A Few Good Weeds

Somewhere way back I remember reading a comment on one of the fancier English gardens,  it went something like this- “Even the compost pile was filled with treasures”.  I took this to mean there were so many good things growing that even the cast-offs thrown onto the heap would have been worth keeping in most other plots.  Too much of a good thing is not a problem in my garden, the compost overflows with crabgrass and thistles, bittercress and prickly lettuce, but I may be turning a corner.  The birdfeeder is a big sunflower seed spreader, and rarely can I bring myself to pull out any of these weeds.sunflower

Maybe right next to the front door wasn’t a good spot (last year) but for the most part they pick pretty good spots to settle down.  Here a few squeezed in between the butterfly bushes and rose of Sharon. blue rose sharon

I’m always surprised by the range that shows up.  This year I’m playing host to dark centers, yellow centers, golden flowers, brownish tones, and even one of the huge 1ft across monters.  The ones here in front of the house have a bit of a rusty ring around the bloom, and give some needed height to the recently renovated foundation bed….. the rudbeckia underneath also crashed the party.  I’ll be the first to admit they look better there than anything I would have thought up!self sown sunflower

The most entertaining part of having sunflowers is still to come.  Goldfinches love the seed and fly by every day now to check out how they’re doing.  Once the seed are ripe we’ll have front row seats to the daily acrobatics of the little yellow parents and their greenish kids.

Rudbeckia are another plant that seeds about enough to end up on the compost pile.  My fancy attempt at a red border was ruined by this invasion of gold.  As usual it looks better with the surprise…. not sure about the pink phlox though… didn’t plant that either, but even if the color clashes it still looks better than crabgrass.rudbeckia goldsturm

The vegetable garden can always use a good weeding.  Persicaria orientale gets pulled each spring by the bucketful but a few always stay.  It’s not a small plant and can easily top seven feet in good soil.  ‘Kiss me over the garden gate’ is another name for it and I can picture this heirloom plant hanging over picket fences back in the day.rudbeckia goldsturm persicariaAnother garden invader is this ‘hopi red’ amaranth.  I’m a sucker for colored leaves and couldn’t bring myself to pull this one from the middle of a row of leeks.amaranthus hopi dye

‘Hopi Dye’ is supposed to be the darkest red amaranth around and even though I grow it for the looks its real claim to fame is as a dye plant.  This patch survived a harsh May weeding and is a little further along.  You can see how it matures and I love the dark foliage and fluffy blooms, and I love the fact it grows like a……. (weed?).amaranthus hopi dyeIn all honesty the tropical bed is really just one big weed patch.  That’s my excuse for the maybe-not-the -best color combos such as scarlet salvia and peachy pink dahlias.  I’m hoping the big green sprout in the front turns out to be a ‘Hot Biscuits” amarathus,  but there’s a strong possibility it and a few others are just well grown examples of pigweed (another amaranthus).  I guess that just goes to show what a fine line there is between weed and wildflower.

Other selfsown weeds in this bed are the red salvias, purple verbena bonariensis, and all the leafy purple amaranthus in the center of the bed.  This one I believe is called summer poinsettia or Joeseph’s Coat.  As the summer goes on it will sprout hot pink center leaves that should really add to this tasteful composition.amaranthus hot biscuits

I have a soft spot for the spiniest of plants, and it’s quite often that my spot gets a painful poke from growing stuff like this purple malevolence.   Solanum atropurpureum is an potato/tomato relative and the dark spines just look cool.  Guess what?  It’s easy to grow, as is the white flowered mirabilis longiflora growing next to it.  Luckily the mirabilis has no spines, it’s just kind of sticky and only blooms in the afternoon….. hence the common name four O’clock.purple malevolence solanum

I’ll end this with one of my favorite (real) weeds.  Bull thistle is all weed and if it wasn’t for my strange obsession with weedy spiny plants it would be a goner…. but…. it’s not that hard to kill, it only spreads by seed (unlike some really noxious thistles) and it’s really popular with wildlife.  I leave the ones that sprout up along the yard edges.bull thistle

Besides loving sunflowers, goldfinches love thistle seed.  They love it enough that the German name for goldfinch is distelfink or thistle-finch.  Around here you’ll often see the distelfink image show up on Pennsylvania Dutch artwork as a symbol of happiness and good fortune, and I’m not going to mess with that.  There will always be room for a thistle or two, just watch your soft spot!bull thistle