January 28, 2020

One Gardener’s Weed is Another’s Pride and Joy

Forget-me-nots blanket the ground in a shade garden.

Janine Pineo Photo | Forget-me-nots blanket the ground in a shade garden.

• By Janine Pineo •

Wandering around the yard is a bit of an adventure these days at my house.

Between weeding some of my flower beds (never thought they’d see the day — at least in June), hoe-hoe-hoeing the potatoes and corn, and planting loads of flower pots (at least 70 at last count), I have found time to actually look about the yard, back and front.


What a lot of plants there are.

Especially ones I didn’t plant.

You ever have those kinds of bullies that just elbow everything you planted out of the way while aforesaid bullies spread their wings? And you don’t even know what they are?

Me, too.

Most folks probably just call them weeds and yank them out, but not me. I end up wondering just where I’ve seen that leaf before: Wasn’t it something I picked up last year at that greenhouse, or did I see it in that garden by that building, or maybe it was in that book I just thumbed through?

So I let it grow. And now look what they’ve done.

'Nora Barlow' columbine

Janine Pineo Photo | This 'Nora Barlow' columbine continues to bloom after arriving in a pot of trollius. The trollius died out several years ago.

I have this utterly lovely trollius, big and healthy. Smack dab in the middle of it is a huge double-flowering columbine, Nora Barlow by one catalog name, the likes of which I have never seen in real life. I’d admired the one in the catalog this winter, and now I have one. Hmmm, be careful what you wish for.

I meandered past a sheltered corner between the deck and house the other day when what to my wandering eyes should appear but yet another columbine, the color of which I’d never planted before. Never, ever. I’ve got yellow. I’ve got blue. I even tried the red-white combination. This one is white, blushed with light purple on the backs of the petals, which have green tips. I know, some of you are saying pollination of the ones I’ve got might do something like that — think about those recessive genes, except only the yellow has ever blossomed, the other plants are too new. Co-workers have nodded sagely and said, “A bird did it.”

Clever bird.

Just around the corner, an odd little flower has popped up, next to mystery plants from my grandmother (5 to 6 feet tall, sunflower yellow, daisylike blooms; ideas, anyone?). I haven’t planted anything in this spot for six or seven years, and yet there it is, grasslike foliage topped with two petite white flowers that close when the sun sets. Because my grandmother’s mystery flowers are spreading like wildfire, we haven’t mowed along the edge where this little fellow has sprouted. A good reason not to mow, I’d say.

Then there are the plants I recognize that just keep spreading a tad farther afield each year.

Pink and purple lupine from my grandmother have sown their seeds everywhere: on opposite ends of the garden, next to the foundation and in the lawn. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I adore lupine and have worked a long time trying to get them started. From the looks of it, I’ve succeeded. Curious thing is that two of the new ones are white.

Funny how gardening is like one big science project.

Under the older maple on the front lawn is a bevy of white violets, their lush green leaves carpeting several feet of ground. This came from one not-overly-large clump from my grandmother. Just this year I started noticing white violets — everywhere. In the lawn, in the gardens (why fight the grass when there is a perfectly good garden to call home), and under the spruce trees, they have emerged in force.

I’m still coaxing forget-me-nots. I’ve seen a few here and there, popping up in different spots, but none of those misty blue bushes I’ve admired in other folks’ gardens. To tell the truth, I think I accidentally yank them out when I weed, another good reason, I tell myself, for not weeding.

Wandering around the yard also has its detriments. Like the day I discovered my most favorite columbine — the pale yellow one — was being eaten by little green worms. Yikes. Needless to say the little green worms are now gone, and the columbine is tentatively putting up new leaves.

Or how about the day I checked the herb pot with the chive clump. Imagine sixty pounds of dirt crawling with a million little ants. Just remember this: “The Naked Jungle” (1954 flick with Charlton Heston, Eleanor Parker and William Conrad) teams with an army of murderous ants. Dear old Charlton, he drowns ’em.

Like me.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in June 1995.

2012 update: I no longer do 70 pots of flowers – that’s just insane. The Nora Barlow keeps coming back every year while the trollius died off years ago. The odd flower that popped up was none other than star-of-bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum. And those yellow daisylike blooms? Jerusalem artichokes. The white violets have run amok and the yard has more forget-me-nots than dandelions. Which is a mighty fine sight, indeed.