To keep or not to keep

katob Z6ish, NE PaJuly 21, 2012

I used to keep all the decent plants that self seeded, or at least try to find a home.... now I'm much more ruthless but still a pushover for a healthy seedling. This summer I have a clump of self seeded sunflowers right next to the front door and a couple more an inch from the driveway. They're too big and look out of place, even a little weedy looking but will I get rid of them?

Of course not.

That's my morning thought since my BIL next door just sheared all his shrubs into little meatballs and cut back most of the perennials. It looks very neat, but no sunflowers. I'm my own worst enemy as far as design and order go.... even the veggie garden rows are being invaded by marigolds and verbena bonariensis.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I'm my own worst enemy as far as design and order go....


you are ONLY the worst enemy of OTHERS PRECONCEIVED notion of what YOUR garden should look like ...

i am of the position .. that if you are happy.. about what YOU have..

the rest of them can go suck lemons ...

its YOUR garden.. do it the way that makes YOU happy ..

got it!!!



ps: and tell your BIL .. you ought to take his man card away for poodling all his shrubs into foo foo shapes ... tell him his only redemption is to get a chainsaw.. and prove he is a man.. by now cutting them all down ... lol.. whats next.. dressing his dog in little dresses.. or sweaters???? crimminey ... and you are worried your garden is free form.. you really need to have a talk with him ...

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 10:58AM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I too rarely pull up a self-seeded flower, until my paths get so choked I can't walk them! And I learned that I have to be ruthless when it comes to self-seeded annuals growing too close to young perennials. I used to replant elsewhere, but now I get too many to do that with. It is kind of cool to have so many, though, because the grandkids know that any flowers growing in their play area are those for the taking...whether it be picking for their moms or digging to move elsewhere. And in those summers where other things get in the way of gardening, I always have a riot of color going!
I think I would love your know, many great artists put something quirky and/or out of place in their paintings.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 12:12PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Well, when it comes to other people's gardens, I could care less what they do. Their idea of design may not be what I prefer, but at least they have a garden which means they are basically decent people.

Would I be concerned if my neighbor decided to shear his shrubs into bunny shapes and ice cream cones and Darth Vader? Nope. Not at all.


If the vast majority of people in my neighborhood did that and had some sort of expectations I would join their club - well - there would be problems. Probably not my kind of place to live.

Back to your first question:

I went through a long phase of allowing all my favorites to self sow where they wanted to within reason. I'm out of that phase and have become absolutely ruthless. I make the choice where a plant goes. Not them. Sometimes I give in, but just sometimes.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 12:12PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Ah, kato, a gardener after my own heart! Or at least, after my own lack of ruthlessness, lol.

I too have a terrible time pulling any self-seeders. And just as terrible a time cutting them back to begin with so they don't seed! I've gotten better, but I still try to at least give away what I pull up, and I still occasionally transplant. But I was pretty ruthless (for me) with the coneflowers and feverfew this spring, and have already cut back the feverfew that bloomed, as well as the perennial foxgloves, so I'm taking some steps to control next year's round of gutlessness.

I have one stray sunflower that is growing next to my garage and it leans over and I always walk into it. But I just excuse myself and will leave it there till it blooms.

P.S. Did I ever mention the gorgeous blue columbine that is growing from between the pavers in my patio? Has been there three years and is beautiful. I'm afraid to move it because I think it will die if I transplant it!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:14PM
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Guilty as charged here, but I am getting better about NOT letting every last blasted volunteer grow where it came up.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 2:06PM
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Campanula UK Z8

if I can toss a carefuuly reared perennial because it offends my sense of style or aesthetics, I sure as hell can savage plants which have the gall to turn up uninvited. Get tough, you plant softies.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 3:32PM
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It's really tough for me to remove and throw out volunteers. I don't have the heart to do it, especially if I suspect it might be something really interesting.

If I had been more ruthless, I'd not have my E. Tiki Torch look-a-like now and the wild canaries wouldn't have had lunch today trying to pick out the seeds from a few of the spent cones. My next door neighbor wouldn't have two white echinacea seedlings from my E. White Swan. She also wouldn't have a new caryopteris from my C. Longwood Blue. She will also be getting a centaurea volunteer that looks like Amethyst that popped up in another part of the yard. And I have a light baby pink echinacea volunteer that I still haven't decided whether to keep or not.

Finding homes for volunteers can be a real pain, but sometimes I find a real gem among these extras.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 7:13PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

lol, I didn't think there would be this many responses, let alone so many funny ones! My personal favorite (good thing I wasn't drinking when I read it) was "but at least they have a garden which means they are basically decent people".... It's funny because i kinda sorta judge people a little based on their gardens or lack of a garden. I'm not saying they are soul-less empty people, but I can't relate to someone living in an otherwise nice house that's surrounded by nothing but empty lawn and 5 foundation shrubs.... and never changes.

