Every year I go out pulling and mulching the weeds in my garden. Every year these prolific plants replace themselves almost faster than I can remove them.
Gardening books and magazines often have articles on how to rid your garden of these invaders. Chemical companies make fortunes selling herbicides.
The gardener may win a few battles but ultimate victory belongs to the weeds.
Moth mullein grows a rosette of dark green lobed leaves in the fall and spring. Warm weather triggers tall flower spikes. Most flowers are white with purple stamens. occasional plants have yellow flowers. They are lovely in the lawn, the garden and other places. They produce lots of seeds and can quickly become a problem.
This year I’ve been looking carefully at my garden invaders. They are plants growing in Dent County no matter how pesky. Many of them are from Europe.
Why would the colonists import these infuriating plants? What exactly is a weed?
I came across a book called, appropriately, “Weeds” by Richard Mabey. First off, Mabey is British so much of the material has a British bent.
These plants are international travelers so the British bent doesn’t detract much other than the difference in common names. What is interesting is our love/hate relationship with these plants.
Where the seeds which are tiny and marketed as food came from I have no idea. I was working on another project and came back to find these giant amaranth weeds had moved into the flower section which I had weeded of my garden. These things get eight feet tall and produce thousands of seeds. The weeds and headaches will sprout next year.
Take bracken. Bracken is one species spread over Europe, Asia and North America. It is a fern with a single frond that can reach two and more feet into the air.
Livestock shouldn’t eat bracken as it is mildly toxic. My goats ignore the stuff. So bracken should be classified as a weed.
Yet in Europe bracken was harvested, dried and burned as fuel. It was reputed to give off more heat than many woods, enough to fire bricks. Bracken was not a weed.
Corn poppies have a similar history. They were weeds in grain fields. Yet they have become the Flanders Fields poppy used as a model for the paper poppies given out on Veteran’s Day.
A fun part is how weeds travel from one place to another. The mundane way is stowaway seeds among seed corn, wheat, oats and other crops. This is how many weeds arrived in North America.
Pursley is another new arrival. I left it as I had never seen it in the garden before. When I finally identified it – I missed the flowers – the news was not good. It is mentioned in the book “Weeds” as highly invasive, very bad news for the gardener. I will be busy weeding next year.
Another mundane way was as seeds tangled in animal fur and wool. The seeds get carried far and wide this way.
The seeds have updated their modes of travel. Car tire treads work well. Commuter trains work too. Drift into open windows. Hang around as the train goes a stop or two. Drift out into new territory to invade.
At times this book does drag. It is full of stories about different weeds and how they end up where they do. The interesting items make plowing through the duller parts worthwhile.
Morning glories are such lovely flowers. Two grow in my garden. This purple beauty and a smaller light blue one are supposed to have specific places on the fence and a trellis. Seedlings come up all over even through several inches of straw. I tolerate the headaches to enjoy the cascades of flowers.
Yes, I do let some so-called weeds grow in my garden. More this year than others. Some like moth mullein, morning glories and evening primrose have such lovely flowers. Some were of passing interest as part of my botany project.
The final result from reading this interesting book is a bit of freedom from the frantic stress of making my garden totally weed free. It can’t be done.