Category Archives: Weeds

Heart of Flowers

Where would we be without Hellebores at this time of year?

The race is on and I’m still trying to grab all those little weed seedlings, springing up right before my very eyes.  In between some more major jobs, I can be found kneeling down and combing over the ground, patiently removing them with my hand fork.  I remember an old allotmenteer commenting once on my weeding stance ‘What are you doing scrabbling around down there like a chicken in dirt? You need a hoe’  Well, he had a point.  If the garden plants were set out in nice neat rows like his vegetable patch, I’d be the first one to grab a hoe.  As it is,  I have to be more discerning..

For example, we enjoy growing forget-me-nots which are annual self seeders. At this time of year they look like this:

for the last couple of years we have been inundated with this:

Valerianella locusta, otherwise known as Lamb’s lettuce.

Close up you can see the differences in colour, leaf shape and veining but faced with a patch of both, you have to get really quite close to tell them apart:

Weeding them out can  drive you crazy if you allow it, I actually find the process quite meditative.

When we were not scrabbling around like chickens last week, we were doing this:

Still pruning roses

Cutting down Miscanthus

and transplanting snowdrops around…

 

Coppicing the willows and dogwood

and taking cuttings.  Making bundles for later use as plant supports

and most importantly enjoying the garden, both outside

Cornus mas

Hellebore foetidus

AND IN… (all very fragrant)

Rosemary

Euphorbia myrsinites

Juniper

Spotted laurel

Thyme

 

 

Opium Poppies – Papaver somniferum – and other Free Spirits

I am often struck by the beauty of Opium poppies and their tendency to accidentally contrast perfectly with the surrounding plants. You can buy seed of particular varieties and freely direct sow around your borders, but we have always been lucky in that they turn up in our own compost year after year.

For example this gorgeous little lilac pom-poms arrived in our herb bed looking stunning against the climbing hop foliage and picking up the colour of the chive flowers:

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In another area of the garden the red flowers look fab with the orange roses:

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And in yet another area the pink looks stunning with the back drop bronze purple foliage of the Physocarpus

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The leaves can look brown and tatty towards the end of the poppy’s flowering period but can easily be stripped off to leave the handsome, statuesque seed pods to dry out in the border and self seed for another year. Alternatively you can pull the whole plant up and hang it upside down in the shed or another dry place with a paper bag over the seed pods. This way the pods dry out and you can catch the seeds ready to freely direct sow next year.

Other self-seeders include Galega, in white or lilac:

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Which don’t transfer very easily. We try to leave them where they arrive and they maybe last there for 2 or 3 years and then disappear and pop up somewhere else. (They sometimes require staking depending on where they are)

There is also the unruly but pretty everlasting sweet pea:

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Which is, as it says, everlasting – coming up year after year. It can be easily propagated from seed and sown where you want it next time!

Mulleins and the Mullein Moth

A few people have asked me this year about a striking plant that has just arrived in their garden and you can’t really miss it if you have one…IMG_1029

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The first year they self seed they form a low rosette of thick, grey/green leaves about 25 cm in diameter and in their second year they grow a tall flower spike up to 2m tall covered in primrose yellow flowers. The plant then sets seed and dies. They are biennials rather like foxgloves (Digitalis) in their life-cycle. They are pretty tough and en masse or in ones, twos and threes they can add a dramatic impact to a border.

At the end of their first year we tend to dig them up carefully (they have a long tap root that can easily snap) and move them to a place in the garden with plenty of space.

The latin name is Verbascum bombyciferum, the common name is Mullein.

Attractive as they are, they can also be devastated by the caterpillar of the Mullein Moth. This is easily recognised by its white, yellow, and black markings:

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These are first noticeable when you see holes appearing in the leaves and the caterpillars are vey small. They chomp away at the huge leaves and by the time the plant has matured, so the caterpillars have become big and fat and the lower leaf stumps of the plant are covered in black caterpillar poo. They are so unsightly then that we normally pull or dig these plants out. You could go round picking off the caterpillars or spray them off with a jet of water. We generally have so many plants that we just don’t have time to do this and luckily some plants will escape the massacre.

These caterpillars are harmless to other plants around them, although I understand they they are quite partial to a Buddeja leaf too.
I haven’t found them on these plants yet.

Creative Wednesdays

Clay plaques

Stage one, the impression:

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Next week, stage two…

Ground Elder

Ground Elder, the enemy

Ground Elder, the enemy

If I added up all the hours I have weeded out ground elder from the borders in the last 10 years, it would probably have been 5 of them, although I sincerely hope it only felt like that and was more like 1 year. If you don’t have it in your garden count yourself lucky. Whilst it can be quite satisfying pulling the roots out of the soil (thick white roots a bit like spaghetti), you also know they travel into and through all the other plants and downwards more than a metre. Realistically impossible to get rid of in an established border organically. All we can do is try and slow it down and pick it when we see it.

In contrast, the featured image is the gorgeous variegated ground elder. Beautiful in colouring and habit, as ground cover or as an edging plant. It also has dainty white flowers held in umbels above the leaves. Nor is it invasive at all. It is rarely found in Garden Centres though, as people just don’t trust it!

4 O’Clock, time to go home

It has felt like a long hard week, very enjoyable and with sensory overload …but I’m so glad to get back to the city.
Just before we left work today I took some photos of plants I have enjoyed, including the humble nettle, that has stung me on more than one occasion this week but – I still love it.

Daisy Daisy

Daisy Daisy

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Buttercup

Buttercup

Nettle

Nettle

Cardamine hirsuta

IMG_3091I love the latin name of this herb.  The common name is hairy bittercress and in my garden it is most definitely A WEED.

If you have this in your garden too I would suggest digging it up with a hand fork and throwing it away before it self seeds everywhere. Those small white flowers are blooming now so now is the time to act.