An unlikely 'cheerleader' in the garden


And to think: I've put most of the self-sowers in my garden on an enemies' list. Along comes David Culp, the wellknown plantsman with the huge hellebore and snowdrop collection, to blow my assumptions away. Far from considering these easy growers a pain, David encourages them. In this photo, he's scattering seeds of the statuesque angelica to help the process along.

He likes other self-sowers, too, like poppies, feverfew, verbascum and .. sorry, Dave, this one's my nemesis .. bronze fennel. "I do a design and self-sowers lighten it up," he says, "making the garden not so studied. It loosens things up."

Self-sowers also weave the beds together. "They cheer you on. They're my biggest helper," Dave says.

But doesn't this make for a ton of weeding and thinning out? I'm thinking of those annoying feathery tufts of bronze fennel that I'm still plucking out of the garden three years after I planted this admittedly beautiful plant for a unique "ornamental accent" among the vegetables. "I'd rather 'edit' than stand on my head and do horticultural acrobatics," he replies.

Well, after battling perilla - which even David admits can be a pain - and trumpet vine - which, by the way, is back albeit on a small scale after being seriously nuked two years ago - and assorted other evil-doers, I'm not completely sold on this cheerleader thing. Love-in-a-mist is easily ripped out, as are hardy chrysanthemums, which are positively steroidal, but I'd just as soon do without the "cheerleading" of some of the other tenacious plants in this category.