Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Weeds or wildflowers?

My garden goes all to hell this time of year. I'm tired of weeding and dragging the hose around. The shorter days don't leave much time for it, even if I were inclined to be out there doing those things after work. The wild things that have been quietly growing beside their more manicured neighbors take full advantage of my neglect and shout out to the neighbors that a lazy gardener lives here. There is beauty in this chaos, but it's hard to see that from curbside. My husband, with his inclination towards neatness (only in the yard!), is aching to cut this flower bed down. It has no sense of propriety and is arching over and falling onto *his* precious lawn. So far I've kept him at bay by pointing out that this bed of white snakeroot, swamp milkweed, and Joe-Pye has nestled two monarch chrysalises in its shady depths and there could be others who need just a week or two (or three) more to finish their business here.
I never planted the snakeroot, but it found its way here from somewhere and wants to take over. I leave it be because it's not very noticeable until it blooms and then it's beautiful. The pokeberry in the picture above is something we fight all spring and summer long, but now in fall we leave it to flower and fruit. The small white aster (maybe aster vimineus?) is a new volunteer brought on the wind. I'm amused to find wildflowers growing here of their own accord, when there are so many flowers that I nurture with little success.
This summer we suddenly have goldenrod growing in the bog garden beside the pond. Where did that come from? I tried to figure out this evening what type of goldenrod it is, but was only able to determine that it is very different from the *cultivated* one I grow across the yard. This is where the writing spider made its pretty web a few weeks ago, and each evening I go out to see what new bugs are feasting on it. There is an assortment of flower flies that I don't know how to identify, and fuzzy bumblebees, and locust borers that mimic wasps.

One summer a guy that worked for my neighbor mowed my *wildflower patch* down in late summer, just before all the plants were to bloom. He was mowing the lawn and got carried away with himself, I guess. By rights, he was entitled to do so, as part of this garden is technically on my neighbor's property. I was most fit to be tied though when he told me he did it because "it's just weeds, man!" If that's the way you see the world, well, so be it. But, they're beautiful weeds. My husband takes care of the neighbor's lawn now. Out of the goodness of his heart. ;-)

11 comments:

Michelle said...

We had these "weeds" in our yard the I pulled the first year until I realized the few I missed had lovely orange blooms late summer that the hummingbirds absolutely loved. Next year Doug went to whack them all down (because I had fussed about them the year before) and was startled when I came hauling across the yard to stop him!

Some of the prettiest flowers are "weeds" IMHO. Or maybe that's my excuse for the overgrown section of our lot LOL.

NatureWoman said...

I thought I was the only one on the planet earth to let my garden go this time of year. The kale, chard and tomato plants are still producing, but the pretty wildflowers have grown in between, and they don't bug me one bit. It's kind of fun to see what will come up after I stop weeding!

Susan Gets Native said...

Our excuse this year has been the brutal heat we had. Everything is going crazy and we just don't care. And we get nice surprises, too. And some not so nice ones...like beggar's ticks and sticker burrs. The sticker burrs, I thought were so pretty as they grew...heart shaped leaves and a nice spreading habit. Then I went out the other day and they were full of burrs. Damn. Ripped them out. That's the only weeding I have done since July.

Ruth said...

My husband gets to "manicure" the front yard, but I control the "weeding" in the back. I love the looks of your garden. When I pick my fall lettuces and raspberries, I can see the finches eating seeds from the dead heads of the echinacea. I don't clean the garden much until spring.

jemkagily said...

One person's weeds, another's beautiful native wildflowers! Wish the wind would blow me some goldenrod like yours, it's gorgeous!
Fiona and I have one last monarch chrysalis--she's going to bring it in to her kindergarten class so they can count days until it ecloses. It's a little on the shrimpy side, hope it does well. The school has a butterfly garden and I've volunteered to be on the committee for it--may I point them toward your blog so they can see your terrific monarch photos?
Wendi

LauraO said...

Don't you love goldenrod? It nearly fills the fields here.

Sandy said...

