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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Living with Nature

Nature is taking over my approximately two acres of lawn and gardens. I feel overwhelmed at times as I look at the lawns I mowed the week before with grass that is much higher than it should be and with dandelion greens as well as other plants and wild flowers I didn’t plant like plantains (once used in salads in years gone by.) Also, there is the wood sorrel, which I don’t mind as much because it has a slightly pleasantly sour taste that my chickens, ponies and inside birds enjoy. I’ve nibbled on it before, but it’s been a long time now since I’ve tasted it. Only a few dandelions are still blooming, but something similar called Hawkweed with orange flowers is popping up in my lawn, too.
Ground ivy in my compost bed

I took the time to look up some of the so-called weeds that have found a home on my property. One of those is Gill-over-the-ground, also called ground ivy with blue flowers. It was brought over from Europe, and once used in France to brew beer and in England Gill tea was drank regularly by house painters to combat “painters colic” caused by the lead in the paint. The leaves are rich in vitamin C which is used to counteract lead poisoning. I know my hens and my ponies love eating it when I pull it up and give it to them.

Colts foot in the front & Jerusalem Artichoke that also took over.

Another plant taking over my flower gardens and the mulch pile by my turnaround is Colts foot. In the spring it has yellow flowers, but I find it quite invasive as it spreads by underground roots and is almost impossible to completely get rid of. It was used as a medicinal plant in Europe, and my ponies love it and eat the whole plant that I pull up leaves, roots and all.

Mock orange, clematis & white rose with a few buttercups

One weed that I really hate is buttercups. Yes, they are bright and cheerful, but can be toxic to animals and are taking over my pony pasture and other places. At least my ponies are avoiding eating them. Apparently they have a bitter taste.  The pasture is too rough and with some stones for me to mow with my mower. At times I go out and cut back the weeds, but it’s too large to do much. I toss what I cut in my garbage container along with the dock that grows there, too.

Even though I like making bouquets with them they do take over.

And then there’s the goldenrod. They are really invasive in my flower gardens. I like their flowers, and no they don’t cause hay fever. That is caused by rag weed which is also invasive and has slim flower heads at the same time as the goldenrod.

I just cut this dock down. Hydrangeas are under my kitchen window.

Also there is dock. It doesn’t have flowers, but tall seed heads. The roots go very deep and are hard to dig out. They are in my flower gardens, along the side of the barn, in the pony pasture, too, and everywhere except on the lawns I mow. I especially hate when they show up next to plants like irises and roses that I worry about damaging their roots when I’m trying to dig out the dock plant.

This is a garden just outside my back door.

Other things that have invaded my gardens are the numerous ash tree saplings apparently sent down by the ash tree that died recently probably from the Emerald Ash borer. Maybe it’s an attempt to at least have ash trees survive.

This is my yet to be weeded St. Fiacre bed.

Even worse are the shoots that show up everywhere from the trumpet vine I planted years and years ago because it attracted hummingbirds. Hardly any of the gardens on the north side of my driveway are without those vines coming up, and some even have managed to come to other gardens.  I actually planted one by my potting shed, too. I keep cutting it back as much as I can.

The sidewalk leading to my back door.

Even flowers I’ve planted can become invasive like the black eyed Susans I planted in the garden beside the brick sidewalk leading to my back door. I only planted a few, but there are so many there now. And further towards the house there are mysterious plants I’m not sure if they are peach leaf campanulas or young goldenrod plants.

Not a real rabbit but one given to me.
Then there are the numerous ground covers I’ve planted. English Ivy that has spread around my house, my well house and into my Cook Forest grove, along with Vinca minor with pretty blue flowers that have managed to mix with the ivy here and there. In other areas where the ivy and vinca aren’t there is a smaller three leaved ground cover with variegated leaves that has become quite invasive.  I can’t remember what they are called now because I planted the first of them years ago from plants given to me.

Columbine in one of my side yard gardens.

Some flowers I’ve planted have multiplied in different spots like columbine. I have some in pink, white, blue and purple and some that are variegated. I love them this time of the year, and don’t consider them weeds even though they tend to spread to different parts of the gardens.

a rose and clematis arbor leading into side yeard.

March and April had a lot of rain, and I’m way behind on weeding and getting my flower gardens in order, so after weeks and weeks of stewing over this, I made a decision. Since most people who visit don’t know the difference between a weed and a perennial I’ve planted anyway. I’m going to let nature take over. I will continue mowing, and get rid of those weeds like dock that I really hate, but I’m only going to weed enough to make room for the newest perennials I’ve bought. I’ll pull the tall grass that has popped up in my beds, but other than that I’m going to enjoy the wild natural look of my gardens. I’ll do a little weeding in places around my small goldfish pond and make the path leading to it a little wider.

Because the rabbits totally demolished every vegetable and annual I planted last year in my vegetable garden except for the tomatoes and the marigolds that I planted with them, I’m not sure I’m going to plant a garden there this year, especially since all the raised beds in the fenced in garden now have almost waist high weeds. There are the masses of chives, too, that have spread throughout. Their purple blooms are nice to see. I won’t cut them down. But I may transplant some of them to pots.

Notice the bird house in the Maple where a wren has her nest.

So for now I’m going to enjoy the beautiful peonies, roses, irises, and clematis that are blooming as well as my beautiful mock orange bush, some azaleas still blooming, and the rhododendrons now losing all their beautiful blooms but still with shiny green leaves, the Japanese maple near my house with it’s pretty reddish leaves, and some other perennials starting to come into bloom, and just the incredible greenness of my back yard. Mother Nature is in her glory here, and I’m going to enjoy what she has to offer.

Do you prefer the wild over the neatly manicured lawns and gardens?


