A Weed By Any Other Name
A recent post on the blog of Chicago’s Lurie Garden addressed the question of weeds in a way that seems pretty sensible.
Scott Stewart, the Garden’s Director, tells us that the staff at Lurie divide weeds into four categories (and I’m paraphrasing a bit with these categories):
Weeds they hate, have always hated, and will always hate. These are plants that are simply evil and have no redeeming social value. An example given is Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). Not mentioned in the post, but one I would nominate if asked, is Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea).
Weeds they got involved with when they were really young, afterwards realizing it was a horrible mistake. The example given here is Spiderwort (Tradescantia), which was included in Lurie’s original design.
I think this is a bit unreasonable. Not all Spiderworts are the same, and it is unfair to stereotype an entire genus because of a few bad apples (so to speak). Yes, Virginia Spiderwort (T. virginiana) spreads like a barbarian invasion, but Ohio Spiderwort (T. ohiensis) is considerate and well-behaved, like a polite Midwesterner.
Weeds that show up uninvited, but that aren’t so bad once you get to know them. These are basically weeds that can actually play a positive role in the garden. For example, Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta) is unobtrusive and discourages more aggressive weeds by covering bare spots. The staff at Lurie generally don’t bother to remove it.
Now, there is quite a bit of Yellow Wood Sorrel in our garden. I have been annoyed by its quiet persistence, and have made a point of pulling it out when I see it. However, once I read that the Lurie Garden leaves it alone, it suddenly seemed almost attractive to me. Funny how that works, isn’t it? So for now I am letting the Yellow Wood Sorrel spread where it likes.
Plants that photo bomb the garden designer’s vignettes. Basically, these plants are generally fine, but they have decided to pop up where they ruin the look of a planting. The example given is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeding itself into Lurie’s River of Salvia .
So, what do you think? Do these categories of weeds make sense, and do they call to mind any particular weedy acquaintances of your own?