Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wait - Don't Throw That Away!

One thing that I have learned about gardening is that there is always something to learn, for example - several plants that Marsha and I have perennially treated as weeds, are in fact valuable commodities.

For as long as I can remember, plants resembling asters, with sturdy stems, narrow leaves, and dozens of tiny white flowers in clusters have invaded two or more of our flowerbeds. They are kind of pretty - delicate looking even - but they are always in the wrong place at the wrong time. (One of the classic definitions of a weed).

At first, probably because there were not a lot of equally attractive planned plants in my landscape, Marsha and I tolerated them. But over the years, as our vision of our backyard Eden became clearer in our minds and closer to reality, I began to hunt them down - resenting their affront, and disdaining their meager attempts at flowers. Each growing season I would rip them out. Only to have them return in different, or sometimes even the same location, year after year after year.
This year I learned at my Mens Garden Club plant sale that these previously anonymous attackers actually had a name - a fancy-schmanzy Latin name even - Boltonia. (Of course the notorious Roman Emperor Caligua also had a Latin name, so we know how much those monikers are worth.)

They also have growing instructions, and people who sell them - actual professional people who raise them at their nurseries - not amateur horticulturalists like myself and my fellow club members who uproot stuff from our own personal gardens and attempt to foist it (with some totally fictitious provenance and a few Photoshopped pictures) onto the unsuspecting customer base that comes to our event in search of our rare and valuable "homegrowns".

Then there is that fast growing, ground cover with purple spikes that appears along the outer edges of all my perennial beds - and sometimes in the middle of them. I have now learned that it is called "ajuga" or "bugleweed" (or Blue bugle, Bugleherb, Carpetweed, Carpet Bungleweed, Common bugle, or Burgundy lace). This incessant invader also has a Latin appellation - for all that's worth - "ajuga reptans". I have no idea what "ajuga" means but I think the rest of the name has something to do with disgusting, lowlife, snake stuff. Since the beginning of time I have been ripping it out of my yard. There is no room for reptiles in my Eden. It was, of course, at our plant sale.
And there are the faux Phlox. Every year Marsha and I spend countless wasted hours trying to differentiate between our potential Phlox crop and a look-alike weed that wants to share the same growing space. The goal is to eliminate the imposter before the stalks get to be higher than an elephant's eye. Usually we get it right. And then forget how we determined the differences when the next spring rolls around.
Both of these plants were available for purchase also.

All of which leads me to believe that maybe a weed is really just a plant with a bad publicity agent. With a little marketing expertise the club's plant sale could probably make a fortune just selling the contents of my garden throwaway pile.

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