Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Garden Gatecrashers

I have been digging up dandelions with roots like tree trunks and I have come to the conclusion that dandelions are the glitter of the weed world. When we are children, glitter is fun and we scatter it hither and thither. Then we grow up. Suddenly a fleck of glitter becomes a source of irritation and we realise that one fabulous fling with the sparkly stuff over Christmas will still be haunting us in mid-July.

Once upon a time I loved dandelions. They were an unending source of food and fun (unending being the operative word). When we weren’t feeding the leaves to any pet showing a slight inclination towards them, we were aiding the propagation of dandelions (as if they needed it) by blowing on dandelion clocks as a means of finding out the time. How often we needed to know the time! 



I am ashamed to admit that once I was the parent in charge of cutting and sticking, I swiftly replaced tubes of glitter with glitter glue, which still managed to adhere itself to the end of my nose all day long making me look a tad less professional that I might have liked, but at least it didn’t turn up unbidden on the sofa in the height of summer. Even worse, my children were discouraged from using dandelions as time pieces as I explained rather dryly about them being weeds. What a miserable parent. 



Now I am wondering where my love for dandelions went. Let’s face it, they might be considered attractive; they are valuable to pollinating insects; they have pretty seed heads; they are robust; they add year-round interest; they are rich in nutritional value; they make a handy, if unreliable time piece; and children love them. If this were the description of a border plant, we would all be chomping at the bit to grow Taraxacum officinale.



My new year’s resolution is to learn to love my weeds. It’s a tough task in the case of the dandelion, but as I try to dislodge those almighty tap roots from between two bricks (how do they always do that?) I am discovering a grudging respect for them. Learning to love, or at least respect my weeds is making the issue of tackling them less fraught. Whether you view weeds as a challenge; a mildly irritating addition to your long list of gardening tasks; or an overwhelming threat requiring you to rush indoors and put on the kettle (not as a mode of weed control, but because we Brits like a cup of tea in a crisis) in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, they “will be back”. After all, one year's seed is seven years' weeds and while you might not dream of allowing a single weed to set seed in your garden, your neighbour might be less than vigilant in the weeding department. Then there is the messy issue of seeds dispersed by birds, like bramble. 



Ah blackberries.... there is so much to love about the humble bramble! Shocking as it might sound, there are weeds about which I actively do nothing (this is my kind of activity). Take nettles, I know they can be a pain, but I always like to keep a few patches for butterflies along with a lovely clump of thistles. I adore thistles! A wayward thistle is easy enough to weed out, but when the thistle patch is smothered in butterflies, it is a joy to behold. It doesn’t stop there (the tidier gardeners among you may wish to lie down at this point). I leave thistles to seed so that they can be swooped upon by marauding finches. 



I live in the countryside and my thistle patch upsets no one. I would not necessarily encourage thistles everywhere and while I am learning to love my weeds, I am always mindful that there are some weeds which mustn’t be ignored. Some of them call for immediate action and official notification depending upon where you live. Thankfully the majority of weeds don’t fall into this category and it is this group of garden gatecrashers which I have this year resolved to love or respect.... or at least to stop calling them rude names.



Of course, weeds shouldn't be too much of a problem until they start into active growth in spring, so I am hoping to be able to stick to my resolution until at least the end of January.

Wishing you a very happy new year. May all your gardens flourish and may all your pests be little ones. Oh... that doesn’t work. Happy new year anyway.

All the photos are of weeds I loved in my garden last year.... and a dandelion. 

54 comments:

  1. This post brought a smile and a chuckle along with the flash of recognition. Many of the plants in our so-called lawn were regarded as weeds until I saw them for sale in the native plant section of a reputable nursery. Now I am happy to encourage them, but why should I need that stamp of approval? They are pretty and they need no coddling. Heqr! Hear! for loving our weeds.

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    1. I have the deepest respect for lawn weeds (even lawn-based dandelions). They are so cleverly adapted to hide beneath the blades. I make no apologies for the weeds in our lawns - the bees love them.

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  2. A great new year's resolution! And an enjoyable post too. I have almost learned to love my most dreaded of weeds.... ground elder, or Grelda as Richard Mabey calls it! I don't stand a chance, so may as well reconcile myself to having it in my life forever... ;-)

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    1. Thank you! Ground elder flowers are pretty; and the leaves are attractive, but it's a complete nightmare to get rid of. I like Grelda. Good name.

