“A flower is a weed with an advertising budget” says Rory Sutherland in his brilliant book ‘Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense’. If you think about it, he’s absolutely right. What we call a weed is a plant just like any other, with a job to do – and the leaves, flowers and seeds to do it – but if it decides to grow where we don’t think it should, we call it a weed, and give it its marching orders. And all because it doesn’t have an advertising budget, basically: Its flowers and foliage are not considered suitable garden material, because the ‘budget’ didn’t run to eye-catching size, shape or colour.
That said, gardens are of course about people, not about plants; and being, as we are, at the top of the food chain, the gardener has the final say in who gets into the exclusive club that is the border– or at least who stays in. Many beautiful wildflowers are classed as weeds when they show up in the wrong place – daisies, speedwell and rosebay willowherb for instance – and there’s certainly a case for allowing a little bit of wildness if you have room for it, to encourage the biodiversity we now know is so necessary.
But as a gardener, you’re the boss: so if you do want to put manners on your weeds, this is the time of year to get cracking. A thorough ethnic cleansing – in a plant sense, obviously – at the start of the season is the way to go. Annual weeds such as hairy bittercress, chickweed and groundsel can be hoed off or pulled out before they have a chance to set seed – saving you lots of work later in the season. Perennials like dandelions and docks should be carefully eased out with a pointed trowel or ‘grubbing’ tool, taking as much of the root as possible, before they have a chance to set seed and create future generations. If you’re not sure what you’re dealing with, google it and check – some invasive weeds such as bindweed will spread even faster unless you pull out every single piece of root. It’s a perfect job for a ‘grand soft day’, as damp soil makes it so much easier to pull out those pesky roots. A few hours this week will really help get them under control – and reduce the temptation to use harmful chemicals later on when they’ve thrown their weight around!
Anne Byrne Garden Design provides easy to follow Garden Plans that you can implement right away or in stages. Anne’s design flair and passion for plants brings a touch of magic to gardens of all sizes.
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