Are we seeing a new direction in weeds?
Have you noticed that there are more ‘weeds’ in gardens now?
And those weedy gardens often look very beautiful. Some of the prettiest gardens now unashamedly seem to have weeds sprouting alongside the bedding.
Garden designer Jack Wallington calls it ‘designing with rebel plants.’ His book Wild About Weeds’ shows you how to go with the weeds in your garden, rather than spending all your time fighting them.
I’ve been photographing gardens in Faversham Open Gardens & Garden Market Day held every year on the last Sunday of the month. I found weeds were welcome in several gardens, even by quite serious and knowledgeable gardeners.
Weeds in borders
So are we seeing a trend towards weeds in borders? Feel free to tell me that all the best gardeners have always left their favourite weeds in situ.
Purple toadflax or lunaria purpurea
It always gave me a pang to pull out the tall purple spires of toadflax scattered through my garden.
But when I visited Jack and Carolyn Wahlberg’s garden, I was impressed that Carolyn just lets the purple toadflax roam around the garden.
I went home and photographed mine. I’m delighted to think it can stay.
Centranthus ruber or red valerian
I wasn’t sure if the clump of valerian that sprouted beside my dahlias was a weed or not.
It’s listed as a ‘bee-friendly’ plant by the RHS, but gardening friends tell me it is also a weed. It grows out of walls, and in coastal sites, so it’s extremely useful. I first fell in love with it when writing a post about Tom Croft’s garden. However, it has eaten into the brickwork…
Perhaps it’s a good idea to be very firm with weed-flowers in your beds.
Wild mallow or malva neglecta
This has a strong architectural shape and sweet little pink flowers. It’s trying to elbow an echinops out of my border. But I think it’s pretty, so I’ll see who wins.
I often pass a house that always has the most beautiful purple poppies in mid-summer. We have poppies in this garden, but they’re red. I say ‘we have’ rather than ‘we planted’ because we didn’t plant them. I have no idea how they arrived, but at the moment they are the only splash of colour. Farmers refer to poppies as weeds, but I suspect that in gardens they are wildflowers.
Is borage a weed? I definitely didn’t plant it. It’s being quite thuggish, but beautiful in May so I have decided to keep it. Not that my opinion seems to matter – if I chop it down, it pops back the following year.
Oddly enough, another thing these ‘weeds’ have in common is that some are edible (not loosestrife or this kind of valerian).
You can forage for wild salsify, eat borage flowers in Pimms and ‘true’ valerian is used to help anxiety and sleeplessness. All parts of wild mallow are edible and it is considered a ‘superfood’ nutritionally (although apparently it has a boring taste.)
I’m a nervous forager. I would only want to you try eating weeds if you had checked with at least three other independent sources that they were safe. Because there are always side effects to worry about!
They say that a weed is only a flower out of place. In some parts of Australia, agapanthus is classified as an invasive weed.
There are some weeds which really don’t do your garden any good. And there are also weeds which you may not like. If you’re interested in getting rid of those, then see the different expert approaches in The No-Nonsense Guide to Weeding Your Garden Easily.
So what weeds have you got growing in your garden? Do you think we are getting more relaxed about weeds – and is that a good thing?
Do read about Jack Wallington’s approach to weeds or find out more by buying his book, Wild About Weeds.
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