Carleen Libert Memorial Garden Rt. 77 at Commissioners Road

How not to love a newly emering flower - bury it under 3-4 inches of root mulch so it can bake.
How not to love a newly emering flower – bury it under 3-4 inches of root mulch so it can bake.

Today is the SADDEST of days I’ve suffered in a long time. It is like losing Carleen once again. How? Why? I am about to start the process of removing every flowering perennial I have planted, to create a memorial garden, on the island across from my house. My township’s mayor is hellbent on having things done his way. At his direction black dyed root mulch is being – over my strongest objection – dumped all over the garden’s surface because his buddy values “uniformity of appearance” over all else. Yes, everything on main street must be covered in black root mulch, one of the worst – from a garden’s vitality – products you can dump atop a flower bed. I spend most of yesterday pulling back that root mulch, that in a dozen+ cases, entirely covered young plants so they could be cooked alive. Countless other plants were damaged and/or stressed. That will greatly undermine everything I have planned and labored to create and perfect – so this garden could thrive virtually maintenance free even if I moved or passed – starting with a labor and science intensive effort to improve (amend) the utterly useless soil. I will soon follow with greater detail at, a website Carleen started shortly before her passing.

One of Carleen’s favorite plant experts, “Mike McGrath”, has a weekly show on the local public radio station (WHYY) and he has specifically written about how wrongheaded it is to use black dyed root mulch. You can find articles either written by or approved by Mr. McGraph here Why Dyed Root Mulches are Bad for Gardens and here Why Using Root Mulch is a BAD IDEA

There are other reasons why this insistence, especially at this time, is wrongheaded which I will detail at but, for now, if this is what they must do than I will do to create a garden that truly memorializes Carleen’s values. First, you amend the soil AND KEEP AMENDING IT. And you cannot readily do that when the soil is buried under 3-4 inches of black dyed root mulch, must less do effective battle with the god awful species of invasive grass that is trying to kill the garden – the type that buries its rizomes 8-12 inches below the surface. To kill it chemically one will have to kill the garden and short of that I do not expect the town’s folk will be happy to see the town’s employees doing what I was doing – digging each runner out by hand.

This is wrong in so many ways. I am heartbroken but I will save the plants, move them to a place where I can tend them without this type of ruthless, thoughless, wrongheaded meddling – all in the name of “uniformity”.

Feel free to spread the word. All that matters is black dyed root mulch being the uniform surface appearance of things that grow on Main Street. Even on the patch of earth that is the hottest heat sink – surrounded on all sides by blacktop – on Main Street and which patch of earth has no water supply – so water has to be hauled to the island. Yep, makes purfect sense to me. Paint the earth black. That will lower the temperature surrounding the plants. Add inches of mulch to make it harder to deal with the invasive weeds that bury their runners 10 inches below the soil. Make it harder to amend the soil as all the leaf mulch I hand turned into the soil “cooks down”. Sure, just drop some composted leaves or manure atop all the wood fiber. And, dear townshiop, kill the heart and participation of the one person most likely to make the effort to make the garden beautiful and keep it that way.

Spread the word. I’ll save the flowers. They were so loved, at least by me, that they deserve to be rescued and delivered to a home that will love them as they have been loved from their start.