I’ve been thinking about weeds and the first person to bring a flower into cultivation. Imagine being the first person to discover the Asian Lily or the Tulip. Someone decided that those were flowers they wanted to have around them. Horticulture began with some person saying, “hey that’s a nice looking plant, I want to grow it at my house.” But someone also decided that other plants were weeds and needed to be removed. The world of horticulture is so subjective.
There is a saying along the lines of, a weed is simply a plant growing in the wrong place. I’m sure you can find someone quoted as saying something similar. But, lets not get wrapped up in quotes and miss the point of the statement. Lets look at that statement from another angle. What is the right place for this plant? Now, we can look at weeds a different way! This concept is important if we honestly have an interest in wildflowers or native landscapes. The nursery isn’t going to like the idea of us going out and digging up wildflowers to plant in our garden. However, that is the tradition of horticulture. Just think about that first person to discover the Iris. What were they doing in the swamp anyway? What if that person had decided that, an Iris is a weed and should be removed from the landscape? Our gardens would look very different!
So, I think we should take another look at the natural environment. We should take another look at what we call weeds. We should ask the question; what is the right place for this plant? Plants grow with or without our doting. We could probably make our landscapes easier to care for if we follow the patterns that already exist in nature; if we allow the plants that grow without our care, to thrive.
I like a weed called fleabane. I’m a little surprised that it’s not a cultivated plant. There are many cultivated plants that have a similar appearance. I’m not saying let every dandelion stay. However, I challenge you to ask the question; is there a spot in the garden where a basal rosette annual yellow flower fits? If the answer is no- then no.
I understand this is a touchy subject and care should be taken. Some plants are weeds because they spread aggressively. I understand that. So, learn about your plants. But, don’t skip over a wildflower that is aesthetically pleasing just because it isn’t in cultivation. Maybe you will be the first to “discover” the next Daffodil.
For more information about wildflowers please visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website. They have a great online database of native plants.