Saturday, November 10, 2018

Popping up all by themselves


If you want to bring out the inner child in a gardener, let them discover a pretty flower in their garden which they know they haven't planted themselves. 

They'll never see it and think "weed" ... they'll always think "I'm blessed, a pretty flower has chosen my garden to grow in". 

For a while they might entertain fantasies that it's a rarity, that they'll be visited by botanists wanting to see it ... but they keep these daydreams to themselves mostly.

Later on they'll ask a spoilsport of a gardening friend what their beautiful visitor is, and it's then they'll discover that their magical find is, in fact, a notorious spreading weed which needs to be eradicated ASAP.

I am such a spoilsport, so be prepared for some disappointing news if you ask me about that delightful new mystery visitor to your little slice of heaven.

It's happened this week, it being spring and all, so here's just one example. 



I can't be 100 percent certain, but I reckon this pinky person poking through this Sydney lawn is called a cape tulip, Moraea miniata. Or at least that's what the government's weed identification website told me. It's the first place I visit when trying to identify a plant a friend sends to me. Nice flower, but it's a weed.

On the other hand, when I am completely out of guesses about identifying a mystery plant, I contact one of my old horticulturist workmates from gardening magazine days. See the next photo below. It had me stumped, because I couldn't find it on any weed listing ... and that's because it wasn't a weed.



Sarah, a friend (and former workmate) who's now living in the Central West region of NSW, sent me a photo of this shrub with the unusual orangey-brown flowers. I didn't have a clue, and so I sent it on to Elizabeth, an expert horticulturist. She got back to me via email, writing: "Now to that brown flowering plant. I first encountered this back in 2013 in a “dry garden” in Wellington NSW. It is Salvia africana-lutea; it’s really interesting, unusual and very very tough!"

So, not all mystery plants are weeds, but I'd still bet that the one you have discovered popping up all by itself in your backyard garden this spring is, in fact, I regret to inform you, bad luck old friend ... a weed.

However, I'd hate to conclude my blog posting on such a negative note, and so I hereby confess to having introduced a wide array of very persistent flowering weeds into my own garden, which may well have wandered into neighbouring gardens somehow and made my neighbours wonder where their pretty visitor came from.  

All that aside, it's a pleasure to see my weedy beauties popping up here every year, all by themselves, from seed dropped by last year's flowers. Here's some favourites:

I hereby declare Love-in-a-Mist my favourite weed.
Johnny jump ups (Heartsease) have been here since we planted them 28 years ago.
Same with the primulas, they always pop up here every year.

Then again, some weeds in our garden look like weeds, behave like weeds, choke other plants like the worst weeds do, they cannot be eradicated no matter what I try ... and I detest them ... and then they pop up with a pretty flower that I can't resist admiring, such as this vivid blue tradescantia bloom. Doesn't make me like tradescantia the garden thug one bit ... I just think of it now as a bully with piercing blue eyes.