|At one of the gardens in Washington DC, I saw|
a wild commotion of insects buzzing one plant.
I saw the name-tag - Mountain Mint - and vowed,
"I will grow that one day."
The mint family loves to spread through the root system. I had reason to regret planting catnip (a mint) in our Midland backyard. Once established, it formed a mat of iron-like roots and plants. Catnip is supposed to be attractive to every member of the cat family, but I have not had the time or inclination to try out this claim on the larger breeds.
Some mints are simply known as weeds that are never quite defeated. Creeping Charlie is a mint that motivates gardeners to try many methods for getting rid of it, but the young leaves are edible and have been used in salads and beer-making.
The most despised plants are often the ones that are:
- Favorable to beneficial insects,
- So easy to grow that they are considered invasive, or
- Planted by birds through their digestive systems.
|Th star flowers of borage can get droopy,|
but they never stop producing pollen and seed.
Favorable to Beneficial Insects
If the plant produces tiny flowers (borage, mint, clover, dandelion, and dill families), then tiny insects will pollinate them and aid in their distribution of seeds. Borage is so productive in seeds and seductive to bees that it is called Bee Bread. The star-like flowers are edible and often used in salads for decoration and adding a cucumber-like flavor to the greens.
|Comfrey looks a bit ragged in time,|
but few plants produce so many leaves.
Comfrey, a tall cousin of borage, is equally productive and also rather sloppy when fully grown - a good candidate for the wild garden. Comfrey produces enough greens to qualify as a compost provider. The taproots mine minerals from the lower levels of soil, so they benefit the overall quality of shallow-rooted plants that may need the nutrients but do not grow deep into the sub-levels. Earthworms and other soil creatures keep those nutrients in the root zone by their constant exchanges through eating, tunneling, feeding, and excreting.
|Bee balm (horse mint) feeds all kinds of insects, bees,|
Mints flowering make people say, "Oh yes, bees love mint." Many kinds of wild bees keep plants in production, so the abundance of wildflowers and weeds feeding bees is good rather than bad. Bees have never stung me, even when I brush them aside to do my work.
Bee balm is also called horse mint. Its exotic flowers are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. I noticed that last year's plants were growing in clumps, just as I hoped. I got many of them on clearance at Lowe's, because the vendors bring plants in for a time and give up on them as the plants age in the displays. And they do age in their pots, in the sun, with tap-water to drink. But they revive at home in good soil. The best deal is a perennial on clearance, with years of growth, perhaps even spreading, for a tiny price.
Some weed and feed bags brag that they fertilize the grass while killing weeds - like clover. But the feed is temporary and the herbicide component kills a plant that fixes nitrogen in the soil - long-term. I love having large drifts of clover fixing usable nitrogen in the soil. Clover constantly grows flowers for the pollinators and has a heavenly bubble-gum scent. A field of clover drifting that scent into the yard will make everyone smile.
Dandelions are another herb converted into a noxious weed by the public relation departments of the chemical companies. They plant themselves (no cost!), coddle earthworms (thanks!), and mine nutrients with their deep taproots. The flowers provide nest material for birds. The leaves are the best and most nutritious salad ingredients. The roots can be made into a coffee substitute.
The Dill Family - Beneficial Insect Heaven
The productive dill family is know for seeding itself -
- Wild carrot or Queen Ann's Lace (the official flower of the truck parking lot)