Sunday, February 24, 2008


I'm going to grow weeds this summer. In Gardening by Heart, Joyce McGreevy takes a chapter to extol the benefits of weeds as garden fillers and edibles. She discusses how plants generally regarded as weeds, such as the pale blue flax, sometimes have colors that are difficult to find in catalogs. She also discusses how weeds such as dandelions can be used in salads or made into teas for consumption. Many weeds help protect other plants in the garden by warding off bugs, encouraging beneficial wildlife, or offering shelter beneath their foliage for tender seedlings.

I'm going to be choosy about the weeds I let flourish. I am not a fan of violets. These thrive in my garden. I remember as a child digging them out of a neighbor's garden as an afternoon chore. Perhaps if I did not have that memory, I would favor the violet, but I forever have WEED and violet imprinted on my brain. And, despite the temptation of tasting a dandelion salad, I will not be allowing any dandelions in the yard for obvious reasons. I take my daughter to the local farm, which has a big field, to grab stems with puffy white heads that take flight when she blows on them.

To me, there are also flowers that others do not consider weeds that are weeds in my yard. The long stemmed variety of phlox are a big no-no in my gardens. There was a barrel full of blighted phlox when I moved to this home three years ago. I have been pulling out the stuff ever since. I see its tiny leaves poking out of the ground and I pounce on it. "AHA! OUT, OUT! You are not welcome here!"

I found it funny this past summer when some of the gardeners I interviewed for The Gardener's Soul ranted about ridding their gardens of weeds. The funniest part was that they knew they were ranting and found it funny themselves. I learned that some gardeners attacked the weeds with military might and deliberation. They could not stand to see the weeds in their gardens. And yet, other gardeners were perfectly fine with weeds. Gently removing ones that weren't to their tastes. Some would even leave a whole garden to the weeds for one season, knowing that they could always return to that patch of land to work it the following year. I realized last year that I had been removing "weeds" for years that if left alone they would have turned into something glorious - tomato plants to add interest to the perennial garden or Queen Anne's lace to add a delicate backdrop to my handpicked specimen plants.

Two of my big planned projects this year are to plant a wildflower garden and to introduce a clover lawn to the yard. My daughter and I began our wildflower garden last year by spreading seeds from milkweed pods. I am anxious to see if the plants come up. There is nothing more heavenly than the smell of milkweed and the sight of the monarchs they attract. There is also nothing more luxurious than the clover lawn a gardener showed me last year. (I think I'll write about clover lawns another day.) I am figuring out how I can fit weeds within my garden scheme and I'm changing my perspective about them.

My favorite local garden center Uncanoonuc Mountain Perennials offers many native plants. One great benefit is that they are easy to grow and quickly fill your garden space. Last year I got on the native plant bandwagon and purchased Joe Pye Weed. (I'm sure I have other natives in my gardens that I could name if I thought about, but these I bought with the intention of buying native.) These native plants (aka weeds) should thrive in my yard. They deserve some appreciation for that alone. If I can prize my choosy roses, why should I not prize my less fussy (better tempered?) plants as well? These natives don't demand attention, I should be proud to show them off as one would show off a well behaved child.

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