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Lily of the valley - invading from the other side of the fence

Dear fellow-gardeners, please share your experience with a gardening novice.

In our newly acquired garden in spring there was a small patch of lilies of the valley. I didn't think much of it, in fact I found them pretty.

However when I tired to plant some other plants in this area I was shocked when I saw that there are dozens of the roots with the white buds on them, all just waiting to come out. What makes the situation worse they all are coming from neighbours garden. Normally I would just keep weeding them out until they are all gone, but in this case it won't help as they'll just keep coming from under the fence. Nobody is living in the house, and I think it might be for sale or similar, so I can't really go and talk to the neighbours about it.

I started looking for some kind of a barrier to dig in along the fence but frankly was a bit lost.

Did anybody have a similar problem before? How deep do they grow and would a barrier actually help?

I don't have a lot of space in my garden and the roots of those lilies of the valley occupied the best spot, so I don't feel like I can't plant any actual plants there until I got rid of them.

Please help! image 



  • BBS, Who said gardening was easy so some hard work needed. get a decent sized riddle from somewhere and dig all the area passing each spade full through and shake out the soil. The bulbs are shallow rooted so this way you should get most, the few that are left can be raked out as they flower that way you know where they are.

    You can get membrane for sinking down dividing fences, nail the top edge to the fence dig a trench and bury the membrane in with some gravel or bricks to hold the bottom down when you throw the soil back in the trench. If you have some old pavings they can be sunk at the base of fences as I did when couch grass started to come through from next door, it worked. Hope this helps,


  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,653

    I like lily of the valley but I suppsoe you can have too much if it's in the wrong place.  As Frank says, it's quite easy to clear, especially if you wet the soil first to loosen the roots and then put a vertical barrier below the fence and several inches down into the soil.  Old slate tiles, polythene panels, old slabs or a membrane will do it.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,416

    I would do as Frank says and sink a membrane along the barrier, they do form quite dense colonies when they're happy. Alternatively you could leave them as a ground cover beneath shrubs.

  • Thank you DR, Frank, Obelixx and WillDB for your responses.

    You all definitely helped me first to stop panicking about ‘’the invaders’’ and secondly to figure out what to do.

    Letting them grow and just plant shrubs on top of them is unfortunately not an option, as I have a relatively small garden and this is the only patch that gets enough sun for me to plant my flowering perennials, some medicinal plants and a few of the native species to help out the local nature.

    So, it is going to be a war image

    Yesterday I spent the whole evening digging them out – almost a bucket full! To stay positive, they don’t seem to put up much of a fight once pulled, so sometimes I managed to pull an over a foot-long root with just one tug. The second good news is that at some stage they stopped and didn’t grow further into the garden. Considering that they were not controlled in any way for at least two growing seasons (possibly longer) it is encouraging.

    In the meantime, I’m thinking of what is the best root barrier as it could be difficult to install without disturbing the plants that I already have planted there (and that seem to be doing well, so I wouldn’t want to jinx it).

    But I decided to check on it absolutely every day and pull out anything I can spot. At some stage they must give up as if they don’t get a chance to grow leaves – how are they going to feed, and even the most invasive plants need to feed, right? image

    Obelixx, I too like lily of the valley, which is why I collected a few of the roots with buds and planted them in a concrete pot without any connection to the ground. But the rest will have to go.

    Frank, I agree, gardening is not easy. Amazingly keeping plants alive is sometime a struggle, but so is killing them. The irony huh?.. image

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  • Big Blue Sky, The first rule of gardening is never panic, you see a problem say to yourself "O heck as like" get a cup of tea and sit down perusing the problem. Given enough thought all troubles are solvable and with many years in the Army I found panic totally detrimental to the actions required.

    About a membrane along the fence, you do not need to disturb already rooted plants. Buy some heavy but flexible membrane from a Garden Centre it comes in large rolls and they cut off what you need so measure it first. Using your spade in a vertical position work it down along the base of the fence this gives you a slot about a spade depth is enough. Push the membrane into the slot and weigh it down with some gravel or stones, then nail it to the bottom of the fence and cut off ready for the next section. The roll comes in around six foot width so you progress along the fence securing a section back filling the slot and onto the next bit, that means you can have a sit with a mug or glass in your hand what ever turns you on. Rushing at a job often causes twice the work so take your time and think about it, that is what gardening is all about giving you the time to relax your brain even when your body is aching from a couple of hours of double digging as we used to do, it now seems to be redundant yet we did it year on year for vegetable patches. If not that we would rough dig the patches then spread well rotted manure and leave it until the next spring whilst the worms did the work.

    Plants need water not too much, Sunlight differing levels they do not all like full sun, and general cleanliness keep them weed free, a good hoe is better than any weed killer. I walk around the garden most days with a Hoe in my hand, firstly to lean on and look then to remove any weed that dares to show its face. The main thing is sit now and then enjoy what you have and just relax.


  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,331



    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • AsarumAsarum Posts: 655

    Lucky you, they wont grow in my garden.  They don't seem to like alkaline soil.

    East Anglia
  • Thank you for the words of encouragement and the practical advice Frank.

    I shall definitely visit local garden centre to get that root barrier membrane and get on cracking with it. Those lilies of the valley will be sorry they ever crawled under that fence image

    Definitely a good advice about hoe – need to get one as weeds never give up and I don’t want to spray herbicide as our cat Tommy loves the garden and spends a lot of time on the lawn.

    A cup of tea in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening taste best when enjoyed in the garden, that’s for sure (I even bought plastic wine glasses just for the garden, to make sure no broken glass gets on the ground).


    Asarum, our lilies of the valley look like they would survive anything, they are definitely Bear Grylls inspired plants   – I can send them to you if you want. But be quick as the garden waste bin will be collected next Monday. image

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