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In the weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter, I’ve been cleaning the garden beds and preparing them for spring planting. My goal is to remove the weeds before they bloom so they can’t spread by seed. The challenge is to distinguish the weeds from the beneficials by their leaves, and here I am still perfecting the science. My sister Heidi once told me that, if the plant pulls easily, it’s beneficial. Though cynical and not universally true, her counsel is err on the side of caution; and, like the carpenter, I have learned to measure twice, cut once.

In my garden there are many perennials, and the strawberry plants emerge first. Timid and delicate in the month of March, the strawberries are now hardy plants, their leaves palm size and white blooms plentiful. A beautiful low lying plant that sends runners to propagate, strawberries grow well in trouble spots by breaking up compacted soil. They were the first plants I put in the shady bare patch on our property, and they did their missionary work well. No longer barren, the spot hosts many happy clusters of herbs and native plants.

Things have proceeded almost too well there as the area requires particular vigilance against invasion. The first aggressor was the flirtatious Queen Ann’s Lace, the second a clingy burdock, and the third was the most insidious honeysuckle.

When honeysuckle emerged in the herb garden last year, frankly I didn’t recognize it. The seedling is pale green and its top leaves form in triplet with tiny yellow buds as subtle adornment. Its stem is hardy and crooked worming its way into the soil with determination. I may not have known exactly what it was, but I knew it was trouble. There was too much of it to be good news. I did my best to weed it out of the bed, but a few stems escaped my notice. Only this spring did it click when the second year seedlings leafed. In the second year, the plant takes on its characteristic form with its V-shaped leaves and drooping stem. Its root gripped the ground with great tenacity. But I knew my enemy and showed no mercy this time.

We are fortunate when we moved into our home 5 years ago that honeysuckle had yet to encroach on the property. For this, I thank the previous owners and pledge myself to the battle joined.

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