Twenty Years into the Past June 28, 2017

Having recently travelled ten years into the future with my blog – this week we travel twenty years into the past. What would I change? What would I do differently….? Would any of these changes have made the slightest of difference to where I am now? ….

I’ve never been one for looking back and saying … ‘If only I’d done this’ or maybe ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ – I’ve always considered it a waste of time. But just maybe… I should have taken a few of the more obvious trade names that were available when I set up Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd. If you now look on ‘Google’ there is every version of using the word ‘Japanese Knotweed – (add suffix) – Ltd’ – be it ‘control’ or ‘eradication’ or ‘management’ or ‘killer’ etc. etc. etc. …and to add to my frustration they each call themselves the ‘number one’ company and the ‘first company to set up dealing with Japanese knotweed’…

The weirdest thing about these companies is that they then believe what they have written… and quickly forget that they’ve copied all their ideas from Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd. I even know of one company that copied our website that then had their website copied …and got upset claiming they had come up with the original ideas…funny the tricks the mind can play.

If I had managed to register all of the names that could be associated with Japanese knotweed for use as a company name – I would have been the ONLY Japanese knotweed titled company trading ….and would have had a massive advantage if the market place.

Maybe I would have had every knotweed job that came up…?

So maybe that’s one thing I would change.

Legislation is perhaps something that should have been looked at closer twenty years ago? I wonder if some stricter control of invasive species would have stamped out JK before it got so well established?? I know how government works, and i know that its not easy bringing in some powerful new law that makes it illegal to allow invasive non-native species to establish on your land…but maybe we should have tried harder??

I know of several major land owners that have allowed invasive species to run rampant on their land with little or no management – simply because there was no legislation in place and no financial benefit in doing so.

But ..these companies are not hard up.

They aren’t about to go into financial hardship by spending a few quid on invasive species management – yet they been allowed to do nothing…simply because of the risk that there would be a backlash for being given such a financial burden.

You will also find that these landowners and wealthy lords and ladies have a vested interest in making sure such legislation never gets pushed through parliament. It would hurt their pockets too much – and so deals are done, whispers are heard and the wording of new powers is both weak and ineffective.

I think we ‘pussyfoot’ around far too much when a simple, hard, clear response would be much better. Invasive species grow far too quickly for their spread to only become an issue once they have left the confines of one particular area of land ownership. By the time they have breached a boundary and become a legal issue the plants are generally in such a rampant growth phase that it’s too late to do anything.

Surely a simple robust statement that … ‘It is illegal to have invasive non native species growing on your land’ – would clarify the situation…?

Yet with Japanese knotweed it is considered far too widespread to legislate against. It would be considered too unfair on particular land owners to make it illegal – so we have to just accept its bullish behaviour and rampant growth to the detriment of all of our native species.

So maybe that’s a second thing I would change.

The changes highlighted above would definitely have changed my life. I would suggest that with these small tweaks… maybe I would have retired by now… as a multi- millionaire……



Mike C

Ten Years into the Future…. June 21, 2017

So let’s time travel ahead by ten years or so …(cue weird dream sequence music) …..what’s going to be going on in the world of invasive non-native species in the UK?

One of the problems with my JKSL business ‘model’ is that I am engaged in eradicating the source of my income. People have often joked … ‘ bet you go round planting it …ha ha ha’ …this has never been something that we have needed to do – simply because there is so much of the bloody stuff that we haven’t needed to ….

However, there are now loads of Japanese knotweed eradicating companies operating in the UK – which simply by logistics – means there simply must be a reduction in the amount of knotweed available to be treated??

So maybe ten years into the future – all the knotweed in the UK will have been dealt with…?? This is an unlikely scenario as much of the Japanese knotweed growth is in land on which there will be no funding for treatment – river frontages, local authority land, waste ground, brownfield sites …all of which would require eradication strategies but without development or some other funding nothing will be done to reduce the problem. If Knotweed continues to grow on rivers and waste ground – simple understanding of the rapidity of growth would suggest that problems will still occur as they do now.

