I have no time for the sanctimonious people who proclaim a weed is merely a nice plant in the wrong place. No, weeds are evil and sneaky, and they have no morals. Their unbridled promiscuity means that I have to spend hours on hands and knees when I have better things to do, attempting to stem the invasion. It’s a hopeless task, of course, especially at this time of year.
By far the worst is horsetail (equisetum). It has been around since the days of the dinosaurs, so it is not surprising it has learned to survive. It has roots that go down 2 metres, throws up two new shoots for every one you pull out, and grows right through the middle of low-growing plants such as gentians. Its waxy coating is proof against all known weedkillers. In spring it sends up fruiting bodies, just like a fungus, containing spore so fine that you can’t even pull them up without clouds of proto-horsetails drifting off on the wind.
Yes I know it’s the national flower of Scotland, and with good reason, for it gets everywhere and enjoys a good fight. Impossible to weed without thick gloves, and will sprout from the smallest piece of left-over root. In late August, clouds of thistledown drift over the garden…millions and millions of thistles just waiting for a patch of nice clean soil to settle on.
Rosebay Willowherb: I know it’s pretty, but if it establishes itself in your garden, you won’t get rid of it in a hurry. It is like the thistle in its irritating habits – fragile roots that break off and happily sprout, and clouds of downy seeds in autumn. Annoyingly, it seeds itself into cracks in walls, and is quite capable of sending long roots under paving slabs before appearing among your choice plants.
The goat’s beard (aruncus) is without doubt beautiful for a brief period, glowing among the trees at the back of the pond. But I could do without its habit of seeding itself into every crack in my stonework, where it drills tough, leathery roots into the soil and can’t be eradicated without lifting all the stones and starting again.
That’s only four of the horrors in my rogues’ gallery. Stand by for the next instalment.