filling the need where the native north western Mahonia aquifolium can not. It is the native north west mahonia with berries edible to humans, and not the Mahonia bealei. Aquifolium has a much lower profile and does not take such varied conditions as bealei does. If I could find something the same height, evergreen and nastiness and toughness it has, I would definately switch them out. Removing berries is what will be done for now. Aquifolium is also a native medicinal herb so I grow it where it will grow.

Don't eat the berries from anything except the Eleagnus or Dogwoods if they berry (I don't know what kind they are). Flowering quince sometimes makes fruit but it's hard as wood, and nothing like the tree bearing quinces. They are beautiful though, and fill the bill for THORNY in places you don't want people to trod...

I have a front yard edible landscape. On one side it's mainly herbs, the other side veggies. I'm starting a third fruiting side hopefully this year!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 10:56AM
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There are nandinas that don't produce berries. If you look up the specific cultivar name, you can usually find out. 'Harbour Dwarf' and 'Gulfstream' are supposed to have fewer berries. 'Firepower' and 'Moon Bay' are ones that does not flower/berry.

GGG, you are a good and responsible gardener.

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) produces red berries. The rest of the dogwoods produce mostly blue berries, although one may have white ones.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 11:45AM
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You know, after having read Gaia's Garden and Bringing Nature home (and browsing many articles online) I want to try to get away from the "good" versus "bad" plant mentality.

I certainly understand what you're saying, about invasive plants and how they *can* be bad. But I'd prefer to look at things a little un-traditionally. If an invasive (or evil) plant will help my eco yard and provides a benefit, and if I can adequately control it so that it doesn't have a negative effect on my space or others' spaces, I'd keep them.

But ask me this again after a year or so of trying to keep a few plants in check. Y'all may hear something very different.



    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 12:32PM
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An open mind is a good one and it does take all perspectives!

Just curious about this: If an invasive (or evil) plant will help my eco yard

What's an example of how such a plant will help your eco yard?

And if you've read Tallamy, then you realize that these plants provide little nutrition for the insects that share your eco yard. However, if you are using them for food, then that approach is not much different than planting the non-native vegetables that you are growing, right? As long as you consume or harvest all of the fruit so it doesn't get out to the areas outside your yard. Here's a link to Garden Rant if you haven't discovered it before. It is always interesting to read.

I hope no one thinks I'm being argumentative ... having a discussion with give and take is a good learning experience.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Rant

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 12:42PM
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G'day Esh!

For the record, you are not being argumentative at all. You are asking a very good question.

Please bare in mind I'm barely a novice gardener. That being said, here are some examples of how an invasive/evil plant may be helpful:

- beneficial insects can eat or use it
- birds can eat it or live in it
- critters can somehow use it productively
- people can eat from it or use it somehow
- it provides something beneficial for other plants
- it attracts wildlife that is good for other plants in the yard
- it provides needed shelter for newly planted natives

Please note that the above is not specific to any plant. They're just things I'm trying to think about when considering what to do with what I have.

Truthfully, I know very little about most of what I have in my yard. Perhaps after brushing up on each plant's particulars, I may find that few or none of the above apply, in which case I'd say that the plant in question becomes a good candidate for removal.

I was only trying to be open minded about good versus evil; to get detailed information first before making any keep/remove decisions.


    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 12:58PM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

I listed the plants above because they are the plants which I have been on an all-out mission for 7 years to eradicate in my yard (add kudzu, bostin/english ivy and privet to that list as well).

These plants are so incredibly invasive that I can't even find them in my neighborhood in some cases, and they still creep up everywhere in my yard.

With regards to Wisteria, the non-native one is in the top 3 most invasive vines in north America. By planting the non-native version of Wisteria, you are helping to kill, maim and dwarf trees and tree canopies all over the state. I had a former neighbor plant one vine about 15 years ago, and I've been trying to kill it for 7 years now, including digging out the roots entirely (as big around as my leg!!) and hitting it with Roundup 3-4 times per year.

To give you an idea of how bad the non-native Wisteria is, I have a tree branch in my backyard that is about 6" in diameter, and shaped like a corkscrew. Seriously, a corkscrew. A small section of wisteria grew up onto it when it was only an inch or two thick, and squeeze it like a python, forcing it into a big long spiral. That is how powerful this vine is. It will turn a giant hardwood tree into a big spiral. It will get to the point where it weighs so much it will pull a tree down, break it in half, tip it over to rip up by the roots.

