Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Confusion in the early-spring garden

When I first started growing things I was organized. I drew plans on graph paper and kept those annoying little plastic labels next to the plants when they went into the ground. Not anymore. So many plants have died and been replaced or have simply vanished without my noticing that I'm never really sure what anything is until it blooms.

I used to be on the mailing list for a catalog that specialized in native prairie wildflowers. A useful feature of that catalog was a little picture of what each seedling would look like after it had been growing for a while, so that the gardener wouldn't mistakenly pull out a good plant thinking it was a weed.

For the most part, I can recognize the obvious weeds, like onion grass and pigweed, but sometimes I'm not so sure. These are growing in the vegetable garden and I would like for them to be arugula (does anyone know if that is perennial?) because they almost seem to be growing in rows, but I'm afraid it's actually pokeberry. We have a lot of that, but I don't recognize it until it's big and really hard to pull out.

Some plants are easy to recognize by the shape of their leaves or stems. This is an expanding patch of bee balm which is easy to know by its square stems. Every year it grows a bit larger and I'm careful not to pull any of it out. Any early-summer hummingbirds I get just love this plant. This one is a red variety, but I would really like to find the pale purple type that grows wild. Local nurseries sell a purple one, but it is very prone to mildew in my garden.

Someday I'd like to get back in the habit of labeling things. Really though, I enjoy the surpise of not knowing. I just wish weeding weren't so difficult this way. Not knowing whether a plant is *good* or a weed is a handy way to procrastinate, isn't it? I think this is Swamp Milkweed in the photo at right, but I see some little weed seedlings in the middle there trying to hide. If anyone knows if the plant on the right above is pokeberry, please do let me know!

7 comments:

Jimmy said...

I don't know what kind of flowers u have there,but all the flowers that grow in my garden are wildflowers and a few other types. I let them grow in there own place and my garden flowers grow in there place...even weed flowers.

Susan Gets Native said...

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

LauraHinNJ said...

Susan: you've obviously never seen how big a pokeberry plant can get!

Wait - I'll send you some for your garden!

Nuthatch said...

The seedlings in your second photo sure look like pokeweed (actually, one of my favorite weeds for attracting fall migrants), but the ones on the right in the last photo are not. They look like honeysuckle seedlings.

I lovingly nurse along some obnoxious weeds every year because I can't remember what I planted!

Susan Gets Native said...

LOL..bring them on, Laura!!!

We have some pokeberries in our "honeysuckle jungle" and I can't bear to rip them out...I have fond memories of my grandmother and me making ink from the berries.

Patrick Belardo said...

Hey Laura... thought I'd drop by. Great blog. I found this info on Pokeweed yesterday while browsing around:

http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Pokeweed.html

He has a pic of the young shoots there.

LauraHinNJ said...

Thanks for the link - pokeberries they are.

The birds do love them - that's why they are everywhere, I guess.