Weeding the Walkway
I bought my house in Maine more than 20 years ago from a woman who kept the interior immaculate but who had not done any landscaping to speak of. So little did the previous owner care about the outside that she always went in and out of the house through the walk-out basement, and there was no easy access to the front and back doors on the main level. I could not live with the idea of myself and my guests going in and out through the basement (especially since I knew I was unlikely to keep that space as neat and clean as the previous owner had); so my first summer in the house, I enlisted the help of my father to build a flight of wooden stairs up the steep slope from the driveway to the main level.
The following summer, I improved the front and back door entrances by replacing the narrow wooden steps pushed up against the foundation with small decks and attached stairways. The summer after that, I took on the project of creating walkways to connect the stairs up from the driveway with the new front and back door entrances. I didn’t have a lot of time or money to devote to this project, so I kept it simple: I laid out the proposed walkways to the front and back doors, pulled up the sod, put in some inexpensive plastic edging between the new walkway and the lawn, put down a roll of black plastic to suppress new growth where I had pulled up the sod, filled the walkway with wood chips, and laid some stepping stones on top. I was pleased with the result; it looked fine and worked well.
Over time, however, the woodchips decomposed and weeds began to take root in the walkway. At some point, probably after about five years, I refurbished it with new wood chips. In the years since, however, the walkway has continued to deteriorate. The plastic edging has pulled up and become ragged, the woodchips have once again decomposed, the plastic underneath has become brittle and full of holes, and these walkways have become prime breeding grounds for weeds and seedlings. I’ve known for several years that I need to do something about this embarrassing state of affairs – like rip out the whole thing and start over to build new walkways of sturdier, more durable construction. But because I’m planning to put an addition on the front of the house in the next few years, I’ve been ignoring the walkway situation until I can rethink the front yard landscaping as part of that project.
But this spring, I realized that I had to do something in the interim. The decomposed woodchips have proved to be a particularly favorable habitat for seeds from the tradescantia (spiderwort) plants growing beside the walkway, and these seeds have produced many seedlings – some of which have grown into fairly sizable clumps. When I arrived in May, I noticed that the walkway to the front door was well on its way to turning into an unplanned and unkempt tradescantia nursery bed. (The front walkway is seldom used because, like most people in northern New England, I use the front door only for rare, ceremonial occasions. In fact, I had already been living here for more than 15 years before I discovered that none of my keys fit the front door lock!)
This week, I made a start on weeding the walkway by getting out my garden fork, digging up all the tradescantia clumps and seedlings from the walkway, and potting them up in recycled black plastic nursery pots. Most are in shades of blue and violet; but a couple of smaller seedlings are the white brushed with blue of the cultivar ‘Osprey’ or a similarly attractive white brushed with violet. There are still many non-tradescantia weeds growing in the walkway, and I’m afraid it still looks a mess. But at least I now have eight potted tradescantia plants to share with other gardeners.