TI have friends who are into wine-making. They occasionally come to my yard, dig up dandelions, and take them home to make dandelion wine. I’ll never forget visiting them and walking around their huge yard, noting a nice-sized bed of dandelions. There was one lone blue bachelor button growing in the corner. Without even thinking, my friend bent down and pulled it out. I would have been doing the opposite- growing a bed of blue bachelor buttons and pulling out the dandelion.
New Thinking About Weeds
This began to change my thinking about what constitutes a weed. Now I define a weed as anything growing where I don’t want it. Wild blue violets growing in my side flower bed are weeds. Wild blue violets growing in the shady, damp backyard where grass won’t grow are not.
Some plants become weeds when they spread into areas where they’re not wanted happily. Houghtonia (Chameleon Plant) is a pretty little perennial groundcover with pink, white, and green leaves. To say it spreads prolifically is an understatement. It took over a side bed and choked out two pretty little Japanese Painted Ferns. They were no match for that prolific little perennial.
Is It a Weed?- It Depends
I’m watching a Polygonatum Variegatum (variegated Solomon’s Seal) devour my side flower bed. It spreads through thick, sturdy rhizomes—which have made such a dense mat that my columbines can no longer poke through. Is it a weed? Yes—and no. It’s an aggressive spreader but an attractive perennial. In a wooded area where it’s not in competition with anything except trees, it’s a perennial. In my side bed with columbines, it can choke out, well…..
Ornithogalum Umbellatum, or Star of Bethlehem, is a spring-blooming bulb with beautiful white star-shaped flowers. It makes copious amounts of baby bulbs, and this little sucker also reseeds. In the spring, I do find myself admiring the showy star-shaped flowers in my neighbor’s flower bed while they are pulling them out of areas (including their lawn) where they don’t belong.
Mint—do we even need to mention mint? I always grow mint in containers. Even then, you should let them bloom because pollinators, like the insignificant flowers, cut them back before they set seed! I always grow lemon balm (a mint family member) in a big pot on my deck (repels mosquitoes). I forgot to cut off the flowers. The following spring, lemon balm was coming up between the slats in the deck.
Solving the Case of Mystery Plants
When you have a strange plant growing in your yard or garden, and no one can identify it, try potting it and letting it grow. If you like what you see, it’s not a weed. If you don’t like what you see, it is a weed—for you, at least.
My neighbor may be mystified by the clover I over-seeded in my backyard when he has gone to such great lengths to kill his. Io me, clover isn’t a weed. I love how the puffy white flowers look like little fat snow bombs on the lawn. I love sitting on my deck and watching little brown “Skipper” butterflies and honeybees dancing from flower to flower, and I also love watching the occasional baby bunny nibbling on those tender little leaves. And I especially like that I don’t have to mow it!
Weeds Are in the Eye of the Gardener
At any rate, whether or not a particular plant is a weed is up for debate. Some people call Buttercups a weed. I love them. Some people call dandelions weeds—but my friend does not. Any plant that becomes a pest can be called a weed.
My Final Word on Weeds
My final word on weeds is, “There are no hard-and-fast rules in your garden. Move it if you like it but don’t like where it is. If you don’t like it, it doesn’t matter what it is. Get rid of it.”