There are various bio-control strategies currently being implemented, will these have had a dramatic impact?? Ten years into the future the psyllid should be well established by now and a new pathogen being worked on by CABI (due to be approved shortly) should have made an impact?? Neither of these strategies would ‘eradicate’ Japanese knotweed but should slow the growth and make the plant more manageable.

Maybe, all the Japanese knotweed will have been targeted and will be struggling to survive …but some ‘other’ as yet unidentified plant will have stepped into the JK role?? Daft as this may sound, many people who have a JK problem will happily spray, eradicate, burn destroy knotweed ….without the giving the faintest thought to – ‘what’s going to grow in its place’ or ‘what should we be doing to re-plant this area’… we always recommend trying to establish a native sward on areas that have been cleared of JK.

Will the attitude of government or the various government bodies (DEFRA/Environment Agency) have changed?? This will all come down to money? Maybe the imminent exit from Europe will impact in funding?? This could go either way – I’m thinking there will probably be less funding available for invasive species management from what I’ve read.

Will people’s attitude to invasive species management have changed? I’m thinking that globally this must be seen as a high priority. Currently the world’s resources are already under pressure – we must find ways to produce more food from less available land as the population increases.  What we cannot allow to happen is an invasive species to devastate crops and reduce the productivity of land on which food is being grown…

Maybe more emphasis will be placed on invasive species management that impacts on reducing loss of life rather than loss of amenity…???

Anyway, whatever happens – hopefully – in ten years’ time I will have retired and will be writing a book titled…’How to be a success in business whilst driving fast cars and p***ing people off’


Mike C

Japanese knotweed invasion – Could it ever happen again…? June 14, 2017

When we look back on some of the mistakes with plants that our forebears have made, it’s easy to think that we would never have been as blind to the problems that have been caused. I have often repeated the phrase …’the Victorian gardeners are responsible for many of the problem plants that we have today…’

The gardeners of this period were just beginning to explore the world and to bring back samples of new plants from wherever they travelled. The designers were masters of the universe and felt that plants could be manipulated to suit their designs – there was no fear of what damage could be caused or the longer-term implications on bio-diversity or loss of native species – this just wasn’t on their agenda.

Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and Giant hogweed – all imported and planted by the Victorians for either flower (balsam) drama (hogweed) or even rapidity of growth (JK).

It was once said of famous landscape gardener William Kent – ‘he leapt the fence and saw that all nature was a garden’. The original use of the quote was to show how the designer had incorporated the surrounding landscape into his designs. With use of the ‘ha-ha’ (basically a ditch which prevented cattle from walking into the garden) Kent made landscaped flow from manicured lawn into field and the countryside beyond in a seamless fashion without the use of fence or wall to delineate the boundary.

The phrase has always amused me as it was about this time that many invasive non-native species must have been thinking to themselves… ‘let’s leap the fence and treat all of nature as our garden’…. which is exactly what they did…

Exploding seed heads and huge florets producing thousands of seeds ensured that these Victorian imports were never going to stay confined to the spaces that the gardeners of the day prescribed for them.

It was only ever going to be a matter of time before these plants became a problem.

One of the aspects of these type of invasions that never really gets talked about is …’death’…I’m not talking about ‘death’ of the plants but the death of the gardener that first introduced the plant. If you have a rapidly growing wetland plant introduced by a garden designer – the plant is used to give the scheme some instant maturity. All well and good if the gardener lives long enough to then control the growth of this plant after the establishment phase has been achieved.

BUT….what happens if the garden designer dies and doesn’t have somebody taking over the management of the scheme. Maybe nobody is aware of the invasive nature of the nurse plant used to create some depth to the planting – and does nothing to prevent it becoming rampant…??

I think this is something that we need to be aware of in our current climate.

Only recently on Gardeners World – Monty Don showed us American Skunk cabbage and highlighted the problem the plant can cause. He visited a garden where the plant had run amok and the owner was waging a mini war against new growth…. but what happens if this guy dies.

Sorry I know I’m being morbid – but seriously the guy has a massive plot of land. The plot of land borders onto a major watercourse and the plot is full of American skunk cabbage. The invasive plant will dominate over our native flora and spread rapidly using systems modified to help it grow in its native location- which applied to our UK environment – give it a massive advantage over our native plants.

