Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spring's prettiest weeds

I have no-one to blame but myself for some of the weed problems here in my garden. At least this is a pretty problem and also not an especially bad one. Whether I like it or not, spring is a time when a variety of flowers pop up uninvited. And every one of these 'pretty weeds of spring' were originally brought home by me from a garden centre.

First, some introductions. This is Ingrid, our quiche, pie and flan gnome. Her little flower companions go by a couple of names – heartsease and Johnny Jump-Up – but essentially they're a form of viola. They come up all around the garden – more often in shady or semi-shady spots.

While the darker coloured heartsease surrounding Ingrid are the most common, other colours occasionally come up from seed, and they're very pretty.

Primulas compete with the Johnny Jump-ups for weed rights in the semi-shade. While the original ones planted were white, all the weedy ones which self-seed every year are these pinky colours.

Here, the primulas seem to be competing with the Johnny Jump-ups for the same square inch of soil. I leave them to it if they aren't bothering anything else. The primulas, being bigger at the base, usually win.

Alyssum is a sun-lover that I plant in pots to decorate my succulent patch, but it's so hardy and self-seedy that it comes up in cracks in the paving. Last autumn I grew a purple coloured alyssum for a change, and I've noticed little patches of purple self-sown alyssum coming up here and there along the pavers, as well as the much more common white form.

It's with some trepidation that I have decided to re-introduce impatiens into the garden. It took me years of very persistent weeding to get rid of the first infestation. I've only ever liked the white form, but the weedy form comes up pink or red, not my favourite flower colours. This plant is in a planter mounted on the back wall of the house, at least three metres from the nearest patch of soil, and while it has dressed up the wall nicely, I'm keeping a close eye on any suspiciously impatiens-like seedlings coming up anywhere else.

The same thing is happening in my poppy patch this year as happened last year. Though I try to be a good boy about deadheading spent flowers, I always miss a few, and that's enough to send up these wonderful looking wild poppies amid all the other poppies. These flowers don't last as long as the cultivated Iceland poppies, but they're always a welcome sight.

If I've included a photo of Ingrid, our flan and quiche gnome, I might as well include one of her love interest, Mitchell, our Librarian gnome. Mitchell is surrounded by a sea of native violets, and these are weeds of a creeping, relentless, invasive sort.

The best I can hope for with native violets is to limit their spread. As these tenacious little groundcover plants like semi shade and well-moistened soil, they occupy the fairly well-watered ground beneath my espaliered lime tree.

It's ironic that 'self-seeding' seems at first to be such a low-maintenance benefit in a plant. "What, you don't even have to plant it, and it just comes up by itself each year? Wonderful."

Unfortunately, the reality is that self-seeding plants also come up here, there and everywhere each year: in pots, in the middle of the vegie patch, in garden beds where you're trying to coax something far more tender and delicate into life (like my poor little easily-bullied cyclamen). You don't just get a couple of self seeding flowers. You get hundreds of them. They can be a pest, just like any other weed.

And so the self-seeders have become just another part of my weeding workload. I pull most of them out when I see the seedlings forming, yet I always also allow the odd one to grow on where they will prove both pretty and harmless. And of course quite a few manage to spring up and flower where I don't want them to, despite my best efforts. I don't really mind. They're as much a part of this garden as I am, in the end. And they're prettier than me.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jamie~~ Yes self-seeders are definitely in the duplicitous category. I waffle back and forth with the merits versus the annoyances. Morning Glory is a lovely plant but I will never attempt it again. Three years ago I grew it and I'm STILL weeding seedlings. I love the violas and alyssum. Have you considered potting up the unwanteds and selling them? I'm pleased to meet Ingrid and Mitchell. May theirs be a long and happy relationship.

Chookie said...

Your librarian gnome is Mitchell? LOL! That's a real Sydney joke there!