Best of
 Wild Things…
By Karen Vizzi
    What exactly is a weed? To some people, the definition is anything growing in the yard that doesn’t have colorful flowers, interesting foliage and that wasn’t purchased in a garden center. To others less rigid, the definition of a weed is simply a plant growing someplace where it isn’t wanted.
     The wild gardener will likely agree with the latter definition and is often tolerant of weeds. Many interesting plants for the wild garden are considered weeds and cannot be purchased from a garden center. Other plants become weeds because they are prolific seeders or their roots and runners spread like wild fire.
     I call my garden “wild” because of the diversity of species it attracts, not because it is a hodgepodge of un-pruned, unmanageable plants. (At least I don’t think it is.) 
I appreciate the value of many plants that most people consider unwelcome, but nevertheless, I do spend a fair amount of time weeding. My nemesis is bindweed (wild morning glory), which has little or no wildlife value and is destructive to other plants. I also exert a lot of energy scraping up tiny elm seedlings in late spring. The elm tree itself is a wonderful wild garden plant, but I can’t allow thousands of them grow to maturity in a 5 x 10 flowerbed.
     Overall, there are quite a few weeds that I am rather fond of. Ground ivy (creeping charlie) is abundant in all areas of what’s left of my lawn. The ground ivy is in flower right now and provides an early nectar source for bees and other tiny insects. It is quite pretty and once the flowers have faded, it halts upright growth and provides a bright green groundcover that rarely needs mowing. Because of the fleshy runners, it is also the easiest “weed” to pull from places it isn’t wanted. White clover is also a prominent resident of my lawn, and is an extremely important nectar source for bees as well as larval food for the clouded sulphur butterfly.
     Other weeds I welcome include wild asters, which are a late blooming nectar source for the migrating monarch; pokeweed, which produces nutritious berries for migrating songbirds (poisonous to humans and pets!) and a strange plant called moth mullein that produces 6 to 7 foot thin spikes of tiny white, purple and orange florets that provide nectar for moths.
     Another weed I love is pigweed (lamb’s quarter). I discovered the value of this plant by accident. The tiny seedlings are often found growing in lawns or cracks of pavement. If allowed to grow to maturity, the plant will reach the size of a large shrub and produce non-descript, greenish flowers, which in turn, produce microscopic seeds in fall. Small songbirds go absolutely berserk over these seeds!
     If I hadn’t ignored this “weed” and allowed it to grow, I would never have discovered this wonderful wild garden plant.
    Bird Brainers: Male songbirds do most of the singing, and they do it to proclaim or announce their territory and attract a mate.
    Butterfly Bullets: Late May is often a very good time to spot Tiger and Eastern Black Swallowtails. Come the first week of June, start checking those parsley plants for swallowtail caterpillars.
    Plant Pointers: Harden off delicate seedlings by gradually exposing them to direct sunlight…a few hours at a time. We’re past the last frost date, so many annuals can be planted now.

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