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: I love my weeds! Who’s to say what a weed is and what it is not? Weeds are plants that have, without any help, acclimated themselves perfectly to our climate, temperatures, moisture and soil conditions — that’s why they’re so hardy. They’ve adapted themselves and they’re happy here, so why fight them? Join them and you’ll enjoy your weeds. Before running out and adopting them, though, remember that they could easily take over the garden.
How did they get here in the first place? Some of them 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 and food and your tender care, they’ll take off and thrive.
Some weeds I won’t weed out of the garden:
Tansy: A stalk of button-shaped flowers top this old-time fumigant. Also called Stinking Willie, the very attractive, dark-green foliage has a spicy scent and is known to repel insects. Try rubbing it on the dog — it will smell good and repel flies and bugs. Tansy is a 3-foot tall plant and spreads easily. It can be root-divided every year or two, and it dries well for winter arrangements, where it retains a bit of the spicy scent through the winter.