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  3. I can remember my Mum telling me off when I used to blow the dandelions. I used to laugh, but now when I look at my own garden I have to stop myself from doing it! The only weeds I enjoy are the daisies and I allow them to naturalise in the lawn. Have a wonderful week and I hope the stormy weather is kind to you this weekend. xx

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    1. Thank you. I can't imagine a lawn without daisies. Such memories of childhood.

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  4. Dear Sarah,
    Happy new year to you! Digging and weeding are very hard things on gardening. Here, now is rainy season, the weeds are growing like crazy. It makes me so dizzy.

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    1. Thank you! And a happy new year to you! I cannot even imagine having to cope with weeding in a warm, rainy season so I'm not surprised you're dizzy!

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  5. As well as being a seagull hugger...I'm also a lover of weeds, so long as they can be kept under a little bit of control. I have seen Goldfinches pulling at seed heads of dandelions in the grass, and watched bees visiting the flowers. I decided they would have their place in any garden of mine.

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    1. You are very big-hearted... and you may have done something towards deepening my affection for dandelions.

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  6. What a cheerful and light hearted posted Sarah, made me smile this morning :) Wishing you a fabulous new year ahead!

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  7. Happy new year to you friend!! You had me chuckling with your feeling about your weeds! I share the same thoughts about dandelions and think that a little more embracing in the new year is a good way to go! Look forward to seeing your garden this spring! Nicole

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    1. Thank you! It's snowing here now - I have discovered that I love dandelions under snow (where I can't see them).

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  8. As they always say ... a weed is just a plant in the wrong place, so we should really embrace them all , as they all have their own virtues and attributes!
    Glitter and Christmas tree needles have a lot in common !

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    1. Oh they do. I am STILL finding needles in places where there was no tree. I'm sure they have legs.

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  9. I certainly have a great respect for dandelions. Think that there was not one of them in North American before Europeans came and it now grows everywhere. We help it though with our obsession with lawns. There are very few in fields left to their own, but millions where you mow regularly.

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    1. So now they offer an excuse to let the grass grow... I am starting to like them more!

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  10. My fond memories of running through a field of dandelions at the height of summer often return when I'm pulling them.

    I've allowed one of our native weeds to grow as groundcover instead of lawn. Now it is sold in nurseries and there is a bit of a debate on its weed status. It depends on the setting and looks good in the more natural spots while I pull it from other areas.

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    1. I agree with you about management, Shirley. I don't have a croquet lawn, but I do enjoy a game of croquet on our less-than-perfect grass. Lawn weeds mess up my already poor shots. Then again... they provide a fine excuse for my appalling aim!

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  12. Needed this post, thank you.... it's a gentle nudge to the perfect kind of gardening.

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    1. Thank you - I'm very pleased to hear that Andrew!

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  13. I have sort of learned to live with my weeds - I don't aim for perfection any more - my husband though has a different perspective - he thinks weeds are a personal affront and goes to all sorts of measures to get rid of them.

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    1. Haha - I now have a fab image of a furious man doing battle with little Scarlet Pimpernel!

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  14. That reminds me of how much I used to love and play with dandelions when I was a kid! We'd split the stalks and watch them curl in water, gather them for bouquets, and, of course, blow on the seed heads while make a wish. I don't mind them too much in the lawn, but then I'm not an avid weeder. I did try to get my kids to pick and eat all the dandelion leaves at one point in in an effort to get them to do the weeding. That worked for a short while before the novelty wore off and they realized how bitter they tasted. It is impressive, however, the number of weeds that are edible. Now some of them are finding their way into fancy restaurant salads :)

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    1. Perhaps we should go into business supplying top restaurants with our carefully nurtured Urtica dioica!

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  15. Dandelions don't bother me too much, though I do make occasional stabs at removing them. Plantain strikes me as much uglier, and creeping charlie is what really drives me up the wall.

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    1. There is always one of them which gets under our skin... in our borders... in the paving cracks... gutterings.... veg plot... and even up the wall (where you appear to have been driven). Is there nothing to recommend creeping Charlie? Isn't there a garden version? Somebody must love it!

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  16. I have often thought that if someone described the dandelion as a border plant with herbal qualities in its leaves and roots it would sell like hot cakes!

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  17. I frequently describe mine as a 'wild garden'. It makes me feel so much better about it. There are areas for wildlife and a bit I try to keep free of weeds for me. (And for my husband who would get on well with Elaine's.) A good compromise I think.

