Q: I see a lot of “stuff” growing by the roadside – the plants are pretty enough to put in the garden. Then just what is a weed? Some smarty always tells me a weed is “just a plant that is out of place,” but I see beautiful bunches of roadside flowers for sale at farmers markets — even some with goldenrod. Can I grow any of these plants in my garden? Can I just dig them up or is there a place to buy them?
A: It is said that a weed is just a plant that is out of place. I love my weeds! Who’s to say what a weed is and what it is not? Weeds are beautiful, but grow too easily. Weeds are plants that have, without any help, acclimated themselves perfectly to our climate, temperatures, moisture and soil conditions in New England — that’s why they’re so hardy. They’ve happy here, so why fight them? Join them and you’ll enjoy your weeds. Before running out and adopting them, remember that they could easily take over the garden. Are you worried about what people might think? “What are you really growing in the garden?” your friends may say. “You paid what for that? It’s a weed!” Price is not the criteria. A weed to one gardener is a wonder to another gardener. How we have changed our ideas about gardening! Why not grow these hardy plants? They’re most often perennials and biennials — or at least, easily self-sewn annuals that reappear, without your help, year after year after year.
How did they get here in the first place? Some are Native American plants that have been here for centuries. Many escaped from Europe and were carried to the New World as valuable medicines and herbals. Seeds from these plants escaped into the fertile landscape of the Americas and grew, well, just like weeds! Weeds are found surviving in the most difficult growing conditions. When you adopt them and place them in your fertile garden with plenty of moisture, food and tender care, they’ll take off and thrive, rather than survive!