Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Weed Status

Earlier tonight, I was a bit disappointed that I didn't really have anything new to post, given the amount of weeding and planting activity going on around here in the past few days. We've spent most, if not all, of our energies getting areas of the boulder bed weeded so we can get the rest of the perennials and annuals in and haven't kept the camera as handy as it should have been. I toyed with the idea of doing a post on the theme of "what should be blooming now, but isn't" and raiding the archives. Then it occurred to me that I had taken a few shots of our enormous stand of Sea Holly (Eryngium sp.) last week while I was on vacation.

Though its blooms are still developing, these specimens have yet to begin the real "bloom period," in which those spiny looking umbels and their supporting bracts will take on a ghostly, pale gunmetal blue colour which will intensify for a few weeks, giving the whole stand of plants a hazy bluish glow in the sunshine. It's a really unusual look unique to Eryngium (as best I know), and though it's often mistaken for a kind of thistle, it's far from it! For those who know the genus, it's a prized garden specimen, and it's one that we've had in various places over the years in the garden. A few years ago, the original plant was starting to look rather poorly in the back corner bed, but had spread a bit, so we transplanted a few of the young plants to a more spacious and sunny location out in the front, where we thought it would add some rather odd interest.

Well suffice to say, it has positively thrived in its new location ... so much so that it has now achieved what we call weed status in the front garden. Now, though that may sound harsh to say, weed status is something we actually try to encourage certain plants to achieve in the garden. Usually it's an annual we really like (such as Moss Rose, Imagination Verbena, Calendula, California Poppy and Bells of Ireland) that we want to naturalize (and not have to purchase or plant every year), and we've had great success with some species. You'll be seeing a lot of them in the coming months here, so keep the term in mind.

As for the perennials, the two who have really excelled have been the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) which will be blooming very soon, as well as our featured plant today, the now ubiquitous Sea Holly. This year it takes the crown for most enthusiastic self-seeding perennial, and though we hate to have to go after it, that's what we're having to do at this point (as you can see from the photos above). They have enthusiastically taken over most of the space in front of "Finger Rock," where we'd like to have a few other things peeking through, which is about all they can do at this point. Sometimes success with certain plants can be a challenge of its own, but there's no chance that we will ever truly try to eradicate this beauty ... we just need to keep it under control so it can shine in its own unique way. Though we have given away (smaller) extras in the past, they have progressed so far this year that we've decided for now to let this crop have its way while it's blooming and then thin it out a bit. We'd like to give away some of these plants, but even though Eryngium doesn't really care much for being transplanted, (due to its central tap root) it can be done, as long as the recipient is willing to lavish lots of extra care on the new plant until it gets re-established. So, we may decide to lop off the spent blooms from a few and find them new homes this summer, and for the rest, we will let them just go through their cycle as nature intended. One thing though, we do plan on collecting lots of seeds in the late summer, as they are very easy to get started from seed and plants propagated that way usually bloom in their second year.

If you should decide to plant Sea Holly at some point in your garden, I'd recommend letting it self-seed freely for several years, as the parent plants are sometimes rather short-lived, so if you want it to return every year, some encouragement of weed status is actually a very good idea. No matter what, this is a plant that will draw many puzzled comments and questions from passersby, many of whom worry that it is a thistle we need to get rid of ... to which we always reply, 'No, it's actually a relatively rare plant to this area ... isn't it just lovely?' Most of the time people seem to buy this explanation, except for the garden variety gardeners more inclined to petunias, impatiens, dusty miller, geraniums and the like. I think those sorts are kind of like Republicans: we'll never win them over. But we're not budging on our beloved Sea Holly ... it's here to stay, weed status or not!


olivia said...

LOL IVG! Garden variety gardners ... :D

You know you've warped me right, I'll never look at petunias and impatiens the same way again ... I'm becoming an esoteric garden snob ... ;)

This is a fantastic post btw, for someone who didn't have an idea. I like your weed status plants too ... makes sense to have plants that thrive. (Can we consider my rose bushes weed status? hehe) I'll have to keep my eye out on the sea holly at the ornamental gardens I mentioned ... The only place I've seen them so far here in Ottawa, although I'm sure they're about ... :)

FARfetched said...

Heh, weed status is OK, as long as they don't make like the butterfly bushes & wild violets & try taking over the entire YARD....

Family Man said...

Hey I like weeds. I've never understood peoples need to get rid of them. I figure I have an equal opportunity yard and weeds have just as much space as flowers. :)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Olivia, glad my warping campaign has achieved its intended effect, hehe. From the sounds of things it appears those rosss are more thugs than weeds! And glad you found this informative ... I was at a bit of a loss as what to write.

Lol, Far... I thought of you and your butterfly bushes when I was writing this! We don't have that problem up here, but know what you mean with the wood violets... they're pretty (damn invasive), and though we feel a bit bad digging them up and sending them to the compost, if we didn't the garden would be nothing but!

FM, you weed head you ... in your climate I shudder to think what some of our pests would achieve... it's already bad enough when you miss a lambsquarter (pervasive thing here) and next you know it's five feet tall with a trunk like a tree! It is true, though, that one man's weed is another man's flower, so yes, it is all a matter of perspective!