Thursday, June 24, 2010

Subtraction Matters

This old dog is learning a few new tricks, even about subjects she's been interested in for years. This photo is of our front walkway garden, taken 2 days ago. Note the green hedge effect? That's what too many wildflowers competing for sunlight look like, especially brown-eyed Susans, native beebalm, false sunflower and aromatic aster.

I'm learning that prairie wildflowers are so well adapted to this site, they tend to go a little overboard in their enthusiasm. Some folks might call this aggressiveness, but I prefer the term "vigorous growth". This is, after all, exactly where they are supposed to grow. And reproduce.

Some of them are especially enthusiastic about the reproduction part and have reseeded prolifically...which brings me to the new lesson that I am learning: once a good variety of prairie wildflowers has been established in a garden setting, one of the most important tasks a gardener needs to perform is removing extra seedlings. Regularly. Religiously. Without compunction.

Obviously I may be learning this lesson, but I have a long way to go, judging by the overabundance of some of the plants in my photo above. It's very hard for me to kill "good" plants by weeding them out. I love to dig the extras out and give them away (if I have time, if the weather is right, if they are at a good stage of development and if I can find anyone who wants them), but pulling them out and tossing them on the compost pile feels almost like murder to me.

On the other hand, I want guests to feel like they can safely navigate the path to our front door; right now it feels like they are wending their way through a thicket of monstrous flowers. This is definitely not the effect I'm looking for. Not coincidentally, I also want people to know that native plants are easy, pretty, and healthy to have in their gardens. It's all true, but photos showing ranks of plants looking like they're trying to take root in bare rock are not going to illustrate my point terribly effectively.

So after I get the rest of the mulch down and the last plants planted, my next job will be to stifle my overactive conscience and do some thinning. The good news is that I'll be thinning out flowers, not weeds. This was one flower bed that had little crabgrass in it, despite my tardiness with the mulch. The weeds have been almost completely outcompeted.


~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Love the limestone walkway!!
They always say if you have weeds, you don't have enough plants (that you want). It is so hard to pull flowers. I have to do it too. Maybe you can (in the spring more) dig them up and put them at the end of your driveway for free! We have a local trading show on a radio station where people do that. Free cycle might work for you online.
Have fun mulching and flower removing (I can't call that weeding).

troutbirder said...

Its an interesting but not so bad problem all right. I learning to deal with it myself.