Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Wednesday Vignette: Weeds

Any honest gardener will probably admit to an ongoing battle with weeds.  But what is a weed?  The common definition is that it's a plant growing where it's not wanted, usually vigorously and often to the detriment of plants the gardener values more highly.  The definition is situation-specific and therefore there are as many disagreements as to what's a weed as there are agreements.  I've got plenty of what I consider weeds.  I also have plants that other people have suggested I remove as soon as possible that I've had to baby just to preserve.  This post isn't intended as an overview of the plants in either category but instead an assessment of my recent interactions with a few weedy characters.

I'd been planning to whack back the Wisteria vine growing next to the arbor on the south side of the house for the past month but the task hadn't yet made it to the top of my to-do list.  The following view of the vine had me questioning whether I should actually leave it alone for awhile.

Instead of climbing up the arbor as the prior owner of our property presumably intended when he/she planted it, the Wisteria wove itself the small space between my cat's screened porch and the cover we place over the screen during the rainy season to keep her catio dry.  When I discovered this, I was struck by how pretty and picture-like it looked and was tempted to leave it alone.

This is the view from inside the catio.  We've had periodic rain forecasts over the past couple of weeks but no actual rain.  As we're expecting summer-like temperatures later this week and we're unlikely to get any more rain until October or November, I'll probably go ahead and remove the rain guard soon, which I suspect will cause the vine to collapse to the ground.  It was an interesting visual effect but not worth facilitating the vine's crawl up onto our roof.

In another situation, I noticed a plant I didn't recognize growing in my back border, swamping its neighbors.  Its vigor alone screamed "weed" to me.  I did some online sleuthing and came up with one reference suggesting that it could be poison hemlock!  As it was dark outside when I uncovered that possibility, I had to wait until the next day to check for the tell-tale signs that differentiate poison hemlock from wild carrots. 

The largest plant is preparing to bloom but there are a dozen others crowded around it and there's a red Cordyline nearly buried among them

The stems are hairy and don't have purple spots, which signifies that it isn't poison hemlock.  When I looked through my seeds and found a packet of Daucus carota 'Dara' I suddenly remembered scattering some seeds where my mystery weeds are growing, clinching the plants' identity.

I pulled some of the seedlings and transplanted them elsewhere yesterday

The seeds I sowed are known as "chocolate laceflower", which is is sold under two different species names, Ammi majus 'Dara' and Daucus carota 'Dara'.  I was told by one source that there's little or no difference between the two but most online sources describe the plants as "cousins" with Ammi majus described as more delicate and less weedy.  I've photographs of the flowers of the Ammi majus 'Dara' I grew last year but I wasn't able to find any photos of the foliage.  However, my recollection is that the plant was less robust than what's growing in my garden right now.  It may be another year before I can assess whether I was foolish to grow Daucus carota 'Dara' here.

I've got other weeds I tolerate because they're attractive, at least in moderation.  One of these is Dorycnium hirsutum aka hairy Canary clover (syn. Lotus hirsutus).  It self-seeds freely but the seedlings are easy to pull, at least if you catch them when they're small.

If the seedling is small and the soil is damp, it pulls up relatively easily and can be transplanted, although the plants allowed to stay where they seed fare best

However, if the plants are allowed to stay where they are until they reach this size, pulling them out can be a chore.  They develop deep tap roots.

I moved a few seedlings yesterday.  Dorycnium is a great groundcover and attractive even when not in bloom.

Other weeds that I tolerate in moderation include the following:

Left to right: Erigeron karvinskianus (aka Mexican or Santa Barbara daisy), Lobularia maritima (aka sweet alyssum) and Oenothera speciosa (aka pink evening primrose)

Are there any "weeds" you tolerate in moderation?

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

21 comments:

  1. I didn't recognize many of these but did chuckle that in your climate, sweet alyssum is considered a weed - it's a well behaved annual around here! I had heard about the wild carrot relative 'Dara', but didn't realize that it fell under two different species names. I'm interested to see how you get on with it as I was planning to incorporate it into the garden at some point. One weed that I do enjoy is the forget-me-not. They spread around but are easy enough to pull when they get out of bounds.

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    1. I would never consider anything that produces blue flowers a weed either, Margaret. As we don't get freezes (much less snow), plants that die out during real winters take advantage of the year-round growing period we have here. Sweet alyssum literally took over an area at the bottom of my slope this year (again), choking out even the native California poppies. That area is currently dry as dust due to low rainfall and haphazard hand watering so the alyssum is toast now but I suspect it still had time to seed like mad in preparation for next year.

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  2. The only weed I have a weakness for is heart-leaved aster (S. cordifolium). It spreads by stolons and seeds very readily, so can quickly outgrow its welcome, but come bloom time, all is forgiven!

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    1. I have an aster spreading like that in my garden, native Symphyotrichum chilense, but although I love the flowers I'm not sure I can forgive its thuggish behavior, Eliza. I may try digging it out this fall but I doubt I'll ever me rid of it.

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  3. I found a quote from Zora Hurston "trees and shrubs always look the the people they live with". A little scary to think what that says about me as my garden is pretty wild and chaotic. Papavar somniferum, Phacelia tanacetifolia, Cleome serrulata and Johnny Jump-up violas run rampant through it. I pull out those in the way but otherwise let them do their thing.