Yours looks much better than mine. Even the sedum looks like a bad hair day.
I have to tell you yet another, back in Oklahoma story. Poke in rural Oklahoma, is food. It was the prefered green in our family. For some reason, cooked poke greens are called poke salad. We had a freezer of it by this time every fall. I know it is supposed to be poison, (please don't eat it) but Mom had some secret formula for cooking it-- bring to boil and drain a couple of times, or something like that. I remember it as very bright green, and tasty.

Wayne said...

Laura - wildflowers, of course!

This time of year the only thing I weed are the obvious nonnative invasives - crabgrass, fatoua, and of course microstegium. I despair of the bermuda grass that has invaded the garden.

I spent many happy though frustrating hours last year collecting and attempting to identify local goldenrods and asters, both groups of which I've planted a great many different forms. We were astonished at how many apparently different asters all came down to being either Aster vimeneus, or Aster dumosus. They are extremely difficult.

The goldenrods are a little easier. Our most prevalent one is Canadian Goldenrod, Solidago altissima. But I really like the smaller S. speciosa and S. erecta species. The bees, wasps, and a huge number of other insects love them all.

Very nice pictures, by the way. The goldenrod is excellent. I love the snakeroot mass, and agree that I've enjoyed seeing our own manifestation make an appearance where none was before.

As for the perennial war between those who know the worth of "weeds" and those who just want to mow them over, well, I'm just glad I don't have to worry about. Except along our roadside.

A couple of years ago I let the roadside grass grow, and then cognizant that the distant neighbors might not want to see a pasture of native grasses and late summer wildflowers, did mow paths, leaving broad patches undisturbed. A few days later, I drove out and noticed that a kindly neighbor had mowed the rest of what I'd left untouched. Sigh.

LauraHinNJ said...

Michelle: I notice that the birds and bugs seem to like the *wild stuff* best - and think they know something we gardeners don't.

Naturewoman: Yes! I wish I still had kale and chard (the groundhogs did them in early). Our vegetable garden is a mess, but once it was decimated by the critters we stopped paying proper attention to it. It's disheartening to see it such a mess, ut the pepper plants made a pepper or two, and the grape tomatoes and basil did well despite all the weeds.

Susan: Sticker bushes! Our problem is wild raspberries that never produce a berry, but plenty of thorns.

Ruth: That is what I'd like to do, to leave the seeds and *mess* for the birds through the winter, but my husband can't stand to look at it. My goldfinches have gone, off to weedier places until the thistle seed I offer is interesting again.

Wendi: Please do! I love schoolyard gardens and would love to hear more about yours! It's a shame that so much of the activity takes place while the kids are on summer vacation.

Laura: I do love the goldenrod and would like to explore every patch I see. There is a nice one beside the pond at work that I want to visit one day during my lunch hour.

LauraHinNJ said...

Sandy: I enjoy your *back in the day* stories of Oklahoma. I've read about poke salad, but never tried it - all the warnings about pokeberry being poisonous are enough to scare me off! I think I've read that it's okay to eat when young, and boiled a few times like you said. Did your mom make it like spinach or cooked with bacon in the southern style?

LauraHinNJ said...

Wayne: Beauty in the eye of the beholder, right?

Crabgrass isn't much of a problem for us in the garden beds (it pulls easily!), but in between the slate that surrounds the pond it is a real pain. The dirt is so compacted between the stones and the crabgrass just loves for you to leave a little bit of it behind... well you know. Worst I think is the purslane - I need to find a good recipe for that weed! Grows like mad there.

I'm learning that I'll need to sit down beside my goldenrods and asters with the field guide in front of me if I hope to ID them. Doesn't much matter to me, only that they are growing here, but it is nice to put a name to the ones I can. I need to force the discipline of learning the proper botanical terms so that the nomenclature in the field guide makes sense to me - I'm a a bit lazy about that and try to rely on the drawings which often don't help enough.

Nice of your neighbors to help out with the mowing. ;-)

We used to have a code enforcement officer here in town who took his job very seriously and often ticketed out neighbor because his grass was higher than the regulated 3 inches or whatever it is. That's what caused the guy who worked for him to mow down my garden of weeds. I would love to really just let a portion of the back lawn go (if I could convince the DH) and see what would grow there, but don't dare offend the sensible neighbors.

Thanks for your comment, Wayne!