Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When is a weed a weed? Aristolochia clematitis!

You know you have reached a new plateau in horticulture when you dote on weeds. I'm not talking sow thistle (quite yet) or Cardamine oligosperma--two plants I will not likely ever cotton on to. It would take a super horticulturists to warm up to those accursed little poppers! There is something a bit sad, perhaps, when you grow fond of brown, tan, gray and black flowers. We Fritillaria fanciers I suppose are prone to occasional bouts of melancholia. I have been quite keen on Dutchman's pipes for some time now, although I only have a few species thus far in my garden. They are a pretty strange lot. Most have strangely shaped flowers in neutral tints. It took quite a while, but eventually tracked down Aristolochia clematitis and planted one out in the Rock Alpine Garden...perhaps fifteen years ago. It took it a while, but I am beginning to see why I was warned never to plant it! "It is a goddamn weed, man!". Since I still do not have it in my home garden, I cannot say it is a weed for me. It is a desirable ornamental I do not yet possess in my garden, after all. OK, the flowers are rather small, and a sort of strange chartreuse color. Up close, they don't look quite as pipe-like as the more climbing sorts. But there is something sculpturesque about them, as there is about the peculiar flowers of their cousins, the wild gingers (Asarum) which hide their gloomy charms under their leaves on the forest floor: the ultimate in floristic depression. I love those too!

Don't they make graceful colonies? Like their close cousin Saruma henryi, which some gardeners also believe is a terrible weed, they can make a fine upright statement in a shady corner. Now to find a spot where they will not inundate their neighbors with their enthusiastic charms (and widely spreading rhizomes...)

So now the question is, where is that magical spot where I can display this rambunctious plants charms without cursing it after the passage of a few years...I have a spot in my garden to display Euphorbia cyparissias 'Fen's Ruby'--another potential menance, after all...not to mention Clary Sage. various thistles and other potentially wildly seeding and spreading treasures...

Perhaps it is a just a tad like playing with fire. Remember, however, that fire is essential for grilling, and paradoxically for maintaining healthy forests...and a garden without a few weedy plants properly modulated and controlled (just as one keeps the embers in the firepit!) is tame and dull indeed. Bring on the weeds!


  1. Ha...I agree...and it looks very charming! I have a few plants that some people would NEVER plant (a few enthusiastically re-seeding Persicaria hybrids come to mind). I love them, however, and don't mind weeding out a few rambunctious seedlings (or a million) every once in a while...I love spontaneity in the garden!

  2. I have to admit that there is a certain perverse pleasure in pulling out armfuls, wheelbarrow-fulls of Ratibida tagetes, Thermopsis divaricarpa, Solidago nana, Chrysothamnus linifolius, and many others with the full knowledge that remainders will continue to grace the garden for years to come.

  3. You two are MY kind of gardeners. Of course I know your garden well, Jim (loved walking through it yesterday: probably the most lively and interesting garden in Denver right now)...would love to see your's too one day, Scott!


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