When neighbours invade

I have a thorny problem.

One which requires diplomatic skills. And whilst I do have experience of what to do when a neighbouring country invades (I was interning at the UN when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq), going to war with the neighbours really isn’t an option here.

My invading foe is brambles. And they’re invading vigorously from two out of three of the neighbouring gardens that adjoin my floral borders.

Big snaky triffidy evil prickly nasty brambles. On a quest for territory.  My territory.  Sure, there are other foes encroaching into my patch (nettles, ground elder, bindweed – even a jaunty jasmine) but none of these threaten to poke my eyes out when I’m not paying attention. And for the most part they can be kept at bay easily enough, by remedial actions that take place solely within my territorial borders.

But not brambles. A little chopping back from my side of the fence is the equivalent of a testosterone overload to a drunken thug. “Bring it on” they cry, whilst sending out four more invading arms.

No. It seems to me that this bramble battle can’t simply play out within my own patch.

At this point, I should add that all my neighbours are very nice. (If you’re reading, I really really like you). But it is probably fair to say that with one exception, they are really not gardeners.  One actively hates gardening. And I’m sure they have no idea of the invading power of a hormone crazed bramble on the rampage.

So these brambles really do require a UN Security Council intervention and coalition attack forces.

brambles invade

Brambles coming in from all sides and trying to root themselves in my borders

My conundrum is this:

1. Do I take the mature, correct, morally responsible (but embarrassing, awkward and potentially time consuming) option of discussing this with the brambles’ hosts in the hope we can reach mutual agreement?

If so, is there a win-win that doesn’t involve me doing their weeding?  Forever?

2. Do I take the easier and not-entirely-unprecedented approach of nipping round when they’re out and removing the offending thugs?

This could be the outcome of option one anyway….

But, this approach would involve extensive convincing of myself that my actions would be those of a benevolent helpful fairy, as opposed to a nosey trespassing neighbour from hell.  And I’d have to remove all those brambles myself.

3. Do I take a lesson from the Gulf War and use sneaky chemical warfare?  Is a strong systemic weed killer, applied from my side, enough to take out – or at least set-back – this invading foe, without me having to cross my borders?

This could kill the plant back and I could just prune off the stuff on my side.  But is it morally wrong? And would it even work?  These brambles are tough and I don’t know if anything this side of Jupiter will take them out!

Any advice?

Seriously, the UN are lightweights compared to the moral dilemmas we gardeners face!  Any thoughts, precedents and alternative tactics welcome!  Otherwise I’ll just have to end up doing the right thing 😉


19 thoughts on “When neighbours invade

  1. you are so right! what a dilemma! I am curious what fellow gardeners will suggest ( I am fortunate to have just one neighbor and they don’t grow anything but grass)

  2. Its amazing how much a neighbours planting can impact your own garden – my gardening neighbour’s plot has been reduced to heavy shade by the planting to the South of him. He doesn’t get any sun at all.

    I am hoping that not everyone wants me to be mature about this 🙂

  3. I’d be tempted to pop round and rip them out. In fact, I might have to do that with my own neighbour and some things popping up and potentially damaging my fence if they grow too large.
    However I need to sort out my own brambles which I’d left for berries but now need to be kept under control.

    • I used to sneak round and trim their hedge from time to time (as did the neighbour on the other side) because the fence was being damaged. The brambles do not see the fence as an obstacle though, they’re going up and over! Your berries are a plus though!

  4. Don’t do #2, and I’d usually go for #3, but you have to use brush and weed killer (regular round-up won’t do), applied in fall (when their energies are turning back inward), and just hope that works. Yeah, I know about brambles.

    I would suggest you put some sort of metal barrier buried between you and them, deep enough to where the brambles won’t go under. Otherwise, I suppose you’ll have to try #1, but be prepared to do all the work – forever (or until someone moves). Good luck!

    • Ah, I didn’t know it was an autumn job – thanks for the tip. I rarely use chemicals under normal circumstances, but these are not normal weeds.

      I fear the barrier will need to be about 8 feet high – they’re actually growing up and over the hedge.

