I am joining in with a new weekly meme that I have come across for those of us who love our gardens (or even someone else’s garden.) It is Six on Saturday and hosted by ‘The Propagator’. Basically a post about six things in a garden, yours or someone else’s. Plants, birds, fruit, veg, tools, plans, ideas. Preferably with photos and some words, but not too many (words that is). See here for the participant’s guide.
This week I am going to talk about common weeds found in UK gardens. At least in MY garden. Only six, but there are dozens of others. When I moved into my new house with its attached garden I had no idea what was growing. As we moved in at the end of March the garden was rather dead. A lot of ‘things‘ began to pop up in April that could have been weeds or wildflowers or even cultivated flowers. I had to wait patiently and see what came up and then try to ID the plant. I did a lot of that in the first year (2016).
(A)nnual weeds are the ones that last for one year or growing season only, but which produce lots of weed seeds for next year – and years afterwards.
(P)erennial weeds are those that come back year after year, like dandelions, daisies, common hogweed, lesser celandine, creeping buttercup and cow parsley. Often with long tapered roots that are impossible to dig out without leaving anything behind.
(A) Cleavers (Galium aparine) commonly known as goosegrass, sticky willie with its characteristic ‘sticky’ seeds is a very sociable plant as it climbs happily through anything. It is a common annual weed native to hedgerows, scrub and arable land and the seeds can stick to clothing and the fur of animals and easily transported into the garden. Tiny greenish-white flowers are borne in branching clusters from May to August and can look quite pretty, but do not let it seed or you will have them in your garden for years to come. Every time I go into the garden I end up pulling up more of these things.
(P) Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans) spreads by creeping stems which root at intervals. It has distinctive leaves with five different segments with toothed edges. The flowers are yellow, again with five large fleshy petals which are visible from June to October. This seems to be all over my stone walls and impossible to eradicate as I can’t get into all the cracks. I just pull it out when I can. One advantage is that it is liked by pollinators.
(A) Hairy bittercress (Cardamine Hirsuta) is a compact plant growing 3-5cm high with tiny white flowers. This is a thug. Its seeds explode and scatter everywhere. Often it is brought in to the garden from nurseries growing on the surface of container grown plants. Or in compost. All I know is that I have tons of it in my garden and as it is supposedly edible I might just start harvesting it.
(A) Chickweed (Stellaria media) has pretty star-shaped white flowers and grows between 5cm and 50cm height. I noticed it growing all along the A30 the other day, looking quite pretty with its flowers open. It has medicinal and therapeutic uses, and the Chickweed’s baby form is very tasty and makes a great addition to a salad, as well as being loaded with vitamins. Maybe I should try that as I appear to have an abundance of this around my garden this year.
(A) Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis) grows up to 10cm high and has attractive pink-purple flowers. It grows in arable fields and on waste ground in the wider countryside, and favouring well-drained soils. And in my garden. Common fumitory has medicinal and therapeutic uses. It has been used to treat skin conditions. The flowers have been used to make a yellow dye for wool. (No I don’t understand that either)
The “smoky” or “fumy” origin of its name comes from the translucent colour of its flowers, giving them the appearance of smoke or of hanging in smoke, and the slightly grey-blue haze colour of its foliage, also resembling smoke coming from the ground, especially after morning dew. (Wikipedia)
(P) Silverweed (Potentilla or Argentina anserina) is another creeping weed with the distinctive yellow Potentilla flower. The leaves are a very pretty silvery-grey which is why I allowed it to grow for a while until I realised how invasive it can be. All parts of the silverweed are edible and are a good source of flavonoids. Leaves can be made into an herbal tea or tossed into a salad, stew or a stir fry. Silverweed is also an analgesic, anti-spasmodic, astringent, diuretic and a tonic and apparently if you have sweaty feet, placing a leaf or two in your shoes can help absorb moisture. Now who knew that?
Living in the countryside with wild hedgerows full of ‘weeds’ and native flowers, plus right next door to a working cattle farm with wasteland on the other side of my fence means that I have to get used to all the weeds in my garden as it is impossible to eradicate them all. On the other hand it appears that many of these are edible so I should just stop wasting my time and money planting edibles (which the slugs and snails get to before I do ) and just start harvesting what grows naturally.
I will introduce you to six weeds next week that I have accepted into the garden as long as I can contain their spread.