Weeds attract repetitive garden articles, as useful as those about slugs. So I’ll try and spare you the cliches and report my current thinking.
A visitor yesterday took me to see the flower of ground elder, thinking it was cow parsley. No difference as far as he was concerned, nor me neither. He thought it shouldn’t be there. I thought it looked great.
But this is not to say that flowering ground elder looks great everywhere. It has overtaken me in the front garden, despite my vow to remove the flowers (too many and too little time?) (yes, I know, but I’d rather be doing this and 1001 other good things!)
But it looks good in the crescent border where it mingles with the pink thalictrum (yes, you will find that all over Veddw at the moment too, making different pictures) and the matching Persicaria bistorta and rugosa rose. I love the way those colours match and the forms are so totally different. Though in the photographs I took they have come out white…
The effect, to me, is country casual. A sort of heightened rural lane verge.
The fact that there are a lot of all those flowering things, well massed and the masses intermingled, helps. But it doesn’t help the gentleman (yes he was just that) who enquired about whether the cow parsley should be there. He has probably spent many hours attempting to eliminate such plants, so the look is just one thing to him: weedy.
This is not simply that old chestnut about ‘it’s all a matter of taste’ though. It is hard to see the merits of what we have come to instantly spot and fear as a BAD plant. But if we look at gardens with discernment I think we can cope. The challenge for the garden visitor is to look twice and take in the overall scene and intention. The challenge for the garden maker is to create a picture that works and a picture which doesn’t look weedy when you stop labelling/stereotyping the plants.
There is no recipe for this. This is where the skill of a good garden maker tells – the looking, the judgement, the adding and removal, the adjustments. I have never found trailing or climbing plants look good to me in amongst a mixed planting – cleavers is just horrible, anywhere – and the partly smothered look they create says wasteland always.
Almost always. I have a Clematis Montana flowering at the moment amongst a Rosa wichuriana (vigorous rambler) and ground elder. (not yet flowering). The flowers are beautiful, large and telling. The effect is – not weedy?
See what I mean about judgement and adjustments? This is gardening.
For really intelligent garden writing (by other people) do read thinkingardens