Every Wednesday, I hope to find a new ‘weed’ to investigate. My only criterion will be that I will not have deliberately planted the subject of our inquiry. Who knows what we will find…..
It is romping away over variegated foliage and pink roses, and is advancing towards the California Lilac, its long tendrils reaching out like lassoes. Only yesterday I noticed that my Comfrey was being dragged towards the fence by a Bindweed, and as I struggled to disentangle it, I noticed how strong the stems were, and how reluctant to give up their grip.
I have in my possession, courtesy of my Aunt Hilary, a 1913 edition of a botanical work called ‘The Flowers of the Field’, by the Reverend C. A Johns. Here’s what the author has to say about Hedge Bindweed:
‘In bushy places, common; and a most mischievous weed in gardens, not only exhausting the soil with its roots, but strangling with its twining stems the plants that grow nearby’.
A hundred years on, few of us would disagree. When I research the plants that I write about for the Wednesday Weed, most of them have some uses, medicinal or as food or for their position in the ecosystem. When I look for Bindweed, the first and often the only paragraph is about eradication.
And yet. Let’s have a closer look.
As I hang around outside Budgens with my camera, delaying further the moment when I have to go home and actually do some work, I notice a rather large bumblebee. By her size, she is a newly emerged queen, and she is buzzing from one Bindweed flower to another, ignoring the overbred roses in favour of those pristine white blossoms. And what blossoms they are! Pure white and the size of a baby’s fist. I love the way that the buds are twisted into the calyx, like a dancer with her skirt swirled about her.
If it wasn’t quite such a thug, I’m sure we’d be welcoming Bindweed into our gardens to cover up those ugly sheds and water butts and north-facing walls. Other members of the Bindweed family, such as Morning Glory, are cultivated with some enthusiasm. But Hedge Bindweed is just a little too energetic for most people, with a lust for life that is as inspiring as it is terrifying. After human beings are gone I imagine Bindweed covering the derelict London office blocks as easily as it does these flowerbeds, climbing inexorably towards the sky.