Skip to content

Little gardens beneath our feet

2010 March 18

Cheerful faces of speedwells are a sure sign of spring. Photo by Ken Moore

By Ken Moore

At the base of the utility pole on the Weaver Street Market corner of Weaver and Greensboro streets is a beautiful little garden of speedwells and dandelions and other close-to-the-ground, early-spring flowering weeds. There are several of these miniature gardens scattered beneath the big post oaks at the corner.

Signaling spring’s arrival, those blue speedwells are flowering now in many yards throughout our neighborhoods. You may even spot patches of blue in the medians as you drive around our towns on Fordham Boulevard.

You may also have them in your yard, but you may move too quickly to enjoy them and the diversity of other flowers scattered there. But if you have one of those turf-grass lawns, regularly maintained with fertilizers and herbicides, you won’t have a spring-flowering yard.

To have such a yard, you must set about to cultivate a “freedom lawn.” Such a lawn is not really too much of a challenge to create and maintain. To succeed, all you have to do is nothing. Your yard will become filled with all sorts of volunteer plants. In flower now is an assortment of winter annuals that begin growing in the late fall and burst forth with flowers close to the ground in early February. Flowering close down on the ground seems to be an advantage during cold weather.

You may have to get down on hands and knees for some “belly-button botany” observations to appreciate the floral display. My truly favorite of all the many early-spring yard flowers is the beautiful little speedwell, Veronica persica. Hundreds of blue flowers greeted my downward glances as I was hanging out the laundry in my yard a couple of days ago. I never cease to be humbled by the clean beauty of this quarter-inch broad, four-petal flower when examined at close range.

Chickweed flower petals resemble rabbit ears. Photo by Ken Moore

Another of my favorites is the lowly common chickweed, Stellaria media. This bane of the lawn perfectionist can shine up at you like hundreds of little bright stars speckled across a bed of pale-green foliage. Close observation of the tiny quarter-inch-diameter flowers will reveal five pure-white petals that are split like rabbit ears, appearing to be 10 petals. Gently pull one double petal away from the flower to enjoy the tiny white rabbit ears in the palm of your hand. I can’t resist doing that!

Rather than curse the lowly chickweed, being a lazy, carefree gardener, I simply let this early-spring annual romp around on the yard and through garden beds. The tender foliage makes a tasty addition to salads and it is a special treat relished by parakeets. By late spring, it’s gone, out of sight, until the next winter.

Another lawn weed is the purple dead nettle, Lamium purpureum. Sometimes in my yard, low clumps of these plants seem to join together and move like waves of pinkish flowers across the wild landscape. Upon close observation, each flower makes me think of a turtle head reaching out from beneath those leafy bracts to sniff the warming air.

Speedwell, chickweed and dead nettle accompanied the Europeans to North America long ago. I enjoy having them romp around the yard early in the spring ahead of the larger garden flowers.

Comments are closed.