"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Weedling" or Seedling?

I've noticed that in the early spring as I start weeding I often find certain sprouts that I'm not sure what they are.  Is it a weed, or is it something I want?  The last few days of weeding and cleaning up, I've had to stop and think if I've planted any seeds in the area I'm working in.   I planted bread seed poppies this year, but I don't know what those seedlings look like.  I've only grown them once before and that was a long time ago.  Then I have plants that self sow, some I didn't know did so until too late.  Last spring I pulled up lots of what I thought were weeds, only to have my friend tell me about the great scabiosa seedlings she was finding her yard.  I realized I had pulled almost all of them out.   Many times I've just left certain unknowns to grow and wait to see what it looks like when it's got more leaves.   
I have certain "weedlings" that I've learned like to disguise themselves as other plants.  They sneakily grow in the middle of a plant hoping I'll not notice them.
Other times they are just too obvious, but get themselves in the crown of the plant making it hard for me to safely pull them out without disturbing the perennial they've made their home in.
How many times I've weeded something only to discover it wasn't a weed after all,  I'll never know.
Anemone blanda - I don't want to think about how many I pulled up before I realized what I was doing!


Are these my 'Pantaloons' (campanula punctata)?  I know they can self sow.

Columbine (aquilegia)


Love in a Mist (nigella)

Hellebore (helleborus orientalis)

Breadseed Poppy (papaver somniferum)
Thanks to Frances from Fairegarden for correctly identifying this!

Larkspur - Something I've been finding lots of!

I did manage to get the Bachelor Buttons 'Blue Boy' (centaurea) sown yesterday, and those seedlings I will recognize!  Also planted was Everlasting Flower 'Strawberry Fields' (gomphrena globosa), those seedlings I won't know.  Guess I'll have to do careful weeding in those parts of the garden.
After 10 years (I can't believe it's been that long!) of gardening in this yard I know most of the weeds that tend to grow in my garden.  The "weedlings" I usually know, it's the seedlings that I don't always know.
Pin It


  1. Catherine you have hit on a problem that we all have faced. I go through this every spring also. I leave some things go until I find out what they might be :) Some I have learned to spot but new ones are tough. I wonder how many we have all pulled up.

  2. Catherine
    I couldn't have put it better myself. But lovely photos. I used to start seeds of in my own home made compost in the greenhouse and it was a constant puzzle what was a weed and what a seedling now I have succumbed to starting them off in compost from the garden centre already steralised so I don't have that problem.

    I spent yesterday transplanting alchemilla mollis seedlings from the edge of the path to further in so when it matures it will not flop on the path. Why do things self sew in the wrong place?

  3. Catherine, one tip when planting seeds direct in the garden, is to put a few in a pot - just so you can see what the seedlings should look like. Plus there are a few to fill in any gaps.

    Lovely pictures. Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  4. Catherine - I have the same problem. I often am not sure if its a weed or a flower plant. Many weeds have blooms on them. We have an assortment of weeds at work (no grass) and some have flowers. Good luck weeding.

  5. From what I have gathered...all gardeners have this problem!!! I was getting ready to weed the other day when my mom noticed 2 dogwoods growing in my beds. I didn't plant them. Best we can figure, the squirrels brought over the seed from my neighbors! Go figure that we plant a seed and it won't grow, but a squirrel plants a seed and it grows!!!!!!! Sometimes I wait for the weed/seed to get large enough so I can tell if it is a weed or something I planted...LOL!

  6. Same here on the weeding problem. Yesterday Bob said he was afraid to weed and pull something up that is not a weed. I said well let me check it first - well I won't know everything either LOL but o'well. I already noticed one missing after he weeded! Time for Bachelor Buttons huh? I'm thinking I might be a bit colder here than you though so maybe I'll wait a week or so.
    Your flowers look so great - coming up like crazy with this nice bunch of days we've had aren't they?

  7. Looks like we are going to have quite a large group for this problem! I just let them grow for a while, wait and see approach.....It can be very frustrating at times.....

