The Wild Chicory

Thursday, 25th May 2006

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the back garden
The garden in May some years ago.

I've been starting the day with some physical work. It's so much better than sitting down at my desk straight away. I started trimming the hedge yesterday and got as far as the pond; today I got as far as the little meadow area.

I might have got further but I spotted the chicory leaves behind the greenhouse. This was one of the corners of the garden that I was most ashamed off when Lila Das Gupta, gardening correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, visited last week. I found myself thinking 'how would someone else see my garden?', rather than my usual 'well that corner has needed doing for years; it doesn't desperately need doing today'.

behind the greenhouse Rather than let the chicory go on taking over the narrow bed at the foot of the fence (from where it has spread under a concrete path to the meadow area and into the corner of the greenhouse), I take my shears and chop it down.

chicoryThat takes just 5 minutes so I rake up the leaves and pull out the remaining stems. Of course the rhizomes underground will just sprout again so I find a black plastic sack and a small offcut of weed-suppression fabric and put those over the strip of cleared ground.

It's not a brilliant job but it should discourage the chicory. I wouldn't ever use weedkiller. Should be able to manage without it in a garden this size.

Not that I have anything against chicory; it's a tall wild flower with lilac blue flowers, similar to small dandelions, but it does take over. The original plant was donated to us by a keen gardener who filled the tiny garden behind her bungalow with an astonishing variety of plants.

'This is a rare wild flower that grows only at one lay-by near the entrance to the Dalby Forest Trail,' she told us. How could we resist?


nestWe trimmed back the ivy on the fence this winter which gives more room to manoeuvre behind the greenhouse so I think that there's a much better chance of keeping the chicory under control this magpieyear. It was a shame to trim back the ivy as it was a favourite nesting place for blackbirds and thrushes. I found one of the old nests as I worked.

We watched a magpie a few weeks ago tugging at the nest, which at that time was exposed, but still attached to the ivy. Although the nest was abandoned the magpie was determined to pull it out. Next Page

Richard Bell,

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