by Pam Erikson/Special to the Langley Advance
There is an old saying “A weed is only a plant in the wrong place” – and this is so very true, especially at this time of year – when our focus is weeding the garden in preparation for a new season of bloom.
In our front garden, we have a mass planting of snowdrops that have worked their way into the lawn.
I have had several questions from people regarding what to do as they feel that they are weeds in the lawn, but and I say “enjoy them!”.
The snowdrops come into bloom at the tail end of winter, before the lawns are really doing very much – so enjoy the colour that they offer.
They are finished soon enough and you can simply mow them down with the first cut.
Most bulbs (especially tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths) require that the foliage be left on the plant in order to feed the bulb for the following year.
Snowdrop bulbs are very tiny and they gather plenty of nourishment during their blooming time, so we have never had an issue mowing them down.
And each year we have even more, so obviously they are happy.
Now there are obvious weeds that we all hate – like snapweed (that shoots nasty projectile seeds into your eyes), wild mustard (with its strong underground runners), the dreaded buttercup (I have a new tool that I love and it works great), and dandelions.
The latter is not such a big problem for us because the bees love the dandelion flowers, but we do try to get them pulled out before the seeds fly everywhere, and I’m sure the neighbourhood appreciates that.
There are other plants in our garden that are definitely in our “weed” category, but we love them so much that we leave them – pulling out only the ones in the “wrong place.”
Digitalis (foxgloves) are one such plant. Absolutely love them in the late spring-early summer, when they add height and colour to the garden (and again, the bees love them), but they seed themselves readily so we just pull out what we don’t want. The same goes for Aquilegia (columbine) – stunning when in bloom but seeds everywhere.
If I have an area that is difficult to maintain, I just let the seed grow and fill in the area. Once the aquilegia have bloomed and the foliage starts to look sad, I cut the plant back to the ground and all new foliage emerges looking fresh and new.
(No new flowers, but the foliage looks so nice in the perennial beds).
There are two particular plants that we have grown through the years that are good for certain areas, but can rapidly become a weed in anyone’s book.
Vinca, (also known as periwinkle) that lovely creeping plant with soft purple flowers is magnificent along banks or areas where other weeds need to be controlled, but be sure to stay on top of it, as it will creep into your other areas if you are not careful.
The same goes for Ajuga (bugleweed), another creeping plant (we love the one with beautiful deep burgundy foliage) but treat it the same way as the Vinca.
There are so many other perennials that can become a problem in the garden, but each gardener knows what they like and what they want to haul out.
Gardening is fun; it is trial and error; and it is very personal – not everyone is going to like the same things. So grow whatever you like, but keep an eye on some things that have a bad reputation.
Time to think about spring plant sales
As we slowly make the transition from winter to spring, take a moment out of weeding, pruning and cleanup to consider what you are going to plant this year. To that end, many people like to visit local garden club plant sales to get ideas, discover new plants and take advantage of sage advice from gardeners with so much experience.
The new year of garden plant sales and shows usually starts with the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle Wash., which was held again in early February. But for local gardeners, who do not want to make the trek south, there are a plethora of interesting sales to watch for in our area.
So if you would like to stay close to home, check these out:
• Langley Garden Club Spring Show and Sale, Saturday, April 28, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the United Churches of Langley (formerly Sharon United) at 216th Street and 48th Avenue.
• South Surrey Garden Club plant sale, Saturday, May 12, 9 a.m. to noon at Mark’s Anglican Church, 12953 20th Ave in South Surrey.
• Mt. Lehman Garden Club plant sale, Saturday May 12th, 9 am to noon at the Mt Lehman Credit Union parking lot, 5889 Mt. Lehman Rd., in Abbotsford.
• Maple Ridge Garden Club plant sale, Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St Patrick’s Church, 22561 121st Ave., in Maple Ridge.
VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver also hold its annual plant sale each spring, this year on Sunday, April 29, and while they have a huge array of vendors, you will have to tackle traffic and crowds. Local plant sales are usually held in church or commercial parking lots, affording lots of parking and space to walk around.
Vendors are normally local as well, and sometimes you find amazing bake sales at some of these events. Nothing better than snacking on homemade goodies while browsing for new plant discoveries.
Make your list of plants you are lusting after and check out the local garden clubs events – shopping local is not only fun but is very beneficial to your community.
– Pam Erikson is owner of Erikson’s Daylily Gardens and Perennials and president of the Langley Garden Club.