Tuesday, 23 May 2017


For many gardeners weeds are anathema and must be removed immediately. By and large I treat them with disdain and on our allotment I wield the hoe with gusto. However, when hand weeding in the garden I am a little more heedful - asking myself just what am I removing and why? This has often paid off and several plants have escaped grasping fingers and now give pleasure - and a degree of smug satisfaction. Several saxifrages are now in flower having been spotted when still seedlings. Tiny plants of Cyclamen hederifolia have also received a reprieve as have Pasque Flowers.
Speaking of Pasque Flowers, Pulsatilla vulgaris, their petaloid sepals have now fallen, to be replaced by numerous fruits with silky, feathery styles.
Pulsatilla vulgaris - the Pasque Flower - in seed. Our garden at Stefen Hill,
Daventry. 22 May, 2017
Aesthetically this is pleasing as the plants provide us with a second season of beauty but botanically it is interesting too, as the relationship to Clematis now becomes obvious.
Some plants have been spared, not because they are specially garden-worthy, but because for some oddball reason I like them. An example is Goat's Beard, Tragopogon pratensis. Its bright golden-yellow flowers open in the morning but have closed by the afternoon. giving rise to its common names of Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, Nap-at-noon and so on.
Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon. A morning picture! Stefen Hill,
Daventry. 23 May, 2017

I must admit that a specimen of this dandelion relative sneaked in, growing between other robust plants, so that when I eventually spotted it I hadn't the heart to remove it. I'll allow it to flower and produce its giant 'dandelion clock' fruiting heads, and then remove it. There are around 60-70 species of Tragopogon including Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius.
Another example is a Fuchsia now growing in a sheltered corner of the front garden. Fuschias often have succulent fruit - edible so I've been told - and are probably taken by birds. If this specimen has been bird sown that would explain its presence, for I certainly didn't plant it and it wasn't in the garden when we bought the house. I'll allow it to flower too but it will probably get the heave-ho; it is out of proportion for this spot in the garden.

I tolerate a few Welsh Poppies. Stefen Hill, Daventry.
22 May, 2017

What of Welsh Poppies, Papaver cambricum  (formerly Meconopsis cambrica)? Certainly they are bright and cheerful but despite careful dead-heading a few seedlings pop up, generally to be weeded out, and yet again I lack the ruthlessness to remove them all. Another potentially problematic poppy, the Opium Poppy, Papaver somniferum, has appeared in the front garden but has been given short shrift. It is simply too tall for the situation. Despite being the source of a remarkable number of drugs - morphine, codeine, thebaine, noscapine, laudosine, to name but a few - I am not tempted. I'll leave its cultivation to the handful of farmers who grow low-alkaloid varieties for the baking industry wherein it is scattered on buns and bread.
Seedlings are at the root of many problems with weeds. The Fairy Foxglove, Erinus alpinus, is an undeniably attractive plant, so when I saw one growing on waste ground at Dolls Hill, Byfield, I happily lifted it and put in in our front garden. The fact that this little Pyrenean alpine had seeded itself into waste ground should have been a warning!
Fairy Foxglove is under control - but only just! Stefen Hill, Daventry.
22 May, 2017
It was found 'wild' many years ago near Loch Assynt, in Sutherland along with other alpine rarities and it was eventually realised that someone had deliberately sown or planted them. The colony has not spread widely but the plant I gathered at Doll's Hill has behaved quite differently, seeding throughout our front garden and, pretty though it may be, is now trying my patience. Despite its appearance this diminutive plant really is closely related to foxgloves, Digitalis, species. The two genera for most of my lifetime have been in the Scrophulariaceae family but have now been transferred to the Plantaginaceae, making the foxgloves akin to the plantains!

The inflorescence of Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata.
Christchurch Drive, Daventry. 23 May, 2017
 But it is apparently illogical relationships like this is that makes botany - and weeding - so fascinating.

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