In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2012
Regional Report

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Volunteers wanted!

Volunteers Wanted!

There is a lovely long string of nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) that is blooming in my little garden in Brisbane. They probably will fall victim to the drunks from the bar next door, but while they are still here I am enjoying them very much. I planted the original seeds about seven years ago. Each spring the fallen seed from the previous year's flowers make an effort to renew life. Some years the bloom is more prolific than others, and this year seems to be one of those. So not only are the nasturtiums lovely to look at, they involved absolutely no work on my part. What could be better than that?

Some plants volunteer more easily than others. A volunteer is a term that applies to any plant that reseeds or resprouts on its own with no help from a farmer or gardener. Of course, you realize the largest category of volunteer plants are weeds, but there are also some very desirable species that can be left on their own to grace your garden year after year.

Sunflowers are natural volunteers. They shed their bounty of seed with the help of hungry birds. The seed that isn't devoured will germinate and take root the following season, as soon as the soil warms sufficiently for germination. Love-Lies-Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) is another annual that will reseed freely with the help of the local bird population. California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a welcome volunteer in most gardens, although the individual plants also send down a deep tap root that will support life for many years, depending on location. If you have ever opened one of the long, thin seed pods you will find that they are filled with thousands of tiny black seeds.

Annuals such as pansies, impatiens, and lobelia cannot be counted upon to repopulate an entire bed, although they do frequently reseed themselves with vigor. I love the seed pods of impatiens -- they are spring loaded and deliver their progeny over a broad area of ground.

The recent craze for ornamental grasses may become a problem in years to come. The abundant seedlings of these graceful plants can be dug up and replanted in more desirable locations. However, they can become invasive if left to their own wiles.

Some types of bulbs multiply more easily than others. Single petal daffodil varieties such as 'King Alfred' and 'February Gold' will proliferate over the years if left undisturbed. Rhizomatous plants such as calla lily (Zantedeschia) and many varieties of bearded iris will settle in nicely to a location suited to their particular growing requirements.

I like sharing my garden with a few volunteers. One man's weed is another man's treasure.

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