  8. Okay, I'll admit it. I sometimes can't tell the difference either, and I have a degree in Horticulture!

  9. I forgot to tell you, I mailed your candle yesterday and there's a very small something on top for the kids. You were the only winner in the States.....so, now I know why the give-a-ways say US entries only!! Lesson learned, although I do hope they and you as well enjoy your candle. Please let me know that it gets there.

  10. One of the funniest things my brother ever did was to "weed-eat" Mother's prized celosia plants thinking they were weeds!!!
    Good luck with the weeding and have a blessed Easter.

  11. I do this too and it is a real heartbreaker for me. One year the weeds must've gotten away from me and it bloomed and it was Joe Pye Weed! After that I try to set some weeding rules-do NOT pull unless you recognize it. For me that means only clover. The rest I take a wait and see attitude. You would think grass would be safe but no, river oats look just like grass. Sigh. Have fun today. I had the best time on my walk and could not believe all the wildflowers in their native environment. I see a plant hunting trip coming on...

  12. Hi Catherine, if no one else has mentioned it, what you have labeled as penstemon are the breadseed poppies. :-)

  13. It never fails that in my garden I have weeds and wanteds that look very similar except for one slight difference and by the end of weeding I have gone rummy with "weeding" out the weeds and salvaging the wanteds.

  14. I have a habit of shaking seed-heads over the flowerbeds: foxgloves, forget-me-nots etc to give a natural effect. So when loads of seedlings come up, I ignore them until they are a reasonable size, (unless I really am sure what they are!!).

    I have a beautiful larch tree in a large tub. It originally appeared as a seedling in a garden we had about 8 house-moves ago!

  15. Oh yes, there is no telling how many good plants I've dug up while weeding.

  16. Hi...I weed later in the season so I can see what is what! I don't have a neat garden, so a few weeds are fine.


  17. Lona - I left a few things out there that I wasn't sure about. I guess we all have pulled up a good amount good plants that we'll never know about.

    Joanne - I know, some things self sow in the strangest places. It's nice when you can move them to where you want them though, free plants!

    Sylvia - Great tip, I will try that next time, then I'll know by comparing to what comes up in the pots!

    Becca- I know, I'm afraid for when the weeds do get flowers and go to seed, then it's a whole new crop of them!

    Dirt Princess - It is funny how a bird or squirrel can just drop something and it has no problem growing. I don't know how many seeds I've planted according to the directions and they never came up.

    Rain Gardener - If anyone helps me weed, which is rare, I show them what they can pull :) At least he helps you! I think Bachelor Buttons are okay, this is usually around when I plant them.

    Darla - That's probably the best, then at least you know what you don't want. I'll let you know when the candle arrives. I'm looking forward to it :)

    Laura - Now I feel much better :)

    Mildred - That is a funny story, although I bet your Mom wasn't laughing at first :)

    Tina - There are about 4 weeds that I know for sure in this yard. They seem to be "regulars", that's why I usually just do the weeding myself. I love seeing the wildflowers in bloom, I hope you will take pictures so we can see what the ones near you look like!

    Frances- Well, that's good to know :) They are right by a penstemon that always self sows, and to tell you the truth I can't remember where all I sowed those poppy seeds. Thanks and now I know what to be looking for :)

    Lanny - Weeding is exhausting sometimes isn't it? I'm sure in an area as large as your yard it really must make you tired!

    Phoenix - I do that too, I like how they come up that way. How neat that you have a large tree that started as a seedling, I bet you're happy you didn't weed that one!

    Phillip - Well, it's nice to know I'm not alone in my weeding good plants :)

    Gail - I've seen pictures of you garden and they're beautiful!

  18. I know what you mean. Right now I have a couple of tiny plants that I think are zinnias that reseeded from last year but I'm not sure. I don't want to pull them up just yet. I'll give them a couple of weeks or so.

  19. Hi~~ I've been gardening on this same patch of earth for about the same time as you've gardened on yours. We do get familiar with the little seedlings and weedlings springing up. But every now and then I get a stumper too and I just leave it until it grows.

  20. It seems all us gardeners face this weeding woe at one time or another doesn't it? I also tend to take the let it grow and we shall see what it reveals itself to be approach. Although right now I seem to be faced with nothing but weeds popping up everywhere! I am currently losing that battle as I can't seem to keep up with them. They are very much enjoying the rain and brief amounts of sun we have had lately.

