Tolerance! (And The Limits of Tolerance)

Dear Readers, it’s funny what we have tolerance for as gardeners, and what pushes us to the limit. In the front garden this year I’ve let the Green Alkanet have its head – I know it’s a thug, but it attracts more pollinators at this time of year than practically anything else. Look at this gorgeous Holly Blue butterfly, for example – they all seem to have come out in the past few days and you can often see them circling around one another in tight, dizzy circles.

Holly blue from a most peculiar angle.

The plant is not just a magnet for butterflies, though – it’s also visited by honeybees (I suspect from the hives over in our local allotments) and various hoverflies and solitary bees, including a very late female hairy-footed flower bee. The hoverfly in the photo below is, I think, a Common Hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii) – if so I’m delighted, as its larvae are ferocious feeders upon aphids, eating up to 50 a day. If the last few years are anything to go by, my two buddleia plants, which are currently looking green and healthy, will soon be dripping with honeydew from the sheer volume of greenfly, which are cheerfully picked up and moved around by the black ants that live under the patio.

So what is it that I won’t tolerate? Does anyone recognise this?

It’s our old friend Prickly Sowthistle (Sonchus asper) and London seems awash with it at the moment. This individual was growing in one of my fancy pots next to the semi-squashed catmint, and had somehow managed to achieve a height of about a metre without me noticing (well, I have been away/busy). And somehow, this was a step too far, and out it came. It seems there are limits to my acceptance of ‘wildflowers’ after all (and yet I am turning a blind eye to a few nettles in amongst the lavender and the green alkanet because I figure there’s a good chance that something will be benefitting from it).

I accept that I am prepared to accept a wider range of ‘weeds’ than most people (after all, what would I have to write about?) but I am curious. What plants will you pull out as soon as they raise their heads? What do you tolerate because you’re fond of it, in spite of its ‘weedy’ status? I am reminded of my Mum asking the gardener to mow around the patches of daisies because she loved them so much (and bless him, he always did). I suspect that we’ve all got a soft spot for something.

10 thoughts on “Tolerance! (And The Limits of Tolerance)

  1. Anne

    I let most things grow in my drought-stricken garden, even dandelions. It is when whatever it is threatens the few precious plants that survive that they get yanked out or cut back.

  2. Rosie

    Himalayan balsam I’m afraid despite seeing bees loving it. It seems to just dominate every other species. Otherwise pretty tolerant!

  3. christineburns2013

    Docks every time. And I am not fond of garlic mustard but generally leave a few plants on the edges. Thistles, more because if left there is nothing but thistles.
    I love the blue and green of alkanet. Goosefoot and chickweed and the great plant villains round here, ground elder and dogs mercury.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I am now giving the teasel in my garden the side-eye. I had one plant (just one!) a few years ago and now its babies are everywhere. They’re great for the bees and the finches so I won’t pull all of them, but they’re even popping up between the stones in the patio…

  4. sllgatsby

    Things I tolerate:
    Dandelions and buttercups in my lawn, despite my neighbors. I try to mow them before they go to seed, but they are the earliest things out for my bumblebees.
    Some of the Herb Robert, although I pull 75% of it.
    A few Spanish bluebells, just a few!
    Alkanet or anything else that has forget-me-not flowers.

    Things I don’t tolerate (although I never seem to win the battle!):
    Bindweed, which came in with a load of organic compost and has never left. Drat!
    All the false dandelions like hawkweed and catsear.
    Himalayan blackberry
    Holly in my flower beds
    Maple seedlings (there’s a 40′ maple next door and my garden is blanketed with leaves and maple spinners every fall!)

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Bindweed is so pretty, but an utter nightmare. Every year I go away in spring and come back to it popping up all over the place, which heralds the start of the annual battle…

  5. Andrea Stephenson

    Bearing in mind that most of my plants are in pots – I usually take out ragwort if it’s anywhere near where my dog could eat it – just in case – and there was a thistle the size of a small tree growing out of the concrete last year – it had to go but it was as tall as me before we got round to it! We have loads of ivy-leaved toadflax – it grows in the yard walls and where the walls join the floor – if I left it, it would literally cover the yard, but I leave some of it, as it is pretty.


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