Along the roads near where I live in Teddington, the grass verges have suddenly become studded with bright yellow flowers. Yes, spring is here and the celandines are flowering. As a gardener, I’ve had clients point these little golden blooms out to me in the borders as weeds, and technically they’re probably right, but nevertheless, I’ve decided to make friends with celandines.
Partly, this is purely self-preservation, and a desire to avoid spending pointless hours on my knees, weeding. In my experience, there’s simply no point trying to clear celandines out of your garden. If you dig one up, you find it grows from a cluster of tiny bulblets which split up at a touch and spread themselves everywhere. Celandines are like a botanical version of the many-headed hydra – get rid of one, and six more will appear the following year. It’s best just to learn to love them. After all, they’re only around for a few weeks, the flowers are cheerful and bright at a time of year when skies are often grey and gloomy, and once they’ve died back, you won’t even remember they’re there until they pop up again next spring.
Now, I’m not suggesting you should rush into a long-term relationship with all your weeds. Some weeds, given an inch, will take a mile: spurge, oxalis, bindweed and ground elder are thugs you should never get friendly with. Turn your back for a second and they’ll take over the garden. But it’s worth making the acquaintance of the occasional dandelion, just for the pleasure of watching bumblebees trundling over the flowers or goldfinches snacking on the seeds. And for shady areas where nothing else grows, you could always have a quick fling with Herb Robert, with its lacy leaves and pink flowers. If anyone asks, say it’s a wildflower, not a weed. (And pull it up before it sets seed.)
I’m even coming around to the idea of moss in lawns, after watching Monty Don’s programme on Japanese gardens where he visited a monastery with a lawn that consisted entirely of beautifully manicured mosses. Although it did require the daily attention of a team of monks armed with tweezers to keep it looking so gorgeous, plucking out any stray blades of grass to preserve the moss, so perhaps not the best solution for most gardeners.
This isn’t so much a peace treaty with weeds as a temporary truce. When I see a bramble lurking in a border, I’m still going to reach for my trowel. And my battle with Enchanter’s Nightshade (which should be renamed Gardener’s Nightmare) in the gardens of Teddington will never end. But for now, I’m happy to enjoy the sight of celandines flowering at the side of the road.