It takes a lot to kill morning glory

Q: Does anyone know what to do about the white morning glory growing over large stretches of my garden? Not even bamboo can withstand its persistence. I have tried pulling it out year after year, and it keeps coming back.

I am tempted to poison it, but I am an organic gardener and would like to remain one.

A: In a word, no. There isn't an effective organic solution, I'm sorry to say. But there are methods to keep the wild morning glory vine, aka bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), from devouring your garden.

This hardy perennial vine has fleshy pale roots that travel deeply and widely underground. It grows with amazing vigor to form thick mats before winding up and around taller plants to choke them and compete for water.

Never dig or till the soil around its roots, for every bit of broken root will go on to make a new plant. Pull bindweed by hand consistently, and try to get all the root you can — especially after a rain when the soil is wet.

Smothering with thick mulch or even black plastic isn't effective, because bindweed's roots persist even without light, traveling underground to pop up somewhere new beyond the edges of your mulch. This is the weed that pushes many a gardener over the edge into using chemicals.

The only way to kill bindweed roots is with glyphosate (found in Round Up and other products). This brew needs to be carefully dabbed onto each new shoot with a sponge brush. If you're consistent about applying the stuff, you should be able to rid the garden of bindweed in a couple of growing seasons.

And now is the time to apply glyphosate. As the weather cools and the plant is pulling nutrients down into its roots for winter, it will absorb the poison most thoroughly.

For more information about how and when to use glyphosate to eradicate morning glories, call the Master Gardener hotline at 206-296-3440.

And if any readers have rid their garden of bindweed without using chemicals, please let me know, so I can share that welcome information.

Q: I'm a former resident of Southern California but now a new resident of Georgetown, Texas, trying to establish a healthy landscape. I recall the success I enjoyed with hebes on the coast, and I wonder whether you know of a specific hebe variety that does well in the hill country of Texas.

A: Gardening is regional, tied to specific site, soil and weather conditions, so it's best if you find local resources to help you establish your new garden. I wouldn't dare to make suggestions, never having gardened anywhere outside of the Pacific Northwest.

Track down a good horticultural library, botanic garden or arboretum in your area, starting with the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (www.brit.org). Find a nursery with knowledgeable personnel, and ask about hebes and other plants that would suit your new garden.

Q: I am trying to come up with some ideas of what plants would look good along the front of our house. I already bought seven one-gallon pots of black mondo grass.

We thought a layered look would work — something very low, something a little taller, then something to fill in along the back. I have no idea for a second layer of plants. The front of the house faces east.

A: It's impossible to design by imagination, which is what I'd be doing here, because I don't know the depth of your beds, the color of your house, how much maintenance you want to take on, what kinds of plants you like, how high your windows are up from the ground ... you get the idea.

Take thee off to the Elisabeth C. Miller Library, University of Washington Botanic Gardens (3501 N.E. 41st St. in Seattle; 206-543-0415), and look through its collection of design books. Cruise the display beds in nurseries, and check out foundation plantings in your neighborhood.

"The Complete Shade Gardener" by George Schenk has the best step-by-step instructions I've ever seen for designing and planting an entry bed along a house.

Remember not to plant too closely to the house, and that too often foundation plants grow far too large and obstruct the windows.

Valerie Easton also writes about Plant Life in Sunday's Pacific Northwest Magazine. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail planttalk@seattletimes.com with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.