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Simon Smith Garden & Landscape Design

To keep or not to keep – it is the question

25 May 2019

This month I discuss a trio of plants that might each be described as a weed. 

First up is the Lesser Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria. It is part of our native flora and flowers from February to May in woods, hedge banks and damp ground. It is a member of the Buttercup Family. It was Wordsworth’s favourite flower. It turns up in gardens where it can perform quite well and may be welcome for its colour and nectar source. Because it spreads some gardeners see it as a nuisance and they try to weed it out. For me it signals spring. It is always welcome, especially on a walk, by a brook or in an ancient woodland where the bluebells may not be far from flowering. It’s robust and adapted to our climate so it’s an asset for a garden woodland area. 

Ground Elder, Aegopodium podagraria is a creeping, patch forming perennial, flowering from June to August. It was planted by the Romans next to their roads and along with ‘Roman’ snails it provided dietary supplement. In a garden this plant can really dominate areas where it grows. Gardeners find difficulty keeping it under control. But the leaves are edible and contain vitamin C. The easy way to rid the garden of it is to eat it in salads! It’s a win-win because of the nutrients!

Japanese Knotweed, Fallopia japonica. This invasive perennial from Japan has quite a reputation. It can penetrate tarmac, grow under rivers and disrupt buildings. It was planted in gardens by the Victorians and even sold in nurseries until the 1940’s. But when anecdotal evidence started to reveal just what a problem it was, sales were halted rapidly. Now it is a ‘notifiable weed’ and should be removed by a professional company wherever it is found. It can replicate from a single 1mm long shard of the stem. 

By the way this knotweed has a relative which is known as ‘Mile a Minute’, Fallopia baldschuanica. It is native to Iran. It is also known as ‘Russian Vine’ and ‘Swine of a Vine’! It is a perennial and a rapid climber that can soon reach 10m and more. Its spread is almost unlimited. In my view it should be avoided in the garden because of the nuisance value to you and neighbours. You have been warned. 

Next month I’ll be discussing what we can learn from visits to botanic gardens. See you then.

Simon Smith Garden and Landscape Design