An Unwelcome Volunteer

Typically I’m excited to find unexpected plants cropping up in the garden; I know many people would classify these surprise visitors as weeds, but I’m usually happy to find something new that’s vibrant enough to make a go of it in the challenging environment of our sidewalk containers.

However there are a few exceptions, and when I noticed that a “tree of heaven” (Ailanthus altissima) had cropped up in one of the big grapevine planters, I knew it had to be removed. This invasive species not only has a tendency to crowd out other plants, it’s a preferred food source for the spotted lanternfly — spotted lanternflies flourish and produce more eggs when tree of heaven is present, and then go on to attack other nearby plants.

This unwelcome volunteer has now been banished to the city’s organics recycling bin, and I’ll keep an eye out for any siblings that may be lurking nearby.

American Asters

This six-foot-tall mini-thicket of late-blooming asters is providing another lovely spot of color in our garden despite the recent cold snap — I almost cut them back in November and I’m so glad I waited!

I don’t know which variety of asters this is, but I have my fingers crossed that it’s one of the rhizomatous perennial species and will return again next year.

New Holly Tree

The latest addition to the garden is a lovely holly shrub donated by some neighbors, now repotted in a giant tub donated by another neighbor, with a hundred pounds of soil ordered online and delivered by cargo van.

(Not pictured: three more identical tubs, each with their own hundred pounds of soil, awaiting more flowers expected to arrive over the coming few days.)

The evergreen foliage and bright-red berries should provide some lovely color this winter.

The label describes it as a “Blue Princess” Holly (Ilex × meserveae) which could eventually grow to be 12 feet tall, although I suspect that the limited volume of soil will prevent it from reaching that size — I suppose that if it does well I’ll need to prune it back to keep it from getting much past six feet just to keep it manageable and avoid obstructing the light entering the building’s windows.)