Eco Comment – Wild or Weed?

24 May 2023

Wild or Weed?

I was reading this month’s Cathedral Book Club choice The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey and was struck by a situation quite early on in the book.

Marta, the successful actress has brought a great sheaf of white lilac to the hospital, only to be closely followed by Mrs Tinker, a general factotum carrying a small, tight bunch of anemones. Marta immediately responds by saying ‘I squander my vagabond’s hire on white lilac and then Mrs T. puts my nose out of joint by bringing you the Lilies of the Field’ and proceeds to quote Matthew 6:29: “Solomon in all his glory…” A lovely sidestep to what might have been an awkward situation.

The biblical reference reminded me of the current controversy over the use of ‘wild’ planting at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Wild, or weed?

I understand that weeds are thought to be anything that’s growing in the wrong place and have recently seen an advert for an app that tells you whether a plant is a weed or a cultivated plant. I think everyone is full of admiration for the RHS Sustainability Strategy. Artificial grass is one casualty to this but then that can be a health and safety issue in hot weather for both humans and pets as it heats up to very high temperatures!

All gardens at Chelsea have to be able to quote the source of both their materials and plants, as well as what will happen to their garden after the show closes. For some, this will be easy. The winning garden will go to the hospital for which it was designed. Finding a home for the Flora and Fauna garden, with its mountain gorilla nest, might have proved more challenging.
Planting vegetables amongst the flowers is an idea I like, especially as some are so attractive and can be trained to grow vertically so as to take up less ground space. Runner beans amongst the sweet peas? I remember reading somewhere that planting specific vegetables or flowers together can help with preventing certain pests from eating your prize specimens. Sadly, for the grower who apparently lost thousands of pounds in money trying to grow dandelions, the weather isn’t as easily deterred.

Another of the issues the RHS is addressing is planting for climate change. Planting has to be able to withstand greater temperatures and be drought resistant. Whilst we bask in this beautiful weather, our gardens are already crying out for rain. Gardens are balm for the soul, but so is a wild meadow. The question, no doubt, is where do ‘No Mow May’ and having a tidy garden meet?

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

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