26 March 2010
a weed by any other name
but some weeds have their uses.
This is Lamium garganicum, a dead nettle with early flowers and a carpeting habit, coming into flower to the left of the gate. It is an Italian woodlander and is used to summer drought and poor soil. In two years it has made a dense carpet of growth 20cm tall and 2metres across - and it is still going. It spreads by rooting stems across the soil surface and though very vigorous is easily removed (but get every bit or it will be back). I like it for its 3 month season of mauve-pink and white large lipped flowers and its ability to lushly grow on the worst soil. The early bees like it too, as much as they like all of the dead nettles and that means they like it a lot, but I would not want it with polite neighbours as it would drive them out under its relentless advance. For these places I would use the easily obtained Lamium maculatum with its later neater flowers and foliage brightly marked with silver stripes, it carpets but not aggressively and is generally better for garden use - we have this elsewhere in the garden - but here on dusty broken brick it would give up the ghost under a silver coat of drought induced mildew. I'll stick with this wildling in this bed paired with big bad neighbours who won't complain.
[March 2011 - I now think this is just a plain leaved form of Lamium maculatum - if you know better please let me know]