Bad rap

Growing up in my house, I heard a lot of sneezing during allergy season. Almost everyone but me, it seems, had hay fever and had it bad. I always thought this was due to two culprits - ragweed and goldenrod, which appeared at roughly the same time of year. Now. Turns out goldenrod was guilty by association; ragweed's the bad guy. And turns out, goldenrod, like so many things considered "weeds," is abolutely gorgeous. You'll see this bright yellow perennial - genus Solidago - popping up in gardens more and more, as landscapers, garden designers and gardeners realize its variety, beauty and utility. I love it, and have several kinds blooming right now. One is tall and feathery, poking its wands through a fence at the sidewalk below. The other sprawls under a sweet bay magnolia, which has a vase shape, leaving space on the ground for something to draw the eye. Several states have adopted goldenrod as their state flower and you'll be surprised - I was - to learn that Thomas Edison experimented with it during World War II to produce rubber, which it naturally contains. Like so many other plants, goldenrod has also been used medicinally, often for kidney problems. Me? I use it 'cause it lives up to two of my plant requirements. It's tough - and beautiful.