IT DOES not take a gardener to remind us removing weeds before they become a big issue is a good idea.

The days have certainly gone when the council employed linesmen to dig out ditches and gullies to prevent them flooding, and grub out weeds in roads and joints, cracks and the margins of paving.

The contractor on his quad bike spraying liquid death to weeds, seems to have gone the way of austerity too.

Some would say, good job too. The result? An explosion of annual weeds which look unsightly, but are actually linear oases of plants which are no longer found in meadowland because there are hardly any meadows left.

Isle of Wight County Press:

A buddleia which has sprung up in a crack beside a Newport road.

More worrying are the perennials, which get take root in little crevices.

Householders tell tales of woe of Valerian and Buddleia taking root in small fissures of a wall or concrete. In a few years it has become a jagged crack, or cappings and bricks are dislodged as the root system expands.

Buddleia has carved out its place in the garden since it was introduced to the UK from China in the 1890s.

But — it has also now become widely naturalised on waste ground, along railway cuttings and in urban areas, which is great for butterflies, bees and moths.

Not so marvellous for our infrastructure.

It is those pollinators that make it so successful by creating a myriad viable wind borne seeds.

Its familiar purple — and sometimes white — drooping spiked flowers bloom from June to October.

It is a forgiving garden plant — requiring only drastic pruning to keep it in shape, a sunny spot and some moisture too at the back of a border.

One of my favourites is Buddleia alternifolia, which is packed densely with attractive, bubbly florets.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Buddleia alternifolia. Photo: Sarah Raven

It is very important you do not prune alternifolia in spring as you would with most other types.

Flowers are produced in late spring on the previous year’s growth.

Prune after flowering by about a third — less drastically than you would other types.

But back to the problem Buddleia and its invasive chums.

Now the council seems to have been forced to give up as its finances buckle to the effects of long austerity, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Previously, I modified a three-spiked draw rake from a ‘cheap’ shop into a single-pronged version that can get to the root of weed problems in paving and the like.

Now, it would be lovely to advocate a return to the days when we all took responsibility for the paving outside our homes — but that probably won’t happen, unless people get keen!

Me and my little tool have made a little difference to the patch outside my partner’s house, but just around the corner the problem has already become too big for just me.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Richard Wright working on his new tool.

Island Roads spent a shedload of our money pointing brickwork and resurfacing a raised pavement.

But Buddleia has moved in, big time, and soon it will cause real problems — its roots probing their way in and allowing water ingress which all helps structures ‘blow apart’.

In the garden section of the cheap shop, you should find the tool for slight re-purposing.

Use of an angle grinder or hacksaw and bending the remaining spike straight makes a very handy tool; if not for our highways and byways but for the patio and paths.

And all for one English pound...


  • Wash down your garden tools and give them a wipe of linseed oil on the wooden handles to prevent rot and woodworm and metal areas to help stop rust.
  • Choose a dry day to clear out the garden shed in preparation for spring.
  • Plant bare root hedging now while dormant.
  • Remove slippery, slimy, patches on the patio and paving by scrubbing with a broom, or blasting with a pressure washer. An easy alternative is a chemical liquid patio cleaner.
  • Check tree ties and stakes to ensure that trees are still secure after the strong autumn winds.
  • Wash and disinfect bird feeders and bird tables. Clean out bird baths too.
  • Hang fat balls and keep bird feeders topped-up with wild bird food to attract birds. They will repay you by eating pests.
  • This is a good month to prune grape vines. Choose a frost-free spell for outdoor vines.