Posts Tagged ‘winter annuals’

Persian Speedwell

Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica)

It’s very obvious that our spring has come early this year. The flowering trees at Viette’s are popping with amazing color and the spring bulbs are up and filling the gardens with more bright splashes of color.

Shepherds Purse surrounded by a sea of chickweed.

Shepherds Purse surrounded by a sea of chickweed.

But along with these very welcome spring flowers, come a host of not so welcome early spring bloomers which invade our carefully tended lawns and gardens; chickweed, henbit, mustards, wild violets, dandelions

These common garden weeds came early as well and are up and blooming profusely in my gardens and even in some of Andre’s gardens.

One of the earliest blooming spring garden weeds is chickweed (Stellaria). This annual weed is often categorized as a winter weed because it grows well in cooler conditions and it often forms bright green carpet of foliage as early as January or February – it even grows under the snow.

Chickweed flowers have 5 deeply cleft petals giving it the appearance of having 10 petals

Chickweed flowers have 5 deeply cleft petals giving it the appearance of having 10 petals

One of the keys to its success as a garden weed is that it can go from a seed to producing its own seed in as little as 30 days.
No wonder it’s so prolific!

If you want to look on the positive side, chickweed does have some redeeming characteristics. The seed is a great source of food for the birds and the name “chickweed” comes from the fact that the seed and tender young foliage was at one time used to feed domestic chickens. The foliage is rich in vitamin C and the plant can be used as a source of wild greens.
Hmmmm, I think I’ll stick with spinach!

Purple dead nettle

Purple dead nettle

Two other widespread winter annuals that are blooming right now are Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) and its closely related and equally invasive cousin Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). They are members of the mint family and can be seen blooming profusely all around us, turning whole fields into a sea of pink and purple. In fact purple dead nettle is currently creating quite the ground cover in our blueberry patch. I definitely need to work on that.

These annoying weeds often invade turfgrass and we get bombarded with questions in the spring about how to eradicate it. Of course, one of the best tips is to maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn through proper feeding, watering, and mowing. Mowing the grass high (no lower than 3″) will help to shade out most lawn weeds and a thick, well-fertilized lawn will usually outcompete the weeds.

Henbit is often confused with purple dead nettle and vice versa.

Henbit is often confused with purple dead nettle and vice versa.

Pre-emergence herbicides to control winter annuals like chickweed, henbit, and the others I mention in this post must be put down in late summer or fall before the seed germinates. It’s much to late for that now. Once they are growing, hand weeding or the use of post-emergence herbicides are the best way to control them, especially if you catch them before they get a chance to set seed.

Interestingly, henbit and purple dead nettle are kin to the beautiful (and better behaved) cultivated form of Lamium that many of us plant in our gardens; Lamium maculatum. The variegated cultivars, ‘Beacon Silver’, ‘Purple Dragon’, ‘Shell Pink’, and others are often used as attractive ground covers for the sun and shade.

More early spring “wildflowers” that we consider weeds …

Shepherds Purse with its unusual seed pods

Shepherds Purse with its unusual
seed pods

Shepherds Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is a very common winter annual that produces copious amounts of seed in their little seed pods that resemble the purses once carried by shepherds, hence the name. Each plant is capable of producing 40,000 seeds which can remain viable for up to 30 years – yikes! But – the seed is peppery and can be ground into a  mustard-like seasoning. Got hotdogs?

Two delightfully cute little wildflowers I came across in the grass at the nursery are Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica; seen in the banner above) and Field Pansy (Viola kitaibeliana).

These tiny field pansies are so cute!

These tiny field pansy flowers are so cute!


I know these weeds can be annoying to have in your lawn and many people strive to eradicate them but their little flowers are just so adorable – how could you?

I’m just sayin’ …

Until next time – Happy Gardening!


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