Fighting the blue tide, one tiny plant at a time


While our garden is usually well-weeded in the summer, the spring is a different matter.

That’s why we spent all day Saturday weeding approximately 10 square feet of the front garden, not that most people would notice the cleared spot in the midst of all the other unwanted greenery.

Our “weed” issue stems from the relentless spread of the scilla (Siberian squill) on our lot.

A quarter century ago when we bought the place, the little spring flowers filled the edges of the lawn in the front circle.

I didn’t have the beautiful display of the house on South Spring Street that boasts a completely blue lawn in early spring, but back then it was nice to see any flowers after winter finally melted away.

Once the garden replaced the lawn, the blue blossoms were cute and only under the west side trees.

But 25 years later, the scilla is out of control, and the biggest part of spring cleanup now is ripping the leaves off the millions of little plants, rejoicing when the bulbs come out of the ground with the foliage.

If you haven’t battled scilla, it’s hard to imagine how much of it there can be.

Two of us yanking for five hours almost filled our pickup truck with scilla leaves.

In my husband’s view, we could have skipped the entire tiring exercise if we had just taken the weed whip out as soon as the scilla shoots shot out of the soil and mowed the entire problem down.

I fought this suggestion, although I’d also gladly skip all the yanking and pulling because the local bumble bee queens fill the garden from the first second the blue flowers start to open.

They build colonies with the scilla harvest, and their offspring fertilize our vegetables and fruit trees.

Watching them work is probably the most soothing time of our day.

Besides, I’m pretty sure the darn scilla would shrug off any preemptive strategy.

Ripping off their leaves as soon as the flowers fade doesn’t seem to set them back them in the slightest, although cutting the foliage early on the tulips or daffodils can kill them in a single season.

Abuse, however, does not set back scilla.

Whacking them with the weed whip might be good psychological therapy, but I doubt it would discourage the blue tide.

Instead, I rejoice each time the bulbs pull out of the moist soil with the leaves.

I discard every bulb I unearth when I put in new plants or transplant or divide what I have growing.

That includes the bulblets that can be as small as the head on a pin.

While we yank the foliage in the spring, we gather up as many of the seed capsules as possible, too.

That may be the only reason scilla hasn’t taken over every inch of the place yet.

In the distant past, I’m sure someone actually paid for the first scilla bulbs.

I see them offered in catalogs every year. I feel it would be a public service if they were banished from commerce.

The worst part about our battle against the blue tide, however, is the fear that I may have left a similar mess for a gardener who’s now fighting something I once planted in one of my previous gardens.

If so, I can only plead that I do penance every spring for my past transgressions when the blue tide rolls across the garden and I weed, weed, weed.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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