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Solidago Transformed from a Weed to an Ornamental

From before colonial times and well into the nineteenth century the English have shown a fondness for American native plants.

One such variety was the weed called Solidago or goldenrod.

The Englishman William Cobbett (1763-1835) in his book The American Gardener once wrote about a border of goldenrod at Hampton Court in London that was thirty feet wide and a half-mile long.  People referred to it as “the most magnificent walk in Europe.”

I found that  reference in Peter Hatch’s new award-winning book on Thomas Jefferson’s garden called A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello.

Hatch also mentions the gardener Jeremiah Simple who wrote in the early journal American Farmer, “What we most despise here as more than useless, is cultivated with care in Europe, and our most noxious plants are returned to us as treasures.”

Solidago virgaurea [Courtesy Wikipedia]
Solidago virgaurea [Courtesy Wikipedia]
Nineteenth century seedsmen and nursery owners often complained in their catalogs and other publications that American gardeners did not consider native plants important.

For example, in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan (1826-1901) wrote that American gardeners would not know a rhododendron if they saw one, whereas the English found them ideal in the garden.

More recently in her book Herbs in Bloom garden writer Jo Ann Gardner first saw goldenrod in a garden at the Newfoundland Botanical Garden.  She wrote after that for her “No longer was goldenrod an unwanted field weed, but a desirable ornamental.”

I have solidago in my garden where it just seems to appear in September, often with one of my favorites, the New England aster.  I must admit solidago looks good at that time of the season with its bright yellow color.

What do you think of solidago?


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