Alan Titchmarsh: The plants that make me smile the most

Alan Titchmarsh admits that the plants he enjoys the most are not always the ones he intended to grow.

Most gardeners are well versed in the definition of a weed: a plant that “grows where it doesn’t belong” or “grows in the wrong place.” Thus the term becomes subjective, and when the sprout gray rose appeared on my bed of agapanthus, it was clearly a weed. Yet I feel guilty for calling such a graceful rosehip a “weed,” just as I find it hard to be too dismissive of those plants in my garden that are too helpful in the way they spread around.

While I enjoy the challenge of taking on the challenge from time to time—caring for a naughty plant I admire in the first weeks and months (maybe even years) of its establishment until it decides to thrive—I have learned to have even more respect for those garden plants that could do without I fussed around them like some brood hen. Indeed, when I moved 20 years ago, I left the variegated elderberry, which in its early days of popularity was considered less invasive than the plain green elderberry, and which, in reality, was not too aggressive. far behind him in rampant stakes. But the plants that make me smile the most (it’s my hair-pulling alternative) are the ones that scatter around with cheerful enthusiasm.

Now let me frankly confess that this generosity of spirit does not extend to all of them. I struggle to feel more than a slight affection (and it pushes me) to golden feverfew (Parthenium tanacetum “Aureum”). Oh, it’s delightful when it first appears as an acid yellow rash of finely cut foliage littering the ground around daylilies and penstemons in my borders, but it quickly forgets its mannerisms and becomes more gangster when its white daisy color with a yellow center comes later. this year.

“In my garden on the Isle of Wight, the plants are sown between the paving slabs and among the gravel, and those that get rain when they need it just mess around.”

However, as I write this, I wonder if I am being too harsh. But no; leaves have a pungent taste that is not as attractive as the musky scent Geranium large rootwhich I love very much. This plant also self-seeds from time to time, but not as wastefully as Feverfew, and its wonderful ground cover, courtesy of these sturdy rhizomes, is extremely useful in undergrowth soil where other plants refuse to grow. .

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I remember my first encounter with this most generous self-seeding Erigeron Karvinskyanus, which penetrated every crack and crevice in Great Dixter, East Sussex during a visit by Christopher Lloyd back in the 1980s. This is a plant whose apparent tenderness of form belies its strong structure. It is entwined with tiny white chamomile flowers from one end of summer to the other, but this is not for neat gardeners. Plant it where it can enjoy its own unkemptness, turning a once-clean terrace into something more like a Greek ruin.

A friend recently confessed that they tried to launch it and failed. Further questioning showed that they scattered the seeds but did not water them. As with all seeds, once the germ has absorbed some moisture, it is important that they are not allowed to dry out in the following days. outside. I explained that the seeds had probably absorbed enough moisture from the atmosphere to begin the germination process, but the lack of additional supplies caused them to dry out. As hardy as these plants are, the most critical time in their life cycle is, as always, after the initial absorption of moisture. In my garden on the Isle of Wight, the plants sow themselves between the paving slabs and among the gravel, while the ones that get the rain when they need it just mess around.

Aquilegias, watersheds, or granny’s hats do the same and I’m glad they’ve stayed on, unless they produce small boring flowers, which can happen over the years when hybridization has reduced the quality of the flowers. However, they have such an elegant habit that I rarely throw them away before the flowers have withered and the seed pods have formed.

Add to that a rash of healthy seedlings of honestyLunaria annual), you can see it in the place of an old plant that I uprooted in the winter, and you will see that this spring I have a lot of hands to follow those plants that decide where they want to grow, without your participation. leave. On the other hand, I have always found enthusiasm contagious.

Alan Titchmarsh’s new book, The Gardener’s Almanac, is out.

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