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    1. It sounds like an excellent compromise! My brother did the Great British Bird Watch recently and discovered that all the birds were enjoying the wild unweeded bit of the garden. He is still trying to work out how to break this news to his wife, who presumably prefers a little more order in the border.

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  18. A great fun talk of the dandelion, there is even a cultivated form, not so sure about that either.

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    1. Me neither. I rather like the cultivated variegated form of ground elder. I hate ground elder though - I can't even muster up a grudging respect for it.

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  19. Your last photo looks like clover, which I added to my lawn last year to help fill in some bare patches. Even though I added small white clover, a chunk of big pink clover ended up in the garden but it's so pretty, I let it stay. Your garden is wildlife heaven so who cares how tidy it is? As for dandelions, I still like them and wait til they're done blooming to pull them. :o)

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    1. It is clover - which I love. Our last house had masses of it in the lawn and it was beautiful. Bee heaven!

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  20. I think we should all learn to love our weeds a little more as the wildlife certainly do. I remember being told as a child that picking a dandelion would make you wet the bed, it didn't stop me from picking them to tell the time though.

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    1. Wet the bed?! What a ruse - I wish I had used that one on the kids!

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  21. Oh bother, I could have sworn I had commented on this, musing that my liking for dandelions will inevitably see them taking over my back garden... Ah well! You do have to respect a plant that is so good at spreading itself around though...

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    1. Oh! Clearly the blog has started eating comments - I'm sorry. I would have remembered seeing a comment about a liking for dandelions!!!!! Respect - yes.... Like???.... I'm still working towards that one!

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  22. Hmm. …not sure I will ever grow to like dandelions but I do like plants today that I used to consider weeds. Taste change over time, so do garden fashion. I must admit I do prefer my tidy garden with bark mulched beds, virtually free of weeds and just filled with plants I chose to put there :-)

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    1. You are so right about fashion. I was just thinking about Aubretia. It was everywhere when I was a child, then fell from favour and I seem to remember it became the butt of jokes. I hardly ever see it these days and it is such a good bee plant. I think I might give it a try.

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  23. As I'm not responsible for mowing the grass here, I love dandelions. Last year the maintenance gardeners were very slow to cut the grass so there were big, beautiful, bright yellow dandelions everywhere! It was FAB! I feel the same about daisies in the lawn so it's probably just as well I don't have my own lawn - it would rapidly be a meadow.

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    1. Lucky you! I really don't like mowing. I bet all the kids loved the dandelions and daisies. I love daisies in a lawn... lovely memories of childhood.

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  24. Helle Sarah, I'm learning to tolerate the weeds growing in the areas I haven't gotten round to sorting out yet, but I'm keeping them out of the newly restored borders. The plan is the same as it was in the last garden, which is to establish the restored border and pack it so tightly with plants that most weeds don't get a look in and those that do have a hard time establishing and some out easily. Ground cover/spreading plants like Ajuga, periwinkle, Erodium etc are your friends

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    1. Ah yes - I love ground cover. I have also found Jasione to do a good job.

      It's the establishing bit that causes all the weeding problems. That is where we are now. Borders being made; then left; then weeded; then I get side-tracked and they don't get planted up so they need weeding and by the time I have weeded them I don't have time to plant so the weeds grow.... and then I weed.... One day those borders will be filled with plants and I will lie in my hammock sipping a summery drink.

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  25. As a child you were drawn to dandelions and blowing their seeds to end up .......... who knows where? I still love their bright yellow colour.

    But then I also love the bright yellow colour of daffodils .... roll on spring.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Hi Jan - I am sitting at my desk looking at snow and thinking of daffodils. It won't be long until spring.... fingers crossed.

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  26. I love dandelions. I'll never understand why we call some things weeds. I think they are sunny and happy just like daisies. Happy Spring!

    Big Texas Hugs,
    Susan and Bentley

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  27. I was always a dandelion fan.....until I had a garden of my own! I now have a totally different perspective, even though I find them quite beautiful.

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  28. You have great looking weeds. I am quite partial to Dandys myself so cheerful and yellow my favorite flower color:)

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  29. Dandelions are such a good nutritional source. I use them in my juice every morning. It's unfortunate that we have destroyed them through pesticides and are no longer able to eat the ones out of our own gardens. Keep blowing all that wonderful glitter. xo Laura

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  30. Popping over from Over 40 Bloggers on FB and I adore your gardens and your weeds. I am also learning to love my weeds...I can't let the dandelions take complete control though or they will take over my garden....

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