April 29, 2009

A New Volunteer in the Garden

No, I don't have any human volunteers to help me pull weeds. But, I have an interesting volunteer plant that I've been watching since June of 2008.

I posted a photo of this patch of leaves on a garden forum last summer trying to determine whether or not is was a weed. Most felt that it was a weed. However, I thought the leaves resembled verbascum, so I left it alone and have been watching over it ever since.

The verbascum 'Southern Charm' that grows in my garden is not supposed to seed. Therefore, I began to question whether or not my mystery plant was verbascum. Still, I was patient and waited.

Last week, the plant suddenly started growing. Soon, it took the form of two plants in my butterfly garden. Both are salvia nemorosa varieties 'Caradonna' and 'Marcus' - both have purple blooms. I posted a question on a salvia forum to ask how to tell which one was the parent. Before a person could answer my question, the plant sprouted a bloom overnight.

From the green stem color, I was able to determine that 'Marcus' is the parent as the 'Caradonna' has dark, almost black stems (and grows twice as high). There are now several of these welcome 'Marcus' offspring sprouting up in my butterfly garden. These plants are loved by butterflies and by hummingbirds.

Salvia nemorosa 'Marcus' is a short 12" high salvia that will bloom off and on through the summer with deadheading. It is blooming early this year, probably due to the 90°F temperatures that we've been having over the last week. This salvia is rated for zones 4-8 and is deer and rabbit resistant as well as drought-tolerant.

It took a year of watching and waiting, but now I'm glad that I didn't pull out this mystery plant. Time reveals so much.

When you're weeding a garden, how do you tell the difference between a weed and a wanted plant? I've always heard that if you see the same seedling all over your garden, it's probably a weed. If you see a seedling that's unique to one section of the garden, it MAY be a welcome plant.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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