The sweet ruffled leaves and twisting tendrils sway in the breeze and I swear that my years of hands-and-knees attention have only improved things. The purple blossoms stand upright and proud. I've done years of battle with creeping charlie, the weed that doesn't deserve a Latin name, but it's Glechoma hederacea if you're curious. Each round is a skirmish, a surgical strike. All I know is that we're in this together and unless one of us gives up, this is the way it's going to be for charlie and me.
The tiny city lot is simple and basic. There are perennial gardens that take care of themselves. A few years back, charlie appeared first in the grass and then in the garden. The grass is one thing, but the garden? He was wrapped around the base of the bleeding heart and he was coming up in the midst of the bearded iris.
I admit it — charlie is a handsome form of invasive vegetation. But underneath those attractive flowers, he is all about control.
Some time back I stopped calling him creeping charlie. I heard someone refer to him as "galloping chuck" and it stuck. There's nothing creeping about him. In just two years he's become one of my vegetative nightmares, and while he doesn't receive the social attention of a buckthorn or Eurasian water milfoil, my battle with him seems just as nasty.
I'll accept weeds and pull nearly all of them by hand. It can be a cleansing experience. There are moments of joy when an arm's-length tendril of chuck comes out in a long section. But this year, chuck went too far. The weather was a perfect environment for him and I knew that hands and knees weren't going to do it.
I'd been thinking of the Dark Side. Maybe it was fatigue from my rounds with chuck, maybe it was talking with a few people who say they've had success with chemicals. I'm not sure. I went online to read sites devoted to ground ivy, another name for him. Ivy. Isn't that nice?
First I tried borax, the "natural" killer. It didn't make a dent in chuck. So I looked to websites that explained the toxics that will kill him. There's nothing natural about these compounds. They all sound like alien species.
THE DARK SIDE
Let's be clear, here; I do not go gently to chemicals. When the drain is slow I pour in boiling water and vinegar. I use bleach sparingly. But there I was, in the make-your-home-perfect super center, buying a plastic spray tank and the smallest possible flask of "weed killer that seems to promise success." On the list of things that it will kill is ground ivy.
The supplies remained in the garage for a while because I have this image that after spraying carefully and according to directions, everything in the yard dies. Because of my fear, I read the instructions for almost half an hour. I confessed it to my neighbors. Wouldn't you want to know that your neighbor is spreading a toxic on the yard?
But I was committed. Although I had read that fall is the very best application time, I knew that by fall the yard would be his. After about 30 minutes, I'd sprayed the visible chuck. Then I stripped down and threw everything I'd been wearing into the wash and took a shower. The metaphor was not lost on me — Pontius Pilate washed too. So did Lady Macbeth. Anyway, I've done the deed. My husband has too. We are both clearing the turf of chuck.
Day One showed no change.
Day Two I forgot to look.
Day Three, I wasn't sure. There seemed to be something different.
Day Four there was a curling of some leaves. Some of the ends of chuck's tendrils were bent. Some sections succumbed, others did not.
The second application didn't even faze me. I just poured up to the line, added water and let her spray.
Mostly, now, chuck is gone. The grass is still there. Part of the garden has been reclaimed by perennials. Because I tried to apply the chemicals conservatively, chuck is still there. Perhaps now we can come to a compromise. If he'll stay to his part of the yard and garden, I'm fine with that.
As for the creeping bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides, that's all over the neighborhood? Don't get me started. The sprayer tank is still on the garage shelf.
Kate Smith is senior editor for Minnesota Public Radio News.