Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Weeding Mugwort – Picking up Litter

Litter being picked up in a white grovery bag with a smiley face next to mugwort

Hello fellow readers, Did you ever wonder why folks toss trash out their window littering our world? Did someone teach them that? Or is it they have no respect for our dear earth. Rather than being angry about it as I used to be, I’ve begun to pick it up during road walks. I think of it as weeding undesirables in the garden of life … such as invasive Mugwort.

blue-green foliage catmint wiht small purple flowers cascading over wood retaining wall

‘Walker’s Low’ Catmint

Speaking of which, last week, a group of six volunteers met at the Pocket Park in Blairstown for a cleanup. The park was designed and built a handful of years ago for residents, visitors, and patrons of Main Street and the seasonal Farm Market—A space to toss a ball or sit for a moment on one of the hefty stone benches under the cooling shade of the trees. There’s a Sycamore in a low spot solving the soggy soil dilemma. Plus, River Birch gracing the periphery with their see-through dancing leaves, revealing showy peeling bark.

a colony of invasive mugwort in front of sycamore tree

Invasive Mugwort in front of Sycamore Tree

Why removing Mugwort is tough.

Traditionally the Blair Academy kids help clean up the gardens with their Day of Service, which didn’t happen this spring because of the pandemic. Chrysanthemum-looking plumy colonies of invasive Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) plagues the park. It is also known as Common Wormwood; even the name sounds nasty. Their aggressive underground stems called rhizomes send out roots and shoots that travel two feet below the surface, making it a miserable invader to squelch.

Some say cutting Mugwort repeatedly to the ground every few weeks is an effective way to gain control. Others say removing the top growth stimulates rhizome production increasing the number of shoots. A frustrating dilemma!

Patti Doell of Little Big Farm reports they did a lot in a few hours. “We weed-whacked and pulled a bunch of Mugwort taking a whole truckload out.”

Adding ambitious Lamb’s Ear and Catmint

Last season, thanks to Blair Academy, which provided perennials, we added Lambs Ear (Stachys byzantine) and Catmint (Nepeta). Both are tough, ambitious, and deer resistant perennials that may outcompete and help keep the Mugwort out of the garden.

“They’re “really doing great. Great choices because we have a family of deer living around the area now – a momma and two fawns,” Patti said.

fuzzy blue green leaves of lambs ear plant

‘Helen Von Stein’ Lambs Ear

Speaking of Lambs Ear, I prefer ‘Helen Von Stein’ (Zone 4 to 9 – full to part sun). It’s known for its voluptuously sized fuzzy silvery leaves. It rarely flowers, unlike other varieties, which prevents prolific spreading that can become weedy. Plus, the foliage becomes less ratty in the heat and humidity of late summer. Lamb’s Ear pairs beautifully with Nepeta in Zones 3-8. It prefers full sun, though it tolerates some shade. We planted ‘Walker’s Low,’ a bit of a misnomer given it grows to about thirty inches with petite violet-blue flowers on fragrant grey-green foliage.

 Plogging = Being part of the solution.

Back to picking up litter, aka weeding undesirables. Little did I know until writing all of you, there’s a name for picking up trash while jogging, walking, or hiking. It’s called plogging, plalking, or pliking.

Last week, I met a gal fetching her mail at the end of a private road. She saw me picking up litter. “Now I feel guilty,” she said. “Tomorrow, I’ll bring gloves and pick up the trash along our road.”

“Don’t feel guilty,” I consoled. “Seeing litter is frustrating.”

Litter being picked up in a white grovery bag with a smiley face next to mugwort

Trash next to Mugwort

Bag of trash in a white bag wiht a smiley face that says have a nice day

…Be part of the solution

But there’s something about being part of the solution that shifts anger and frustration into a positive change. Imagine if we all did just that—one neighborhood at a time.

Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

purple star-shaped balloon flower next to a bud yet to open.

“Winking at you” Balloon Flower.

Side note: Another favorite, not yet planted at the Pocket Park, is Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandifloras – Zone 4-8, part to full sun), which blends well with Lamb’s Ear and Catmint. When the flower buds are about to bloom, they look like the shape of little balloons that open to a star shape.

More about the Pocket Park in a related column, Day of Service.

I invite you to tune into Episode 18 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast featuring: Walking & Plalking, Queens & Bachelors


How to remove Mugwort organically and make a meadow: Woodcock Mating Dance – Making a Meadow

more about Plogging :^)







Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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