Minding my own business

Mind your own business is a funny old plant. Despite the fact that it has a very small range in the wild, found on Corsica and other Mediterranean Isles, it is now commonly grown around the world and is regarded by those who know it as the cutest little houseplant ever or a weed of the worst kind. In my time I have nurtured it, bought it as a houseplant and muttered as I chopped and scraped it off the soil.

A curious little plant, it creeps across the soil forming a mossy covering of evergreen, rounded leaves on succulent, glass-like stems that root as they touch the soil. The flowers are tiny, fluffy and without petals, a clue that the plant is related to nettles – the stinging variety. In addition to the plain green form there is a golden and variegated form but I won’t get too involved in those here. It has many modern names, including Irish moss, curse of Corsica, babies’ breath and, as I know it, mind-your-own-business. Sadly it has almost as many botanical names – well nearly. It was bad enough when it was called Helxine soleirolii but now it is called Soleirolia soleirolii.

It is thought that it was introduced to Ireland in Victorian times and it was probably used as ground cover, under benches in greenhouses. It makes a superb foil for ferns, so popular in Victorian times, and it is bound to have escaped the greenhouses and ventured into the garden. It loves shade and moist soil and, where conditions suit it, it will romp across undisturbed soil and become a real menace. Ironically, because drought will kill it it can be a tricky houseplant, in cold climates, because it will collapse if it dries out. That does give a clue to how to kill it in gardens – keep the hoe moving so the soil surface is dry. Weedkillers are not terribly effective, though lawnsand, sprinkled on the wet weed, will scorch the leaves. It is also not 100% hardy and although it will take a light frost, much more cold and the leaves will be scorched off. But new shoots will usually grow from the rooted stems in spring. However, really cold weather will kill the plant.

But back to the garden, mind-your-own-business is rampant in the garden, tucked into the base of the box hedges and laying in wait to make a dash for it across the gravel paths if I turn my back on it. Every now and then I have to clear it away. This spring I needed to make some hanging baskets for an outside area that gets no sun (except in winter when the low sun casts an hour of sun on it). It also gets no rain.

I usually line my baskets with moss but I thought I would give mind-your-own-business (myob) a try. I did make a slight mistake because I lined the baskets with myob and then a disc of plastic to help retain moisture in the compost. This is fine for moss which dies anyway but it did mean that the myob at the base of the basket soon died away. The rest grew well so covers that now, I am glad to say. I needed plants that would grow in this dull spot so I chose a polystichum fern and three  periwinkles – Vinca major ‘Variegata’. Six months or so later and the baskets have filled in well with the vinca reaching down to the ground. I was expecting to pull the baskets apart by now but I will leave them through the winter because they still look so good.

 

helxine basket

The myob continues to grow in the garden and that got me thinking of other ways to use it, as you will discover tomorrow in…’The pyramid of doom bloom’

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