The Grumpy Gardener – Weeds or Seedlings

The Grumpy Gardener – September 

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In his regular column for French News Online, professional gardener Mike Alexander recognises that sometimes a gardener’s experiments may not work out and that’s when a bit of busking is called for.

Every spring gardeners embark on a process of experimentation that they hope will provide a beautiful tapestry of colour during the summer.
Experiments with seed packages in the Spring bearing fruit

Experiments with seed packages in the Spring bearing fruit

We then sit back and bite our fingernails and hope for the best, knowing that there is little that can then be done once the seed has been cast. Earlier this year I wrote that I was going to be experimenting with mixed annual seed which I had sown in between an existing skeleton of shrubs in two of the gardens I work in.

The results have been very different. In the one garden where the soil is quite deep and rich and where the client is very good at watering when I am not there, the return was excellent. The colors were vivid and the plants long lived, sturdy and complemented well the Echinacea purpurea clumps that I had grown from seed two years before.

The other garden has thin, sandy soil and received little watering when I was not there. The seedlings came through with the wet spring but soon became leggy when the weather heated up and then simply lay down on top of each other when the going got really tough. Now they look like a badly made birds nest with just the odd patch of color from some of the tough little corn flowers. Luckily there were some Rudbeckia fulgida “Goldsturm” clumps from last year to carry the day, but overall a disaster.

In both gardens it became difficult to tell weeds from seedlings as the plants first started coming through. One is never totally sure what these mixed seed packets contain. It really helps if you have a good knowledge of what weeds will appear and you can confidently identify them early. Regrettably, the only way to get this knowledge is through spending time on ones knees weeding.

Disasters are not uncommon when gardening especially when you try something new. Experimenting is however part of the reason for being a gardener and sometimes we have to take the good with the bad. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes, although I sometimes wonder if I am not giving myself too much training using this method.

A beautiful tapestry of colour for summer

A beautiful tapestry of colour for summer

Both Echinacea and Rudbeckia have done well this year and are providing much needed color. They are both members of the Aster family, are straightforward to maintain and can take quite tough conditions. They thrive in full sun and I grow them from seed and find they are very easy. Normally they don’t flower until the second year but they can also be bought as pot grown plants and planted out if you don’t have too much patience. Both originate from North America and were used medicinally by native Americans for treating snake bite in both horses and humans. It is said that carrying Echinacea during trying times will provide inner strength. I might carry some as I go to clear away the bird’s nest that I now find myself with after this year’s learning curve.

Warm and sunny results

Warm and sunny results


Previously – click an image below
To read February's gardening tips article - click this image
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
Prune for Results
A World Without Bees?
What you should have done in January!
Prune your roses - click here
Fruit Tree Pruning
Wars of the Roses
Grumpy Gardener April - It's War Out There. Click to view
Click to read this article
Prune When Finished
Herald of Spring…
click to read Grumpy's july  tips
You’ve got to be quick!
Un-thirsty Lavender
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Grasp the Nettle
Star Jasmine – Madrid
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Jihad – on Bunnies Ears
Autumn Arrives
Designer chic or neccessity? - click here for full story
To read this article - click here
Designer Chic?
Gravity – not to be ignored!
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If Winter Comes….
Hottest chilli in the world
Dogs and Daffodils... full story - click this image
The iris and Madame la Guillotine... full story - click this image
Dog Days…
Fleur de Lys
Hedge You Bets - how do YOU like your hedges... full story - click this image
To read a previous article
– click an image –
Hedge Your Bets

Grumpy Gardener

Our Grumpy Gardener has been gardening professionally in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Writer: Mike Alexander

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