  21. I'm taking my laptop out to the garden when I weed! The only one I recognized was the echinacea. I'm going to use your post for "seedling identification class 101"-Thank you!

  22. I do that all the time! One year it was tall Bachelor's buttons, I must have pulled a hundred or more before I figured it out. Thank goodness for garden bloggers, someone will always figure it out if you take a pic of something you're not sure about! Funny how easy it is to recognize the "friendlies" once you know you'd like them to stick around.

  23. What a fantastic tip Sylvia left! I'm going to snatch that one right up, if you don't mind! You've got lots of good seedlings coming up. It must have been nice today if you were out weeding??

  24. Susie - How lucky to have zinnias reseed. Those are ones I'd definitely not want to weed!

    Grace - I remember I used to leave a lot more and even left one type to bloom until I finally realized it was a weed. Now that one never sneaks past me!

    Cynthia - Why is it that weeds just grow no matter what? I always have a nice crop of spring weeds, even when I've lost several good plants to our cold weather.

    LJ - Thanks and you're welcome :) It would be nice if you could scan your garden with something and have the computer tell you which ones were weeds.

    Karen - You're right, once those "friendlies" are recognized you don't forget them. Even if you have to learn the hard way :)

    Kathleen - That was an excellent tip wasn't it? I didn't do much weeding today, I was exhausted from all the weeding and fence building I have done over this past week.

  25. You're so true about pulling out the wrong one, Catherine and that's why I leave almost all of them where they are, wait until they grow a bit so that they're identifiable and then remove it. The drawback would be, if it were really a weed, you'd be in serious trouble, by the time you think of WEEDING them!

  26. I never direct sow anything I really, really care about and I've learned to recognize a lot of the plants that tend to pop up in my tiny garden. Right now tho', I have something that I think could either be some penstemon, or a weedy fireweed. So I'm waiting...

  27. Chandramouli - You are smart. I think you had a surprise grape you almost pulled. Good thing you didn't weed that one!

    Chuck - Most of the things I direct sow I've learned to recognize. If I'm waiting for something that I've planted to sprout sometimes I'll search online for seedling pictures. I hope it's penstemon that you have!

  28. Yes, a true conundrum. And then there are the times where I dig a hole for a new plant, and find some bulbs already live there...But somehow it all works out in the end.

  29. Town Mouse - I think the reason I don't plant more bulbs is for the exact reason you mentioned. I always dig into them :) Oops!

  30. Hi Catherine,
    I enjoyed your walk. You have some pretty blooms there!

    At some point, I'm planning to post about the progress of my gamble garden, and my first thinning of the lettuce. I think there was a plant like your first one growing with the lettuce. I wasn't sure if it was a flower or weed, but I decided to pull it because I was thinking it was a weed, and I didn't want it where it was. I'll have to see if it's in a photo.

    Last year, something grew really big in the corner of my herb garden, and just as it was starting to bloom, I posted a pic of it in the Cottage Garden Forum on ivillage. People there were able to name the kind of weed it was, and urged me to pull it before it went to seed.

    I have other mystery plants I'm growing this year, and hope they are not weeds. I hope your mysteries are solved soon.

    I am reading a good book about gardening with wildlife in mind that talks about mixing native plants with the hybrids we like. The author takes a balanced approach in providing for the critters. I should put up a post about the book.

  31. Thanks for all the pics - very helpful!

  32. Last year for some reason none of my bachelor's buttons came up (bad seed lot? They were old), but there were little plants where I expected them to be that looked somewhat similar. Since the bachelor's buttons was what I was expecting, and they were in the same area, I let them go until about mid-June when I spotted bachelor's button seedlings at a garden center and about had a heart attack. My patch of plants that I was so excited about looked quite different. Turns out that the one stem of wild aster that had piggy-backed in on an obedient plant that I got at a local plant sale the year before had taken over! I spent an afternoon pulling them out and a good week with blisters on my hands from it! Isn't that the way it always is - you pull out what you want and leave what you don't! :) Great pictures, btw!


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. I try my very best to answer any questions you may have, but usually don't have time to respond to each comment. Please leave a link to your blog so I can visit you in return.