Six on Saturday | Common Weeds

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.

Creeping Cinquefoil

(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.

Starry, starry night

(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)

Common Fumitory

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.

Six on Saturday

47 Comments Add yours

  1. Ros says:

    Interesting 🙂 I didn’t know the name for chickweed. Now I do 🙂

    Petty spurge was the bane of my life in Somerset. It took over our vegetable patch one year, causing my daughter to comment, ‘If only we could eat this stuff, we’d have a massive harvest.’ Unfortunately, it’s not edible. It also spreads gazillions of seeds everywhere, so I took to pulling it up when it was less than an inch high… but still couldn’t get rid of it. Hated the stuff. Apparently, it can be used to treat skin cancer, though, which just goes to show that even the most annoying of plants have their uses…

    Like you, we eventually left our lawn to the dandelions and daisies and I have since decided that I like it better like that. Far prettier. My husband is not convinced, though. By the time we left, the continual mowing without lawn treatments meant it was becoming quite infertile and reverting to clover… whereupon we discovered that clover actually stays far greener through a dry period than does grass. And the bees love it 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      A clover lawn? Well, that’s not impossible. I notice that there is clover growing just outside my rear parking place. Maybe without grass other wild flowers can grow. In fact I’m probably only going to mow a path through my little bit of lawn and leave the rest to do its own thing!

  2. cavershamjj says:

    Chickweed! It has a name! Have had that in profusion, weirdly only ever in my planters.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Never noticed it last year, but this year it is everywhere! Maybe the cold caused it to germinate.

  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    You’re either very good at research or you have an encyclopaedic knowledge, I’ve long since forgotten which are which!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Good research. I needed it when I moved here as there were weeds I had never even seen before – like the silverweed. I hadn’t a clue if they were plants I should keep or get rid of!

  4. Bladud Fleas says:

    Sticky Willie – we have that here but don’t call it that, ha, ha. Herb Robert too and it has such an awful smell, it just has to go.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Funny that I have not picked up on the herb Robert smell issue. Haven’t got so much now to go and have a sniff 😀

  5. pommepal says:

    Great post Jude very informative. Don’t seem to have many of these weeds over here, but we have our own tropical ones. That silver weed sounds very useful. Have you tried eating any of them? Yes I think forget the veggie plants if the s n s leave the weeds alone…

    1. Heyjude says:

      Be nice if the S&S actually ate the weeds!!

      1. pommepal says:

        Would be a help…

  6. I feel bad saying this but some of them are actually quite pretty. Sorry Jude 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      They are, and if they didn’t try to steal the nutrients from my other plants they could stay. Well the cinquefoil will because I can’t get rid of it without resorting to chemical means and I try to avoid that.

  7. Stellaria media has even made its way to Texas, alas.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Close up it is actually a pretty flower and en masse along the roadside it looks lovely. Just not in my garden! First year I have seen it here so I do wonder if the cold woke it up!

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