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Naughty weed gives creative flair at Dine By Design East installation

Leave it to landscape architect Sue Sirrs to come up with a creative use for Japanese knotweed at Dine By Design East.

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Leave it to landscape architect Sue Sirrs to come up with a creative use for Japanese knotweed.

This pesky weed is the bane of my (and my husband’s) gardening experience. Despite repeated attempts to rid our backyard of the weed, including digging up its roots with a backhoe and administering rounds of weed killer, nothing has worked.

I was excited to see the tenacious weed being put to good (and creative) use during Dine By Design East earlier this month. Sue Sirrs is a landscape architect with Outside! Planning & Design Studio, a studio in Halifax that specializes in environmental planning and landscape architecture. We featured Sue’s work a couple of years ago in a story on property boundaries and in a feature on living walls.

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Sue collaborated with her colleague Jamie Clarke to create a unique installation called “Curb Appeal” at the Olympic Gardens entryway of Dine By Design East.

“The inspiration came out of a play on words and an effort to transform the blank building exterior,” Sue says. “ This is often what we do as landscape architects—transform exterior spaces and lend a poetry to the landscape. We sourced a smaller palette of materials than those used inside while continuing the warehouse design theme.”

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Sue and Jamie bundled the knotweed like bouquets of culinary herbs, using formidable stalks cut on angle to show the hollow structure of the plant. “In an arrangement, it is quite adaptable,” Sue says. “Inside, we dressed oversized urns with large stocks coupled with orange berries of bittersweet, a beautiful but aggressive vine that also needs to be managed with a firm hand.”

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Sue notes you can actually EAT Japanese knotweed. “It is adaptable as a fruit or vegetable, most commonly in lieu of rhubarb or asparagus,” she says. “It
is loaded with vitamins and minerals and providing you catch it when it first sprouts, it can be harvested as part of a removal strategy.” Looking at all of the new sprouts cropping up in our yard, even thought it’s late fall, it looks like we should keep these uses in mind! Thanks again to Sue and Jamie for lending us their expertise and creativity for Dine By Design East 2013.

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  1. B James

    Japanese knotweed: In Nova Scotia, I see it covering more and more of roadside and land areas, pushing out local plant life. In the UK its disposal is regulated by law and it is considered one of the most invasive plants in the country; the bill for national eradication programme is estimated to be in the region of £1.56 billion. It’s an offence to plant it. Mortgages have been refused if the survey finds it on site. This hardly seems ‘naughty’. Is the situation different in Canada? I look at the pictures of the plant in your illustrations and I’m afraid my heart sinks.

  2. Janice Hudson

    Thanks for your comments. I know that here in Halifax, it is illegal to use pesticides for your lawn/garden. However, they make an exception when you are trying to eradicate Japanese knotweed and goutweed (another nasty invasive species) and will let you buy Roundup for that purpose. That’s what we ended up doing with our backyard (painting Roundup on the leaves of new knotweed shoots) but even this has not worked, even with multiple applications; in fact, it seems to have made the plants all the more angry and we are actually seeing new growth in places where the weed has not been before (the roots can go down as deep as 6 metres!). It is incredibly frustrating. I will check with Sue Sirrs to see if she knows about any laws regulating its disposal in Nova Scotia and will report back with what she says.

  3. Sue

    Hi James. I share your concerns about Japanese knotweed and am aware of efforts in the UK to try to address it. It’s a serious problem. I was recently in touch with HRM as the problem continues to get worse in the municipality and in Nova Scotia however they don’t have a plan in place to deal with the knotweed at this time.

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