Monday, October 3, 2011

The Volunteer Garden in its Glory

In the world of gardening, a volunteer is a plant that grows spontaneously, as opposed to one planted intentionally.  I suppose weeds are classic volunteers.  But weeds are in the eye of the gardener.  Some weeds are otherwise known as wildflowers, and like goldenrod (solidago), they can be lovely blessings in places where nothing else will grow.
Thus, the volunteer garden.
Along the side of my driveway, there's a hellish strip about 10 inches wide, backed up by a wooden fence, and flanked by a similar strip in our neighbors' yard on the other side of the fence.  Both strips are bordered by the asphalt of our driveways, and as such, they're undergirded with gravel and topped with an inch or so of the unforgiving clay that forms our soil here in CT.  Whatever can grow in a narrow strip backed up by a fence and based on clay and rubble?
I wondered that myself. I wanted to plant something there, but what the heck would grow in such a forbidding zone?
Nature showed me. 
A few years ago, some thyme plants leapt over from my nearby raised bed and established themselves there, followed by some lambs' ears.
If those volunteers would grow there spontaneously, then maybe I could plant other hardy plants there intentionally--plants that cheerfully grow wherever they land.
Realizing that, I decided to plant, in that nasty strip, some of the plants that are the biggest, most invasive pains in the ass in an intentional garden.  Solidago Fireworks, otherwise known as goldenrod, is a hugely invasive plant in places where you don't want it.  Here's a look at its tenacious self, last spring, when I was uprooting it from another small garden in my yard where it wasn't wanted:
The leaves sprouted on the two ends, left and right, but they were joined under the ground by fibrous roots so tenacious that I fell on my ass more than once while trying to pull them out.  Until I fell on my ass, I had been planning to separate these plants, pot them, and put them on my front steps, with a sign, inviting my neighbors to take them.  But when they knocked me over, I decided they were far too impolite to be treated so nicely, so I put them in biodegradable paper bags and took them to our town landfill, where they would become compost.
Still, I recognize the virtues of goldenrod, and its very tenacity is the exact characteristic that makes it an excellent candidate for the volunteer garden.  I'll say the same of Eupatorium Colestinum, a plant provided by my gardening friend Paula Mooney, and the Grandpa Ott morning glory, a plant that reappears every single year in my garden for at least 10 years since the one single time I planted it intentionally.
You have to love plants that tenacious.  Especially if  they're  beautiful.  And especially if they'll grow in a harsh environment where nothing else will.
Grandpa Ott morning glories, Eupatorium Coelestinum, and Solidago Fireworks--the volunteer garden in its glory

Nothing else will grow here!  But goldenrod will.

No comments:

Post a Comment