Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weeds in the Garden of Eden : Part 1 : What is a Weed?

Occasionally while I am up to my elbows in dirt and weeds, I muse about whether there were weeds in the Garden of Eden.  Today I came to the conclusion that there were indeed weeds in the Garden of Eden, and can logically prove it.

First of all, what is a weed?  By definition, a weed is simply a plant we don't want growing where it is successfully growing.  Newbie gardeners may be surprised by that.  One of the common questions of a newbie gardener is "Is this a weed?"  It's a weed if you consider it a weed.  Plants by their very nature are not "weeds" or favoured garden plants.  There are simply plants which are too successful and too prevalent for our gardening conditions, that they are considered "weeds".  Case in point : When I used to participate in seed trading forums, I remember someone posting that he was looking for dandelion seeds.  In his gardening zone/conditions, the dandelion was a difficult plant to grow, and thus desirable to attempt in his garden.  In my gardening conditions, my lawn would be all moss and dandelions if I would let nature decide.  If it weren't for its rampant success, I'd be planting dandelions in my garden also, since it displays the prettiest and most vibrant yellow of all the plants I can think of. 

Carex pendulaMany of our "weeds" may even be plants we've introduced to our gardens intentionally.  In my early days of gardening, I brought home many treasured plants from plant trades, which would later, after taking over much of my garden, become weeds which I now remove on sight.  Most notably for me is the Carex pendula (Weeping sedge) which I brought home from a plant trade, and planted it on our moist hillside.  It was pretty, and even seeded itself about the garden.  The first couple of years, I was bringing the strong, green seedlings to plant trades myself, and finding good homes for them.  It wasn't until it proceeded to seed itself by the millions, at which point it had grown to such a large and strong clump that I couldn't dig it out myself, that I became alarmed and called on my neighbour to help me remove it.  I am still pulling Carex seedlings by the hundreds, years later.  (My neighbour ended up planting the clumps, but I don't believe they were successful, or just marginally so, so we are still on talking terms.)

Yellow loosestrife
Yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia)At our last home, our neighbour (on the other side of the duplex) was an elderly lady who enjoyed occasionally inspecting her "garden" which was composed of a wild overgrowth of plants which many experienced gardeners would consider "weeds".  To her, they were her pride and joy, growing successfully with almost little effort on her part.  Funny, although I was amused by this, I also brought some of her weedy plants with me when I left : Hyacinthoides hispanica (Spanish bluebells), which formed the basis of my blue shade garden, until I filled it in with other blue shade plants, and Lysimachia (Yellow loosestrife), which formed a colourful clump (see photos) in my wild garden at the far back of my yard for some 5 years, until only last year, when I cleaned it up as part of my raspberry garden renovation. 

So really, a "weed" or a treasured plant is only in the eye of the beholder.  A "weed" is simply a plant growing successfully where we don't want it to grow.

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