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Weed Watch


When I do garden talks, there are a number of questions that pop up repeatedly. For instance, “Is that your real hair?” is near the top of the list. Occasionally I am asked, “How come your radio show is on Sunday instead of Saturday?” (Note: If you want to see my real hair fall out in clumps, ask me that question. Go ahead, I double dig dare you.)

The other question that I am mercilessly flogged by at these otherwise genial gatherings is, “How come my weeds do better than my plants?” Putting aside the fact that weeds are plants, it has occurred to me that I could become as fabulously wealthy as the person who invented the spork if I could just answer that one question.

So consider this column a modest attempt to pad my bank account. I’m not exactly sure how to parlay my unparalleled wisdom into a cherry red Lamborghini, but I’m pretty sure that all I have to do is get my answer to that age-old question printed in a reputable magazine — like this one, perhaps — and the greenbacks will come flowing in. You know, the same way that simply being on Facebook means that you will have thousands of real friends.

Thus, to the question. Why are weeds so successful? I have several answers. At least some of them make sense.

Weeds Have Better Names.
Come on, it’s no contest. Look at the names of the weeds out there: stinging nettle, nightshade, stinking hellebore, creeping buttercup, chickweed, horehound, alligator weed, hairy bittercress, black medic, bull thistle, pokeweed, devil’s beggarticks, giant ragweed, poison ivy, poison hemlock, poison oak (anything with the word “poison” in it is awesome), fat-hen, kudzu, lizard’s tail, mugwort, crabgrass, quack grass, rattlesnake weed, scarlet pimpernel (wasn’t that Daffy Duck, too?), wooly ragwort and more.

Now look at the names of the plants you’re trying to grow in your yard: rose, pansy, impatiens, daisy, rudbeckia (just who was it rude to?), lilac, petunia, lily, hosta… tulip… um… hollyhock… uh… uh… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry, I guess I nodded off there for a second. Let’s face it. The names of the weeds ALONE kick the butt of pretty much any plant you buy at a garden center or try to grow from seed.

Weeds Are Tougher.
Again, no contest. Where did your precious “garden plants” grow up? Coddled in a nursery or garden center, surrounded by people who came running whenever they whined or cried or shriveled because they didn’t have enough water. Waah, waah, waah! Heck, if you breathe wrong on a delphinium, it screams and drops dead. Don’t look at me like that. I’ve seen it happen.

On the other hand, where did the weeds grow up? In the mean streets of your backyard. Think about it. You know what your backyard looks like. I mean, it’s filled with weeds! Would YOU want to grow up there? No way! But the weeds have managed to survive in that horrible environment. No wonder they’re tougher than the so-called ornamentals that you want to use in your oh-so-trendy “outdoor rooms.”

Weeds Are Smarter.
How? They germinate when you’re not paying attention!

And your delicate store-bought babies? They die when you’re not paying attention. End of story.

Weeds Are Built Better.
Have you ever tried to pull up a thistle? (Hint: consider a thing called “garden gloves.”) Or a dandelion? Good luck getting all of the root. Or creeping Charlie? Not your weird uncle; I mean the weed. Most weeds have better armor than Iron Man.

On the other hand, a chipmunk can pull up a geranium. That’s just sad.

Weeds Are Organized.
First of all, polling shows that weeds hate the average homeowner by about 99 percent to 1 percent. How do I know this? I’m a journalist; I’ve seen the numbers. Don’t ask me where I got that information. I would have to kill you. Of course, it’s also possible that I would be killed. Probably by weeds.

So where do we go from here? Wait… I think I have it… the Garden Spork! I’m going to be RICH!

Forget everything I wrote above. I’ve just invented the perfect garden tool. All I need is my real friends on Facebook to pass along the word. That will happen in three… two… one….

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questions

I’m moving to a townhouse with limited direct sunlight. I would like to put a Japanese maple in a north-facing garden but don’t know if it will do well. What are the best kinds? Also, when is the best time to plant a small tree?

I purchased some pre-chilled hyacinths and tulips for forcing but there were no directions with them. Does this mean I don’t have to chill them in the refrigerator, and will they just bloom in the house any time during the winter? The last batch of bulbs became moldy in the refrigerator.

My Siberian iris ‘Gracilis’ plants have only one bloom per clump. I have five 3 to 5 year-old clumps that are 8 to 10 inches wide. They do not appear to be crowded. All are planted in a moist area. Why is there only one bloom per clump?