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Apr 16 2014

These Aren’t Weeds, They’re Easy-Care Flowers – Plus Daffodils

Later in summer, the boys will have to start mowing their back yard. But for now, it’s a wonderland of tall grass and beautiful wild flowers.

Image shows a dandelion and purple archangel blooming side-by-sideThey’ve got some gorgeous ones in the front yard, too. These daffodils are the strangest I’ve seen in a long while.

Image shows a daffodil with white outer petals, and a shallow corona that's yellow in the center and red on the very outer edges

I’m used to them having coronas that extend out like the bell of a trumpet, but this one’s tiny.  The flower barely seems 3-dimensional.

Daffodil nodding over another plant in the lawn

See – if you look at them from the side, the corona almost vanishes.
Cluster of daffodils

And one had a wee spider hanging out behind its bloom.

Daffodil with a tiny brown spider on its stem behind the flowerI usually don’t think of daffodils as brooding, but this one certainly looks like it’s deeply contemplative.

Drooping daffodil

They’re really lovely, and it’s only just the beginning. The Pacific Northwest spring, summer and fall are all full of flowers. Many of them might be considered weeds by flower bed purists, but I think they’re all wonderful. We’ll have lots.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    sarah00

    The daffodils are pheasants eyes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_poeticus). They’re one of the oldest cultivated daffs and should have a nice smell. They look lovely :)

  2. 2
    Raging Bee

    I’ve always been suspicious of how “we” (meaning the lawn-care products advertisers, I guess) distinguish “flowers” from “weeds,” especially since the “DESTROY DANDELIONS!!!” campaign ramped up in (IIRC) the early ’70s. Whatever gets us suburban homeowners to spend the most money destroying hardy plants and cultivating fragile ones, I guess.

  3. 3
    Dunc

    Permaculture motto: “Those aren’t weeds, they’re biodiversity.”

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    A weed is simply a plant growing in the wrong location. A rose bush in the middle of a cornfield would be a weed, too. As for dandelions, they are very useful plants (many wild plants are.) When young, most of the plant can be blanched and eaten; you can’t do that when they’ve been sprayed with chemicals.

    One thing to keep in mind, though, is that some plants are problematic enough that county and state governments require that they be eradicated. It may sound unwarranted, but many of the class A noxious weeds are either poisonous or aggressively invasive and choke out other plants that support local wildlife. Information for King County, Washington, can be found here.

  5. 5
    Jadehawk

    also: dandelions = free salad greens

  6. 6
    rq

    I don’t mind the dandelions in the lawn – it’s the ones stealing nutrients from my roses by proximity are the ones that have to go (roots n all!). Then again, our lawn subdivides about evenly into Moss Region, Grass-and-Weeds County, and Cloverfields (‘ware the bees when barefoot).
    I love the first photo, though, the colour combination is gorgeous! I believe that is the Purple Dead Nettle keeping the dandelion company, a bee favourite this time of year.

    And those are my favourite kinds of daffodils (though I had no idea what they were called – thank you, sarah00!), right after the ordinary bright yellow trumpets that make sure you don’t miss the official announcement for Spring.

    1. 6.1
      Trebuchet

      Thank you, rq, I was wondering what that purple one was. I’ve seen lots of them and never knew.

      “Roots ‘n all” is easier said than done. At least some of the dandelions have this deep taproot that can approach the size of a small carrot. If you break that off half way down it’ll regenerate into a cluster of plants splitting off at the break, making the problem worse than before.

      The worst weed problem I ever had in my yard was horseradish, which had been planted by a previous owner. He’d planted in a raised wooden planter about two feet square. When we moved in, a few plants had started coming up around the outside of the planter. The next year, there was about a five foot radius circle of horseradish around it and I decided to take it out. Like the dandelion, easier said than done. It took about four years of dedicated digging of every new sprout that came up to finally eradicate it. It had spread throughout about a 20 foot radius from “ground zero”.

      My wife did make some wonderful horseradish sauce from it, but it wasn’t worth the problems.

