Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Noxious Weeds: Regulations and Naturalization

A story on the CBC this morning about a woman in Barrie whose naturalized boulevard has drawn complaints from her neighbours reminded me that our home landscapes are subject to regulation. In a way, they exist at the mercy of our neighbours and authorities. In the Barrie case, the Municipality determined that her project was legitimate, and has allowed it to stay.

As a novice to this work of naturalization, I have been particularly concerned about the status of two of our favorites: Asclepias and Solidago. Milkweed and Goldenrod.

The Milkweeds are officially noxious weeds in Ontario, but their status has been revised to permit uses by home gardeners and naturalization. I quote here from the Ministry of Agriculture's helpful website: "As long as the population of milkweed planted doesn't negatively affect agricultural or horticultural land by spreading seed and new vegetative plant material (i.e. root stock) into fields, nurseries or greenhouses then it is acceptable to plant milkweed in your garden." Great news, and good to know that regulation never precludes a reasoned exception- for example permission to advance a naturalization project.

But official regulation by botanists and bylaw officers is different than the kind of regulation set down by neighbours. Last year we rescued two different Solidago varieties from the meadow next door (it is an abandoned lot that grows up until the Municipality notices it is quite in violation of by-laws), after they had been hacked down to the ground by a weed eater. Despite this injury, they thrived in big containers on the patio, looking quite respectable. They escaped detection until one gloriously sunny Fall day, when I was asked to remove them immediately because the neighbour is allergic.

As a good neighbour, when I planted them in the Fall into their new permanent homes, I located them where they won't be obvious to the offended neighbour. Last year, I also noted that everyone else agrees that Goldenrod is not an allergen. The Ministry of Agriculture states it thus: "Goldenrod is commonly accused of being the cause of hay fever allergies for many people. But it is innocent. Goldenrod is insect-pollinated and its heavy and slightly sticky pollen does not blow on the wind. Ragweed is the usual culprit, but it has inconspicuous flowers whereas Goldenrod, which flowers at the same time, has highly conspicuous flowers and gets the blame."

So what now. August is around the corner and the sprays of the Solidago canadensis are set to be even better than last year. I already have the Ministry's web page printed out, ready for a bright Fall day when even the hidden Goldenrods are noticed. But in the mean time, I think the larger question is about how we account for our neighbour's concerns in our gardens. One of us here at Gracie Gardens is allergic to cut grass (of all things), and while I wouldn't mind a moratorium on cutting (and planting) lawns...

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