Sunday, June 17, 2012

Flower or Weed?

One of the interesting things about moving is learning how to garden in a new place. I have moved from a coastal rainforest with a hardiness rating of 4a to 5a (depending on elevation and micro climate) to a sunny, semi-arid grasslands rated at 3a. It is also windy here. The soil is heavy clay.

One of my first strategies in figuring out how to garden here was to wait and see what would come up in my garden. The backyard of our new place is fenced, with one large spruce tree, a number of deciduous trees, and flowering shrubs. There are several raised beds planted with hosta, ferns, bee balm, and decorative grasses, and some creeping ground cover, along with the shrubs. One bed seems to have been well augmented with black humus, and I was curious to see what might pop up in it.

In the front yard, there is a flower bed. When I arrived in April, I could see three clumps of an unknown perennial, two clumps of (dead) decorative grasses, and not much else. By mid-May when it was safe to start planting, I could see an unfamiliar plant coming up in several places in the flower garden. Was it a weed or flower?

I am not much of a flower gardener; I mostly like to plant things that I can eat. So I do not recognize many types of flowers, especially ones that might be particular to an unfamiliar climatic zone like that of my new home. My second strategy was to look for my unknown plant at the plant nursery when I was buying bedding plants. I didn't see it, although at one garden shop, there was something that looked similar way up high on a rack that I could not reach.

I left the unknown plant in my garden, in fact several of them, to see what it would do. It thrived, grew tall, and began forming flower heads. The flowers when it bloomed were yellow, and star-burst in shape. The flowers opened during the day and closed at night.

Strategy number three: I walked around the neighbourhood, snooping to see if anyone else had the unknown yellow flower in their garden. No-one did, except for one neighbour, whose garden was as much weeds as flowers.

I was starting to become suspicious. The thing was growing like a weed, and although its flowers were reasonably attractive, the plant was scraggly and weedy in appearance. What clinched my decision to consider it a weed was that I began to see the same plant out in the grasslands park, and also in back alleys. Weed, not flower.

I dug them all up. I still don't know what it is. I should have taken a photo of it and posted it here. I suppose it is odd that wild flowers are considered a weed, whereas petunias and impatiens are not, and are therefore pampered.

And as for the back garden plot, nothing came up there but many (recognizable) weeds. I have weeded it, dug it up, and that is where I am planting my veggies. At least I know how to discriminate between vegetables and weeds!     

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