A faintly foolish old woman once told me that I was lucky to have a garden with so few weeds. The only reason that she lived to smell the daisies, rather than pushing them up, was that I was too knackered to jump to my feet and beat her to death with my spade. Spring has pulled on socks and boots, making its presence felt with the burgeoning green of everything, superfluous wild flowers in particular. Fair chance plays no part in it, it’s up to us gardeners to separate the sheep from the lambs. Please excuse my mixing of metaphors with such gusto but this is a topic which gets my goat.
Alliums, Artichokes & Aquilegia
Botanical Barbara says that she could do with a pause button, to enable her to appreciate fleeting blooms; I feel that a rewind facility would be even more helpful. I am being subsumed by shepherd’s purse, fat hen and sticky willy (goose grass, cleavers, bastard; same thing). Chickweed is almost beyond control. These are all annuals, uninvited, unwanted and impolite. They are British natives, germinating at lower temperatures before imported specimens from far-off, warmer climes move into action. If ignored, they grow at an incredible rate. I have fumitory for a lodger, which can swamp even established shrubs. If I had clear ground, I could rake off their tops and leave them to expire but they have insinuated themselves deeply amongst my prize plants. The trick is to deal with interlopers before they get a grip, wherever possible. If you don’t recognise a seedling or can’t tell ragwort from a rose, then help exists online. I can cheerfully recommend garden withoutdoors for an exhaustive list. Don’t read this at bed time if you want a peaceful night’s sleep.
I find that grass is difficult to grow in lawns, where it is supposed to be. My turf is full of clover, dandelion and moss which spread to ravage the beds, when they’ve finished the job on the sward. The borders are a different matter, being full of tight tufts and sprawling stems which would be tameable with a mower, if only they would grow in the right place. Years ago, I planted Briza (quaking grass) amongst the flowers quite deliberately, thinking that the nodding heads would add movement. I was right; now I’m involved in an endless scuttle, trying to eradicate the stuff. Bluebells, quaint but thuggish, take up a lot of my time. Leaves and flowers make cracking compost, once separated from their bulbs. I dig out every scrap of bramble without mercy but it keeps making a comeback. No part of this perennial should ever be put on a heap, unless you want to start a home for retired blackberry thickets. Annual weeds may be added and will rot down well but never include their seeds, unless this is your idea of fun.
Myrrhis odorata (sweet cicely)
I’ve been crawling around the garden, disentangling the good from the bad and ugly with great care. I find that I am best able to feel that moment when roots part company with the soil with bare hands. My only regret is that hairy bittercress doesn’t scream when I get my fingers around its throat. Purple dead nettle mixes with stinging nettles bearing similar leaves, as the names suggest. Grabbing a fistful of these without gloves means that the tortured, animalistic, bone chilling howls of anguish are my own.