Learning to Love Weeds

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.  ~Doug Larson

Floral Design by Nature

Floral Design by Nature

As I strolled around the yard this week I found a most artistic arrangement of weeds growing in the most inhospitable part of the yard where every attempt to grow grass has failed.  I have learned to appreciate weeds as a part of my yard decor.  I couldn’t have planted a more attractive green medallion.  The crabgrass bow in the middle is a nice touch.   I’ve always aspired to create a landscape worthy of the cover of a gardening magazine but alas I don’t think it is meant to be! 

Each year garden tours give New River Valley residents a chance to admire some of the spectacular results that our “Master Artists of the Garden” have achieved. We have quite a few Master Gardeners in the New River Valley.  The horticulture department at nearby Virginia Tech regularly hosts instructional classes of all sorts, including Master Gardener Certification at their Hahn Horticulture Garden /Greenhouse.

Here is some advice for creating the perfect landscape (and why I have embraced the beauty of weeds).

  • Water regularly during dry spells.  (People on wells find this disturbing)
  • Choose flowers displaying a variety of colors, textures and heights.  (in other words, lots of variety for the deer party buffet)
  • Add a water feature such as a shallow pool with goldfish.  (aka Raccoon candy)
  • Test and amend the soil to provide the perfect combination of plant nutrients (solid limestone topped with 2 inches of red clay…hhhmmmm)

The Quote Garden (a wonderful website with quotes on all topics) has a whole section on weeds.  As a nature-lover I especially like this one: 

But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else.  In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit.  Weeds are people’s idea, not nature’s.  ~Author Unknown

Teasel, watercolor by Karen Hines

Teasel, watercolor by Karen Hines

This watercolor painting is of pods of teasel.  Many people use the unusual seed heads in floral arrangements and craft projects. Considered a weed today, teasel was once cultivated and the hooked bracts of the seed heads used to “tease” and raise the nap of woolen cloth resulting in a luxurious finish unmatched by mechanical teasing of today.

Actually many of the “weeds” in Virginia are not native but were brought here by the early settlers who found that many of the plants which they valued for special uses including therapeutic and medicinal qualities were not to be found here. Almost every “weed” has a story, an important role lost in history.

Once here, many species became very invasive and homeowners struggle today to rid their lawns and gardens of them. To be a good steward of the environment, a grower of weeds should nurture the native ones, do their best to contain the invasive ones and AVOID the poisonous ones!

Ground Ivy, aka Creeping Charlie and Gill-over-the-ground

Gill-over-the-ground, a native of Eurasia

Since It is unlikely that I will ever have a pristine lawn of grass, I welcome ground ivy to my yard. I know it is one of the invasive ones but I love the little scalloped edges of the heart-shaped leaves and the pretty little purple flowers it produces in the early summer. 

Even more to its credit, according to the website the Kitchn, “Prior to the introduction of hops to England in the 16th century, ground ivy was used to flavor, clarify, and preserve beer. (the common name – Gill-over-the-ground reflects its used by the Gill or brew master)  Historically, ground ivy was also used in Europe and North America as a cure-all for everything from inflammation to congestion and tinnitus. Today people still use it in teas, soups, and salads. Due to its strong flavor, we wouldn’t use too much ground ivy in a salad, but a few leaves provide a nice earthy, peppery punch.”

I have had some success with container gardening and I suppose with ingenuity and diligence I could overcome some of the barriers to having a spectacular landscape in my yard.  However,  my welcome mat is always open to the deer, raccoons, rabbits, slugs, caterpillars and other hungry creatures that share my world and while they occasionally much on my weeds its ok with me. 

Milkweed plants

Milkweed planted by Nature- mulched and watered by Karen


Well.  I’m off to my neighbor’s fortified garden (with its electric fencing, three sizes of wire mesh, and 2 inch layer of mulch) which she so graciously shares with me.  Together we enjoy the flowers and fruits of our labor and pull weeds!

Maybe I’ll bring a weed or two home with me!







About Karen Hines Art

I am an artist living in the mountains of Virginia and expressing my love of nature through painting.
This entry was posted in flora and fauna, gardening, Nature, New River Valley, Quotes, Uncategorized, watercolor and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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