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Harnessing the power of the weed

Harnessing the power of the weed
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It’s garden walk time in Western New York, where it’s hot, but not too hot to snoop around in other people’s backyards. We have three or four different garden walks in various neighborhoods/suburbs every weekend, culminating in the big Buffalo one at the end of this month.

Yesterday, I covered part of the Lockport walk, which takes place in a small city about half an hour north of me. The yards are generally much bigger than one would see in Buffalo’s urban center, many with huge, beautiful trees. One property in particular was fascinating, not only because of the well-managed plantings of various perennials (rudbeckia maxima at top) and the healthy vegetable plots. This is a truly brave gardener. She knows how to use her aggressive plants/weeds wisely.


First I noticed the houttuynia (chameleon plant) weaving through the back border of shade plants. Then I saw the variegated aegopodium podagraria (bishop’s weed) adding another color accent in the same area. Then I saw a huge stand of commelina communis (Asian dayflower) under a little sculpture.


So I asked the owner of this attractive and otherwise well-tended garden. Why use so many plants that send most of us into a frenzy of whacking, hoeing and hand-pulling? As she explained, the texture and foliage of these plants provide variety throughout the entire season, no matter what may or may not be in bloom. She controls them as best she can, keeping them just on the verge of unruliness. She didn’t plant all of them on purpose, but they’re working.

I was particularly interested in the commelina, which I eradicated from my garden very soon after moving in. But now I’m kind of sorry. Supposedly it blooms all summer and the blue flowers are pretty. There are places where the name of this plant is described, but here’s my favorite, from a Missouri plant site: the genus name is in commemoration of two Dutch botanists, Jan and Kaspar Commelin, who had a brother who died at an early age and contributed nothing to botany. The three petals of the flower represent these three brothers.

And last year I did stick some chameleon plant in the hellstrip, hoping it would successfully invade this most inhospitable area, but no luck so far.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on July 9, 2012 at 7:00 am, in the category It’s the Plants, Darling, Ministry of Controversy.

2 Comments

    • admin
    • 7th November 2016

    I love the concept of the Garden Walk as opposed to the Secret Garden tours that cost $25 and up just to look at someone’s flowers. A walk (don’t know what if any cost) fosters a sense of community instead of driving around an entire town or county at your own speed.

    • admin
    • 14th November 2016

    Stay well away from the Commelina! I had a friend give it to me 12 years ago and I let it grow one season….and every year since I fight its seedlings in beds as far as 30 feet away. It is otherwise known as a “Common Dayflower”. Do not be enticed by the small pretty blue flowers! One of the most invasive monsters I’ve ever seen and BTW, its resistant to Roundup.

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