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How ragwort and other weeds could transform the flower beds in your garden this summer

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It’s not only the fashion and beauty industries trying to change the narrative in regards to how we see beauty. Why do weeds have such a generalised bad reputation – when not all of them are to blame?

Here’s an appeal to the new, organic-loving generation of millennials in a much-needed turning point in how we view horticultural beauty.

The fact is, “weeds”, as many see them, have been creeping into our gardens, in some cases by stealth, for years. And we’re all much better off for it.

Admittedly, I’m speaking as an organic gardener who happens to be a (geriatric) millennial. But since graduating from six years of gardening on inner-city balconies to getting my own garden last summer, I’ve totally reassessed my understanding of and relationship with weeds. I’ve ushered in white deadnettle into dry shady patches, coaxed herb-Robert into the cracks between my concrete steps and allowed yellow corydalis to brighten up drab corners.

In my flowerbeds, meanwhile, all sorts of things that some may have considered weeds have been allowed to prosper: the green froth of Alchemilla mollis, or lady’s mantle, sit beneath the tall, pink baubles of Common Knapweed. Foxgloves, which arguably made the graduation from “weed” to “wildflower” some time ago, burst forth from whatever gap they can. Ivy-leaf toadflax is a welcome visitor, as is shepherd’s purse. Even green alkanet was entertained for a while – I like it as a cut flower. If it turns up, puts up with the increasingly strange weather we’re subjected to and flowers nicely, it can stay.

Some people will say that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. Others have been elevating some to “wildflowers”. What we consider a “weed” has always been pretty subjective, and continues to be so, but in essence they are often plants that don’t ascribe to a traditional idea of beauty, that rapidly grow in spots in the garden and can be difficult to remove, and are very good at persistently blooming when our more prized plants fail. You can, of course, buy the more desirable “weeds” in pot or seed form. In pristine beds, weeds can make their presence felt all the more keenly. But they can be very useful for filling empty spaces in between the seasons, and make gorgeous ground cover in difficult spots.

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