Gardening Magazine

To Weed Or Not to Weed

By Notcuttsuk @notcuttsuk

At Notcutts we’ve caught up with Anne Wareham again to see what she has been up to since her last piece, Beware Experts Bearing Punitive Advice in 2012. Anne is a garden writer for newspapers and magazines, and the editor of the website  Thinkingardens.co.uk. Along with her husband, garden photographer, Charles Hawes, they made the garden at Veddw, which is open to the public. Since publishing her book, The Bad Tempered Gardener in 2011, it has since become a ‘best seller’ according to the Daily Mail. Anne is now looking forward to some royalties to convince her of that. Now two years on since we last spoke to Anne, the keen gardener has struck up a conversation about whether to weed or not...

To weed or not to weed
Ground elder and pots, Late June, VeddwWeeds attract repetitive garden articles, as useful as those about slugs. So I’ll try and spare you the clichés and report my current thinking.

A visitor yesterday took me to see the flower of some ground elder at Veddw, thinking it was cow parsley. No difference as far as he was concerned, nor me neither. He thought it shouldn’t be there. I thought it looked great.

But this is not to say that flowering ground elder looks great everywhere. But it looks good in the crescent border where it mingles with the pink Thalictrum and the matching Persicaria bistorta and Rugosa rose. I love the way those colours match while the forms are so totally different, and the white ground elder adds a touch of froth.

The effect, to me, is country casual. A sort of heightened rural lane verge.

The fact that there are a lot of all those flowering things, well massed and the masses intermingled, helps. But it doesn’t help the gentleman (yes he was just that) who enquired about whether the cow parsley should be there. He has probably spent many hours attempting to eliminate such plants, so the look is just one thing to him: weedy.

This is not simply that old chestnut about ‘it’s all a matter of taste’ though. It is hard to see the merits of what we have come to instantly spot and fear as a BAD plant. But if we look at gardens with discernment I think we can cope. The challenge for the garden visitor is to look twice and take in the overall scene and intention. The challenge for the garden maker is to create a picture that works and a picture which doesn’t look weedy when you stop labelling/stereotyping the plants.

There is no recipe for this. This is where the skill of a good garden maker tells – the looking, the judgement, the adding and removal, the adjustments. I have never found trailing or climbing plants look good to me in amongst a mixed planting – Cleavers is just horrible, anywhere – and the partly smothered look they create always says wasteland.

Almost always. I have a Clematis Montana which flowers amongst a Rosa Wichuriana (vigorous rambler) and ground elder. The flowers are beautiful, large and telling. The effect is – not weedy.

See what I mean about judgment and adjustments? This is gardening.


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