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    1. "Trees and shrubs always look LIKE the people they live with"

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    2. Ha! I'm not sure I agree with the quote, Elaine, but I know I'd like to be a little wilder than I am ;) Self-seeders always add a bit of spontaneity and excitement, which is just what one needs at a party. Your self-seeders are attractive characters.

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  4. Your comment "I also have plants that other people have suggested I remove as soon as possible that I've had to baby just to preserve" is one I was nodding my head to. I just don't water enough in the summer to keep many of the plants others describe as "thugs" happy. As for your wisteria, I love them so. It's a good thing Andrew would never let one get established here, or I might be in serious trouble.

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    1. Yes, drought and summer heat do some of what winter freezes do in other parts of the country in controlling plants here too. Of course, that's not enough in all situations, as has been the case with the native aster I mentioned in responding to Eliza. As to the Wisteria, I love the flowers and new foliage myself but after seeing the way those stems can develop into intractable woody ropes, I'm wary of letting it take hold.

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  5. I cool way to grow (contain) wisteria, if only it could stay in it's box. My neighbor grows it, so I enjoy the heavenly scent without the hassle of caring for it.
    Any plant that displays an unruly behavior has to go. If I'm fond of it, it gets a second chance in a tougher, more challenging spot in the garden, where it usually grows just fine but slower. It's an ongoing fight to limit yellow poppies, spanish blue bells, native columbine, alstroemeria...

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    1. The list of the plants you struggle to control is interesting. With the exception of Alstroemeria (which doesn't spread much), all those you mentioned struggle to survive here. My current demons are a native aster and Liriope spicata. I was led to believe I could control the former and I foolishly ignored the warning about the latter.

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  6. I actually wanted to buy those seeds (Daucus carota "Dara" ) I think it is a beautiful plant but seeds and I have a terrible relationship .. I made a promise not to inflict myself on them any more ! .. I love Queen Anne's Lace .. I have tried numerous times to have it "seed" in my garden but with no success.
    Again .. the garden curse between myself and seeds just won't be appeased.
    That saying about what a weed is ? .. so similar to "beauty in the eye of the beholder" ? what a weed is to one .. is beautiful to another .. I just want what I want ( the heart wants what it wants ?).. oops .. I seem to be on the track of one liners ? LOL Seriously though, I like the layout of this post and your attitude with weeds !
    PS ... I have loved Chocolate Cosmos forever and I can not get that one to stick either !

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    1. With some exceptions (like the three "weeds" I noted at the bottom of my post - and Centranthus on my back slope), I've had problems getting plants claimed to be self-seeders to do that too. I can't even get California poppies, my state's official flower, to seed here. However, I've been luckier with purchased seed sown directly where I want it to grow. Even there, weather conditions like a lack of rain and excessive heat can seriously screw things up.

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  7. Hi again Kris thanks for stopping by ! .. In the end the deciding factor usually comes down to weather, we are slaves to it ? LOL
    I almost turned on the hose here because it was so dry .. we had high temps (for us and at this time of year) .. as soon as I threatened the hose .. it decided to rain and it has been for a few days so things are really leaping forward .. I know your area is desperate at times .. so having the garden you do is down to your determination and it is amazing !

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    1. The scary thing is that some experts believe California is already in a megadrought that could last for decades. The last one was supposedly in the 1500s based on tree-ring and similar research. By comparison, the prediction by climatologists that California will experience periods of drought interspersed with floods seems almost positive...

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  8. All self-sowed orange nasturtiums are removed from my garden. Most Lobularia maritima is removed from my garden and I will leave it in a couple of locations. Crassula mucosa ‘watch chain’ became a weed when I planted it in the ground and so I restrict it to pots. Rudbeckias self-sow easily in my garden, and I remove all but <ten to transplant. Verbena bonariensis will also self-sow throughout the garden, but I try to save all of them to transplant to 2 locations for greater impact. None of these bother me like pink Oxalis in my garden!

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    1. Oh, to have Rudbeckia and Verbena bonariensis self-seed here! It's amazing how different even gardens relatively closely located can be.

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  9. I'm doing my best to banish Nasturiums--not that the flowers are not lovely, but they simple take over! I get just one or two "hairy canary" seedlings a year, just the right amount. Pull out an old one, nurture the new one to get it going.

    Took me 10 years to get rid of a Wisteria. It's finally gone--yay!

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    1. I don't know what it is with my garden and nasturtiums but they've never done well here. My alkaline leaning pH maybe. They're rampant on the nearby hiking trail.

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  10. I'm always amazed to see erigeron karvinskianus selling for ridiculous prices over here Kris when it seeds about with abandon. I hope that your daucus settles now that you have transplanted the seedlings. Ammi majus is another umbel but its foliage is feathery and fine to touch and you can tell it apart easily from ammi if you are growing both.

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    1. Yes, all I have to compare the foliage of the Daucus with at this point, Anna, is my memory of the Ammi I grew last year but the fact that I didn't recognize the Daucus when I first saw it suggests that it is very different. Or I suppose my memory might not be as good as it used to be ;)

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