5 July 2013

Love your weeds.

Beatrix Potter once wrote that her garden at Hill Top was 'always very full of flowers and weeds' and in the last hundred or so years nothing has really changed.
There are quite a few weeds in the present day Hill Top garden and some visitors find it encouraging to see that 'National Trust gardens have weeds too', others take more than a little pleasure in pointing them out to me!

Many gardeners think that weeds should be eradicated from a garden at all costs but I (and Beatrix Potter apparently) take a more relaxed view. Take a look at the picture below.........

.......lovely isn't it? The blue flowers are Iris sibirica, the Siberian Iris but the white ones are...whisper it....ground elder! Yes, that most feared of garden weeds actually has  really beautiful flowers for a few weeks at the end of June.

And how about this?

As pretty as any nasturtium or sweet pea it's...shudder...bindweed!

Now I'm not suggesting that we all plant up our gardens with ground elder and bindweed because, beautiful as they are, what really makes them weeds is that they are too sucessful. They are the bullies of the plant world and will quickly take over your little plot to the exclusion of everything else. But if you have a small clump of ground elder or a few twining stems of bindweed or even a few nettles, don't stress about it, it's fine, let the bees and butterflies enjoy their flowers and make a resolution to dig some out come winter time.
As AA Milne,of Winnie the Pooh fame, once said 'weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them'.

Incidentally one of the worst 'weeds' in the garden at Hill Top isn't what most people would call a weed at all. It's the ladies mantle, Alchemilla mollis which seeds like fury after it's flowered and tiny seedlings come up like mustard and cress the following spring. I must dig out and hoe off hundreds of them every year.

Alchemilla mollis

Elsewhere in the garden, not all is rosy (although the roses are beginning to bloom). Although the flower borders are looking fantastic, a rabbit once again took up residence in the vegetable garden for a while and did considerable damage to my young cabbage seedlings and runner beans.
I won't go into the details of how I persuaded him to leave but a net and a small whippet were involved!
I've resown my runner beans but it's going to be a very late crop this year!

Words and pictures by Pete the Gardener