A weed or not?
I have moved this plant, and its offspring, around the country from house to house, garden to garden for nearly 20 years. I always thought it must be an Australian native plant but now I’m not so sure.
Back then we rented a house in Canberra that had been owned by an Australian native plants crusader. (She even grew seedlings in the bath tub!) Instead of the standard suburban carpet of green, the whole front yard and nature strip (roadside grass strip) had been turned over to a miniature native grassland.
It was dotted with large rocks and native shrubs and a gum tree or two. It was quite something, fairly unusual for suburban gardens then but not unique in Canberra, ‘the bush Capital’.
Like most renters I had a potted garden that travelled with us from house to house. While we were living there this plant turned up in one of my pots. The actual pot plant died and I was left with this, so I kept it.
Then there were two.
The plant has since seeded in quite a few of my sometime pot plant pots. Like a chain reaction over the years. At the moment I have two pots of it. It flowers every year, has no fragrance, but I think it’s attractive.
Once I asked a young landscaper who worked on our garden if a plant was a weed or not. He answered,
‘If you like it, it’s a plant. If you don’t, it’s a weed.’
I loved the simplicity of that! I was an uncertain gardener and had some seriously big gardening shoes in the family to live up to. (Allan Seale, the first Australian gardening TV presenter, is a close relative!). It cut through the Latin names, planting charts and the overwhelming gardening lore.
But here’s the thing. Times have moved on and gardening is more responsible. Bounded by farmland, we want to do the right thing.
I don’t want to be the next Salvation Jane or Paterson of the ‘Curse‘ to go down in history.
Many plants suited to British climates were brought to Australia by well-meaning gardening pioneers. The plants escaped the gardens and are now the scourge of farmland and national parks, for example blackberry, privet and Paterson’s Curse (which can kill horses if they eat it).
At Floriade in Canberra a couple of weeks ago, (so beautiful, go next year if you can!) they had a display garden of ‘the baddies’, the invasive plants found in everyday gardens. It read like a who’s who of my garden!
photos: Cotoneaster, English broom, Gazania, now listed as invasive species!
OK, we inherited the plants with the block, and the garden was planted 20 years ago. But things have changed.
I’m working to replace all the baddies. We seem to have gotten on top of the St John’s Wort and Paterson’s Curse for now, mostly by hand weeding before it seeds. (Don’t like to spray unless absolutely necessary because of the lizards and birds that feed in the grass.)
We still have to tame the cape weed and mallow. And then there’s the humble dandelion just popping up and…
So is this plant one I should add to the hit list? Have I been unknowingly sharing a nasty bounty around the countryside for the last 17 years?
Please let me know, so I can do the right thing! ♦
For a list of invasive plants in Australia see: http://www.weeds.org.au/weedident.htm