      1. moarscienceplz

        “Roots ‘n all” is easier said than done.

        If you live in the American west, you probably have heavy clay soil which is like concrete when it is dry, but turns nice and slippery when wet enough. I give my dandelions a long, slow soak from a hose while I do other stuff (good idea to set a timer so’s you don’t forget it), then I use a large old screwdriver to pry loose the soil in a circle around the taproot. After that, even well-established roots usually slip right out, and if they don’t, add some more water and wiggle the root around.

        1. Trebuchet

          Thank you for the excellent suggestion about the water!

        2. rq

          I’ll have to try the water bit, too. I don’t have particularly clay-y soil, so usually what I do is a bit of a loosening hack around the root (taking care not to fracture the root itself), but even then, it’s a long slow wiggle to be certain I get all (usually the vast majority) of the root. They have this strategy, though, where they make a certain part of the upper root a bit more fragile than the rest, and *snap* all I’m left with is the first coupla centimeters.

      2. rq

        Horseradish is of the devil!!! The roots can go down at least a couple of meters – I know, we had some in Canada, and when my dad finally decided that was IT for the plant (my mum had had enough of making horseradish sauces), the hole we ended up with was about 2.5 meters down, and that was a best-guess scenario. Ick.

    2. 6.2
      Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

      Another thank you for identifying the purple dead nettle. When I lived in New York, that was one of the first spring wildflowers, in a few specific places in my local park, but we never had a name for it, just “those purple flowers that grow next to the soccer field/that come up early” or “those purple things.” I’ve been in King County a year, and spotted them for the first time here last weekend, at the Seattle Arboretum.

    3. 6.3
      rq

      I still find it amusing that nettles (or at least, this particular nettle) are members of the mint family. Not sure why – they’re both useful plants, even if one tastes better and the other tends to sting…

      1. chrisj

        Stinging nettles aren’t at all closely related to dead nettles. The latter are related to mint (and many other scented herbs), while the former are part of the Cannabis family. (Dictation from the house gardener.)

  7. 7
    b. - Order of Lagomorpha

    Ditto-ing on the identifications of the pheasant’s-eye daff/narcissus and the dead nettles. Dandelions are fine–if nothing else, the house-rabbit really appreciates the flowers (nom!). The dead nettles, though…I’ve got them all over in my vegetable garden plot, just waiting for a date with the Roto-tiller. They don’t even belong here being natives of Asia and Europe (oh, hey! Much like dandelions. And starlings. Don’t get me started.).

    I’ll stay away from the Washingtonian legend that we have Doc Maynard to thank for the proliferation of dandelions and I’ll refrain from cursing the “gentleman” who released all of the birds found listed in Shakespeare into Central Park leading to our current infestation of screaming, filthy, greasy little starlings. Maybe I’ll wander back on the property and admire the trilliums. And definitely the dogwood trees.

  8. 8
    A Hermit

    My lawn is almost 70% snow free…

  9. 9
    tiko

    ‘Easy care flowers’ I’m going to start saying that.
    I did tell my dad once that in a parallel universe he’d be admiring the dandelions in the basket and moaning about all the pansies on my ,um ,sort of lawn.

    1. 9.1
      Trebuchet

      We actually did have pansies growing all over our yard as a weed a few years ago!

  10. 10
    rturpin

    There are four types of plant. If you like it, but didn’t plant it, it’s a volunteer. If you like it and planted it, it’s a specimen. If you don’t like it and didn’t plant it, it’s a weed. If you don’t like it and planted it, it’s an experiment.

  11. 11
    greg1466

    I basically consider a weed to be any plant growing where I don’t really want it.

  12. 12
    justsomeguy

    http://www.amazon.com/Weeds-Defense-Natures-Unloved-Plants/dp/0062065467 <– this is an excellent book on this very subject.

    As for me, dandelions are far and away my favorite flower. And not just because they're really easy to grow.

    Yes, I cultivate dandelions in my yard. I do so by kicking the white puffy ones wherever I see them.

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