Jim Jackson said...

Rather than use grass over the septic field, I transplanted native flowering plants. Some are spreading, others in decline, and other volunteers continually add themselves to the mix. I weed this area of the trees that insist on colonizing what they view as territory stolen from them when I built the house.

I also declared my property a dandelion-free zone. The dandelions challenge that proclamation, but I ruthlessly pull them out, and when I can’t get the root, I at least take all its leaves.

BTW we also have Hawkweed. It doesn’t flower until late June or early July, and I prefer its other name: Devil’s paintbrush.

Formal gardens have their place, but nature will win in the end.

~ Jim

Anonymous said...

I love wild lush gardens interspersed with selected blooms. I love it when Gloria gives me a garden tour, she points out every flower AND the weeds. LOL Entering her property almost reminds me of a private woodland. Her front door, rather close to a highway... her back door is an entirely different, peaceful, cool and shaded delight. A formal garden always impresses my eye, but I prefer to wander and sit amidst Ireland green, happy birds, and naughty chipmunks. Gloria's world.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I have an overgrown flower bed where the unexpected volunteers live: a red bud tree, a small cypress tree, some goldenrod I keep for fall color, in addition to the magnus coneflowers I brought from Atlanta, and perennials from the gardens of friends, some of which I haven't identified. Stray mums pop up, and a spreading small yellow flower.

Gloria, your gardens are so peaceful. You must derive satisfaction and inspiration from them.

Warren Bull said...

We had a backyard that so shady it was hard to grow grass. After a number of years we just let nature happen and called the results natural plants.

Gloria Alden said...

You are right, Jim. I'd need at least three full time gardeners to keep my gardens in perfect shape. I consider dandelions little bursts of sunshine in the spring. Right now I spend time picking their leaves every morning to feed to my chickens, my son's peacock, and my ponies.

Laura, I think that's why you enjoy taking care of my critters when I go away. It's suppose to be a nice few days coming up so I hope you enjoy your strolls through my gardens.

Margaret, I do derive satisfaction from them. The top picture that I didn't put a caption on shows my little goldfish pond in the front, and then a garden bench near my wildflower garden.

Warren, my back yard has a lot of shade, too, but enough sunlight comes in for at least a few hours a day that I have grass there, too, and the hostas thrive all around my place.

KM Rockwood said...

Manicured gardens are lovely and certainly have their place, but it's not at my house.

I always have gardens that need weeding (I was not in the best of health for a few years, and pretty much ignored them, so I am just getting back to trying to tame them again.

I love an overflowing mix of plants. My favorite is a front garden between the house and the path to the front door. It's a mix of yews (which need to be trimmed) in the background, azaleas which had a lovely season, hosta along the path, fairy roses that are just coming into vigorous bloom, a row of pink daylilies that are now in bud, and a groundcover of pachysandra, which in early spring is punctuated by big crocuses and daffodils.

It's past the point where it needs much weeding (thank goodness!) and I sometimes divide some of the plants and move them to another area.

Geoff Mehl said...

Lovely garden! I'm a sustainable/native plant enthusiast, so mine is a two prong battle against all the regional invasives as well as rampant spreading and suckering of the natives. Worst offenders: ostrich fern, mayapples, Canada anemone. I am also a fan of very neatly groomed gardens (think Butchart) so my couple of acres gives me plenty of exercise. Just got in from another long day in the jungle...

Gloria Alden said...

K.M. I remember your sidewalk garden. I thought it was lovely. I remember standing there and looking around on both sides of your walk. Today I realized that two of my daylily plants by
the veggie garden are crowding out a small rose bush. I need to divide them, but where I'll
plant them, I have no idea. Maybe back by the woods.

Geoff, I'll bet you have lovely gardens. I have a lot of may apples in my woods, and I transplanted some of them to my wild flower gardens. I used to have a gigantic Jakk in the Pulpit in my wildflower garden near my driveway, but I think one of the hostas crowded it out. I saw it earlier this spring, but don't see it now. Last year Jack in his pulpit came up to my knee or further. I have Virginia bluebells in that garden, too, and in another woodland garden I have trillium. It didn't last in my woods when I planted it there because of the deer. I see ostrich ferns when I'm camping in PA or N.Y. I love it, but I suppose it
could become invasive. Most wild plants can. Almost every time my sisters and I go camping we go to ppublic gardens like Longwood Gardens, and also when I go to California to visit my youngest daughter. I blame Thomas Jefferson's Montecello for giving me the idea of putting down brick walkways through my veggie garden. Yes, they were beautiful there, but he had slaves and now they have full time gardeners to keep the weeds from growing in the
thin space between the bricks.

Kait said...

It's lovely, Gloria! a lot of work, I know, but lovely. Reminds me of the English gardens I love so much. I am a bad gardener. I never have enough time (or desire when I have the time) to keep after the weeds. I managed when I lived in Maine. There it was seasonal, here in Florida, there is no end to the weed season, and it seems that by the end of the day when I finish one bed, an entirely new crop has populated the place I started in the morning. I'm thinking of putting down confederate jasmine. A nice, thick, blooming, fragrant, ground traveler and letting it choke out the worst of the weeds! Of course keeping the ground cover in check becomes its own full-time job so I'm not sure that is the way to go either.

Gloria Alden said...

Kait, at least I have the winters to take a break from gardening. I can't imagine working at
it all year. I hear you, though, that no sooner do you get one area weeded and looking nice,
before the week is out the weeds are working their way back in. I can't even hire someone to help because anyone young enough to be willing to work wouldn't know a weed from a perennial.
And yes, my gardens are a lot like the English gardens because I love them, too. Unfortunately, the pictures I see of them they look more groomed and weed free.