English and Boston ivy are equally bad, they climb the bark of the tree and hold water to the bark, killing the bark, thus killing the tree. Go drive through old rich neighborhoods around Buckhead. You'll see trees all over with ivy climbing up them. They fall down all the time, dead because of it, and the owners don't have a clue.

The yellow/white flowering honeysuckle bush and vine are invasive. They seed everywhere. I really love the smell of them, like Mahonia and Nandina, volunteers sprout up everywhere, and once you have one establish to any degree, even if you get rid of it, you'll be killing sprouts all over for years to come.

The seed sprout/volunteer problem is an issue with privet (chinese), wisteria (japanese), mahonia (see above), nandina, honeysuckle (asian bush and japanese vine) and some forms of pear. These are the most common invasives in my area. They are also the most pervasive.

Truly, I have been preaching this forever, and I know some others around here like esh feel my pain with regard to non-native invasives, but there are several invasive species lists out there to reference, and in my opinion, it should be law that any plant put in the invasive species list can only be sold after the buyer is given a very truthful description of how invasive a species can be, and a lesson on how hard it is to control invasive species. Nurseries are often so incredibly irresponsible about selling invasive species to folks who just don't know any better. Or, they buy it, plant it, then move away, and leave future owners to deal with it (but they often don't know what they've got, as you are experiencing).

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 1:21PM
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Hi Kaja and all,

Sounds like you are up to a good start on your new garden and have some nice plants already in and good help to move forward.

I do agree completely with the suggestion on moving quickly on serious invasives, this is the best time of the year to save trees from horrible climbers such as honeysuckle.

I say it from experience, we have been in our house for almost 4 years now and my winter is consumed by trying to remove as much of the invasive climbers as I can. They were killing all my mostly native trees and grow so fast in summer it is crazy.

I would go for wisteria and honeysuckle for sure. Personally I have left the mahonias and nandinas alone, but now I am thinking it won't be that hard to go throw the berries out from the handful volunteers I have.

Keep us posted, love hearing about your adventures!


    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 3:30PM
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Thanks everyone for the great info on the invasives. I'll be sure to get with Duane about these as I'm sure he can help me with the particulars on how best to remove them. The good news is that I have a very small amount of invasives in my yard, so clean up should be easier than not. And it's still winter so that's a plus too.

I was hoping to get out there starting next weekend and formally begin my gardening adventure. That's when I'll brake in my rake for the first time.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 9:07AM
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I had my first battle with an invasive ivy in my yard on Saturday. I felt like Leonidas doing battle with Xerxes trying to get that stuff out.

Here's what I learned this Saturday:

1) Don't lean your weight back while pulling on the vines unless there's something to fall against when the vine breaks (both the neighbors and I got a good laugh; pride bruised but nothing more)

2) Cut many places, pull smaller sections of vines out

3) Find the roots (harder than it sounds)

I got a good bit of it out in the front but didn't find where the roots to the plants were. I guess this will be a battle to fight another day. And another, and yet another...

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 12:15PM
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The good news is that you can win this battle! I cleared a lot of it -- and fell on my bum SEVERAL times!!!! If you got the bulk of it out by digging, cutting and pulling, you will just have maintenance. I have to pull up some survivors every now and then, but it's not too bad. And I never had to resort to chemicals.

Now, Smilax.... that's another story.... :)

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 2:00PM
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Good news on not having to use chemicals. I'm really not a fan of that at all. I've got tons to pull out still and much to remove from a few trees, but I've made good progress in keeping the ivy in check.

Hopefully, I don't have any Smilax in my yard. I'm crossing my fingers, for sure!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 9:07AM
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I've been fighting English ivy too. I agree with working with small pieces and not trying to pull out big handfulls at once. I don't worry about the roots much unless I see a place where it looks like a major stem is rooted. I have so much that I'm thinking of using Round-up.

I like the looks of nandina and mahonia; but now when I see them, all I can think of is how they are taking up space that a ecologically usefull native could be occupying.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 4:30PM
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Is this how you get rid of ivy? A giant sinkhole in Marietta appears to be taking a bite out of an area covered in English ivy. I am sorry to hear that 3 trees got swallowed up as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: AJC story

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 7:39PM
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