But when it all comes down to it I don't care what my neighbors do or what they think of my yard. Most think it's fine, some don't but I really don't let that concern me. The only time I caved was when my wife threatened to remodel the kitchen if I didn't finally mow the back lawn. It was our first summer in the house and I didn't see the point in mindlessly mowing all the back yard just so it was short. I let it go to seed, cut a couple paths through it and sat back to enjoy the wind rippling the grass while the kids chased each other around the trails.

I do have a "vision" of how I want the place to look. It's definately my vision... for better or worse... and I'm still admitting I "ruin" it by letting the volunteers grow, but I feel better knowing I'm not the only softy.

Campanula- I'll try and toughen up a little each year. This year I hoed out swaths of verbena seedlings and kiss me over the garden gate. Maybe next year I'm going after the sundrops.

Oh and pumpkins are something else I can't pull. I don't think there are any fancy designer perennial beds out there that rely on the cenral element of a big mildewed pumpkin vine sprawling out into the lawn.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 7:25PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Oh, kato, you reminded me. I put in a large lasagna bed a few years back - had a tree taken down and put in this bed to take advantage of the new sunny area for my cutting garden. Well, I had composted a bunch of decorative gourds that had been on display at work the previous fall, and in this lasagna bed come spring I had dozens and dozens of little seedlings, which I first thought were squash or pumpkins. So I let them go.

I ended up with a wild jungle of these huge vining plants, and got a great harvest of fancy decorative gourds that fall! It meant not putting my cutting garden in that spot that year, but I loved getting the surprise of gourds and loved sharing them with everyone that fall.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 8:32PM
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a2zmom(6a - nj)

If I let every echinacea seedling grow, that would be all I wound up growing! Same goes for Helianthus 'summer sun' and Verbena bonariensis. On the other hand, I wound up with an unexpected salvia seedling this year that I think is a result of a cross between 'may night' and 'eveline'. I was also happy that ny rose campion, cleome and black and blue salvia all produced a few seedlings.

So bottom, line is, it depends.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 9:21PM
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terrene(5b MA)

About 5 years ago, I had some mammoth sunflowers reseed in the middle of a perennial garden. They were doing so well, I moved a couple to space them out and then watch in awe and horror as they grew to 11 feet - and towered over the rest of the garden! They looked like giraffes amongst a herd of ponies. It was worth it, the birds and critters went nuts over them.

There are many plants that reseed around my gardens, and I let a lot of them grow, at least until I can check them out. This is not really laziness about weeding - it's more about observing the seedlings for exceptionally hardy or interesting specimens. But, they DO look messy in some places.

I try to keep the front gardens fairly tidy - but purposely allow the gardens in back to be more naturalized. Some plants are allows to spread in an organic fashion. The leaves are left where they fall, as are some logs. The wildlife loves it.

2 years ago I had Rusty Blackbirds flipping through the leaves looking for bugs in the back yard. This is a bird species whose population has declined precipitously - 80-90% - ornithologists are not sure why, but it wouldn't surprise me if it has something to do with the American obsession with sterile lawns and cleaning up every leaf.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:06AM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I've gotten some amazing pansy colors and forms, so I never pull up a single pansy until it blooms.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 12:35PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

yeah, pansies and violas... I will even transplant these rather than tossing them.

I was thinking about cleaning up the edges of the property with the weedwacker but after spending the afternoon grasshopper hunting with the kids and finding mantis and toads, chasing baby bunnies and picking wild rudbeckias for mom I decided the weeds were alot more interesting than cut grass. It was the kids doing all the running btw. I just wanted a lawn chair and a cold beverage.

Later I again set myself up for trouble wandering around crushing and spreading lychnis and columbine seed heads. My thinking after spending too long weeding was "this crabgrass sucks. I need to either get more mulch or just cover all ground with legitimate plants".

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:59PM
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eclecticcottage(6b wny)

I pretty much let anything that flowers stay, including a queen anne's lace and a purple loosestrife (I did try to get rid of that one...but it came back again anyway). I will pull "known" weeds, the little suckers from the wisteria and cut any and all Japanese quince suckers I find. But then again, this is the first year for my garden, so that might change.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 1:07PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

did you pull his man card???


    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 1:24PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I pulled his card a while back, but may have to reissue it after I saw all the fireworks he bought for next weekend. Loss of limb automatically renews his card for two years.

He even cut all his hostas to the ground.....

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 7:03PM
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eclecticcottage(6b wny)

Oh man...even one of those spiral shrubs....

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 8:10PM
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