      Moving, there’s any option I hadn’t considered (yet) 😉

  5. Tough problem!
    I’ve had bamboo invade from a neighbor’s yard, but I actually like the gracefulness of this plant.
    The perfect answer would be for both you and your neighbor to go out and declare the stuff a common enemy and for both of you to dig the stuff up and have a fellowship at the same time.
    Of course, it your neighbor HATES gardening, they can still sit outside and enjoy the birds and fresh air while you explain and do the work. Poisoning a neighbor’s property would need the permission of the owner…or the friendship might end.
    Building a wooden fence that leaves the brambles on the other side with no climbing surface is expensive, but a last step. Of course, you lose the light!
    What do you think you will do? Do these brambles produce edible blackberries?
    Maybe you can get back at the plant by eating a blackberry pie in front of it!
    David/ :0)

    • Blackberry pie revenge sounds tempting – maybe I cut back the neighbours brambles for them now and as my reward, I get to pick all the blackberries later this year (when they’ve grown back 10 times as big!)

  6. Cut them down in your neighbors lawns when they are not around. If they hate gardening, they are not going to do anything about it even if you talk to them.

  7. I would go for the chemical warfare option. If you wait until the plant is in really good growth, despite having to endure it getting big, then take a plastic bag, pour in some good weedkiller. Place as much of the bramble as you can in the bag and seal. It will look strange but leave it there for a couple of weeks with the leaves in the weedkiller. The weedkiller will then work its way back kill off the plant. If as you say they arent gardeners I doubt they would notice. You could tell them when you see them that you are planning to apply weedkiller to weeds growing along your fence line and they may see some evidence on their side

  8. I’d go with the underground invader barrier, I would bet they don’t run off more than a couple inches underground. As for those storming the gates with an aerial assault,keep hacking away. Although now that I think of it,there is probably some other way to combat them. For example I have found nettles detest a thick layer of mulch. If you cut them to the ground and mulch them with 6″ of wood chips, leaves, or whatever they dwindle to nothing over time. Not sure if that would work with your brambles. Maybe try altering the pH, or dong something they don’t like.

    • Thanks Rachelle! Would napalm count as doing something they don’t like 😉 ?

      I shall indeed hack away at the arield assault. And it is time for a good mulch – good plan. I laid a thick covering a few years back and barely a trace remains.

  9. Alas, I have no useful advice to add — but I wanted to let you know that I just recently discovered your blog among the new listings at Blotanical, and I am enjoying it very much. I do a monthly feature on my blog, Jean’s Garden, where I highlight and review garden blogs that I think my readers would enjoy. Yours is one of two that I am highlighting this month. My post reviewing your blog just went up, and your blog will also be featured on my sidebar throughout the month. I’m looking forward to reading more.

  10. Honestly, if they are nice and one all out hates gardening, I bet you can just tell them, hey you’ve got a thug over there, and I can take care of that for you, and you’ll come out the victor both ethically and actually! Now if they were absolute jerkies, they’d come home to one less bramble…. probably slowly done with poison. Its the obvious choice for incognito plant murder.

  11. So wonderful to find your blog…Jean sent me over with her wonderful recommendation…I haven’t been on Blotanical much this year so I would have missed your blog without her recommendation…so to your problem…I am not for chemicals but that is just me. I talk with my neighbors…as you have said they are nice people just not gardeners…neither are mine…so my neighbor keeps his weed killer far enough away from my fence and I keep my potentially hazardous plants from him..I moved a rose bush when he made a complaint…he was nice about it and I understood…so long story short I would talk with them and see if you can remove the bushes if they don’t care and of course you know cutting them will just make the problem grow…sorry for the pun..good luck.

  12. What a problem! My first thought was to use the chemical warfare approach, but perhaps you really should talk to them. And I always try to smother my weeds with a layer of cardboard or newspapers, covered with a good layer of mulch.

    I just came here via Jean’s Garden, and I am thrilled for the recommendation. I enjoyed your post and look forward to more!

  13. Thank you Jean, Jess, Donna and Debs for your very kind comments and for stopping by! Work travel has kept me out of the garden and my half hearted attempt to have a grown up chat failed when first my neighbours and then I rushed off for days away. I have given my side of the leylandii hedge a hard prune – I know – totally the wrong time 😉 But the brambles laughed at my puny attempts to chop them.

    It seems grown up sensible diplomacy is the only way to go – followed by some serious mulching!

    I’ll keep you posted!

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