Do we really think that if this guy gets ill or has an accident …. his first priority will be …must make sure the skunk cabbage is dealt with …

NO – ain’t going to happen.

He might …if he’s lucky …sort his will, he might sort out who will inherit his house, car, watch collection and his premium bonds…. but he is not going to write into his deeds that the skunk cabbage must be dealt with???

People all over the UK are in a mighty battle with Japanese knotweed – they might be 1/2 or maybe 3 years into an epic 5/10-year battle with some major knotweed growth. Some of these may well work for local authorities or large land owners…but…again…what happens if they get ill or die or simply move jobs??

Invasive plants have time on their hands.

These plants can pretty much live forever whilst we puny humans have a very limited time on earth.

I also strongly believe that the impetus to manage and control our invasive non-native species may well flounder when the current crop of enthusiasts retire or simply pass away?

Will there be another Mike Clough waiting in the wings? Will Trevor Renals daughter take over from him as spokesman for our native plants…?? Is Dick Shaw in the process of cloning himself to ensure that the various bio-control strategies put in place are continued to a point where they are successful???

So…in answer to the question – Japanese knotweed invasion – could it ever happen again? unfortunately it probably is happening right now, probably not too far from where you live ….

…it’s just that nobody has noticed …yet.

Mike C

It’s just plain rude… June 7, 2017

I don’t have many dealings with the ‘general public’ anymore due to my elevated status as business owner and ‘chief executive’ at Japanese knotweed Solutions ltd…in fact I only tend to speak to people through my PA, Suzanne.

The company has a receptionist and an admin team and an enquiries section and surveyors that all take the pressure of dealing with Joe Public. I quite often walk through the various sections of the office and listen to conversations and add my ‘Six- penneth’ afterwards …like some sort of business guru.

So, it was with a little nervousness that I found myself at the wrong end of some dealings with customers and potential customers, when asked by the BBC to find some areas of Japanese knotweed that they could film.

I think I’m usually pretty good with people. I’m polite, well-spoken and articulate and I don’t judge people on their incomes or their postcode. I don’t care if you’re a cleaner or a bin man, a bank manager or Lord of the manner – I will talk to you in exactly the same way.

The BBC wanted a domestic garden that the owner had experienced problems with a Japanese knotweed infestation. They wanted an active site which hadn’t been treated and they wanted it within 50 miles of the Chelsea flower show….and they wanted it tomorrow.

What you need to realise is, when JKSL get an enquiry we tend to act pretty damn quick – a surveyor will be dispatched and a price produced – if we then get the go ahead we hit the plant hard and with deadly force.

So, finding somewhere to film is not an easy thing to do at very short notice….

We do get a significant number of enquiries on a daily basis so I wasn’t without a reasonable list of calls that I could make – so armed with my best voice and sales patter I set about talking to …. ORDINARY PEOPLE.

Now we are all used to the ‘PPI’ sales call so a lot of what I experienced could be explained by people’s reluctance to be pleasant to cold telephone calls…. but …boy were these people rude.

I was simply introducing myself and asking if they would mind being on TV discussing the problems that they had with Japanese knotweed – from their reactions you would think I was the devil incarnate….

I had phones put down on me, I had dead lines with nobody talking and I had just plain rude with people telling me to go and. …’ reproduce with myself …’

Are we now so immune as to how we are with people that ignorance and rude behavior is acceptable?? It seems to me just another erosion of the English way of life. I don’t think my dad ever said anything unpleasant to anybody in his life – and my mother would be horrified if she ever heard me being rude to anybody.

Yet here we are in a world where ‘f**k off’ is used as casually as ‘good afternoon’ ….

Maybe the people I rang were all having a bad day …because of Japanese knotweed …. if so then I apologise for bringing the subject up.

If, however as I imagine was the case – you were all just tired and didn’t want to speak to anybody …please …. just get an answerphone… rather than being so unpleasant to somebody that didn’t deserve to be treated that way.

Me – I can take it – but if you spoke like that to somebody who was having a few difficulties or was perhaps feeling depressed or down …then you could cause massive damage to their confidence and self-worth.

Lighten up folks.

Me …I’m going to avoid talking to anybody for a while.

Mike C