Friendly Friday: Wildflowers in my garden (a.k.a. weeds that I like)

I’ve never joined a blog challenge before, but I was invited to join this particular Friendly Friday  challenge and it is such a warm and super idea that I jumped at the chance.  Whoever hosts Friendly Friday declares a theme, and all those participating on their own blogs post something concerned with that theme.  It doesn’t have to be photographic.  It can, for example, be a recipe, poem, illustration or anything that can be posted on a blog.   This week’s host is forestwood, whose challenge is posted here.

I have chosen to select four wildflowers that I have permitted to run free in my garden.  Officially, they are weeds, but the choice to let one or two of them remain where they landed makes them part of my garden, and I choose to dignify them with the name wildflower rather than weed 🙂 Friday 2nd July, 21:53.

Weeds love my garden, and most of them are hauled out with extreme prejudice, using a mattock, spade or archaeological trowel, depending on how big they are and how deeply rooted.  I have become more of an expert on the annoying weeds than on those treasured flowers and shrubs that what I’ve so carefully planted, mainly because I am very intimate with what the weeds are doing underground.  The worst of my weeds have huge tubers that, even when the plant is small, have to be dug out rather than pulled out.  When I inherited my garden, it majored on ivy, holly and stinging nettles, and their unchecked spread are still a legacy problem, but some of the self-setters are much more welcome.

It has taken a long time to recover a rose bed full of mature rose bushes from giant holly trees and ground ivy but it is now looking beautiful, with two buddleias to provide additional colour and texture.  As I was pulling up some of the worst self-invited weedy offenders I recognized corn / common poppy leaves.  That bed had no poppies last year, meaning that these had blown in on the wind and settled down to establish themselves in amongst my roses.  Allowing poppies (Papaver rhoeas) to seed is always disastrous, because they spread like crazy and are so hard to remove in the long-term.  But I have a weakness for them and although I may be kicking myself this time next year, they are so glorious that right now I feel no regrets.  They are almost as tall as me, bright red with black centres, wending their way through the branches of a white rose.  This bed has been considerably disturbed in the last few years as we have restored it, and disturbed soil is a favoured habitat for the common poppy.  The effect is truly spectacular.  It has been used for medicinal uses throughout history in many cultures and is well known for its narcotic properties.

 

My second garden wildflower is also a newcomer to my garden.  It likes to set itself along the edges of rivers and around the edges of ponds and lakes, where it has a freshness and lightness that draws attention to both itself and the water that it frames.  It has small yellow flowers that cluster together and a decorative green leaf that is best known for capturing dewdrops and rain water which, trapped on the leaf, creates prisms of fabulous colour in the sun.   The sun had just vanished as I left the poppies, and the sudden clouds brought a sudden shower of good old English rain, but here they are:  Common Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), a previously absent herbaceous perennial clustering in an uninvited fringe around my leaking pond with tiny yellow-green flowers and lobed pale green, slightly hairy leaves.  Connecting from one to the next by rhizomes, it is going to be a beast to eradicate from other parts of the garden, but it looks very good around the pond.   It was used for a number of medicinal purposes in the past (and may be in the present too).

 

A firm family favourite, which we have always encouraged into our gardens, is the red campion (Silene dioica).  I used to collect them in bunches as a child before we moved abroad, and I always associate them with good childhood things, like walking the family dog and running around without a care in the world.

Blasting off in all directions from the ground, they are truly exuberant, and their lovely pink flowers, here there and everywhere, warm the heart.  As shown here, the petals form five sets of two pairs, almost heart-shaped, with a green and white centre holding them together.  The stem is hairy.  They grow everywhere around the UK, particularly at home in woodland and in verges.  Their seeds spread from the dry capsule after the flowers have fallen, and they establish easily.  Flowers are male and female.  They look similar but grow on different plants.

 

Finally, Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum, a member of the geranium family) is an old favourite, and a real weed.  It pulls out very easily, and I have been dragging it up in bag-fulls all year, but I have allowed one or two to remain where they decided to set themselves, in some of the less formal parts of the garden, just because I like them.  I am probably making a rod for my own back, but given that they pull up so easily I will almost certainly forgive myself next year.  Little pink  and red-striped flowers sit on top of bright red stems, with deeply lobed leaves that are sometimes also fringed with red, and they spread across the ground in a joyful, albeit straggly network of colour.  I’ve never seen stems so very red as the ones here.  Also shown at the top of this post.

 

Sources:

de Sloover, J. and Goossens, M. (English translation Lucia Wildt).  Wild Herbs. A Field Guide.   David and Charles

Fletcher, N. 2004. Wild Flowers. Dorling Kindersley

Grey-Wilson, C. 1994.  Wild Flowers of Britain and Northwest Europe.  Dorling Kindersley

1 thought on “Friendly Friday: Wildflowers in my garden (a.k.a. weeds that I like)

  1. Forestwood

    You are a taxonomist in disguise, Andy. Did you have a background in this area? The way you write about the wildflowers is academic yet informative and interesting. We gardeners know the pain of pulling up weeds. Somehow allowing them space in the garden is like walking a tightrope! I didn’t know poppies were so persistent and resilient. They look so fragile and are revered here as the symbol of the battlefields of France on Remembrance day, November 11.
    I am so pleased you joined in with the challenge and I do hope to see more posts from you. I will be posting a new prompt in six weeks time, but the other two hosts may keep us busy in the interim.

    Like

    Reply

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