Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mid-winter assessment and identifying a weed

The cold is back in Chicago with a vengeance, but over the weekend we had a bit of a January thaw. The snow that had been hanging around since before Christmas melted away, and I went out to assess the garden. I found my fall-divided Sedum "Autumn Joy" already putting forth new growth.

I also took a long, sad look at my Munstead Lavender. I didn't prune it well this past season and the center is all woody. I am not sure if it is worth trying to salvage.

From what I have read, once the center is woody, the best plan is to grow new plants from cuttings. The center isn't as thick and overgrown as some I've seen, but I plan on starting a few new plants this year. I just went to a propagation workshop that recommended stripping a branch, coating it with rooting hormone and layering it in the soil. I may try that, but someone also recently gave me a package of clear rooting gel. I think this will be a good way for my son to track the progress of the new plants and see how roots form.

Along the side of my house, in a slim cement crack, I found a mystery weed still thriving. It popped up this year, and I wish I knew what it was! It has very sweet purple flowers during the fall. I am sure it is a common urban weed, but I rather like it. It brightens up the harsh cemented-over area.

At first I thought it was creeping charlie, but on closer inspection, the leaves aren't the same.

I am continuously frustrated in my attempts to identify weeds in my yard. This website on Illinois weeds should be helpful, but the search function is difficult and the pictures do not reliably load. This site on weedy wildflowers in Illinois has better pictures and information, but no search function. The one weed book at my library is in black and white and focuses on meadow weeds. What's a girl to do? Maybe the Internet will work its magic and someone clicking through this blog will know what this is.

The one thing I am sure of is that this weed will be listed as a plant that loves barren ground and abandoned industrial wastelands. Whenever I positively identify a weed in my yard, it is always listed as a plant that thrives in horrible, infertile areas. This always punctures any pretensions I have about my little urban plot being some oasis of organic fertility. Oh well, the real weed identification won't begin for a while yet. More snow has fallen, and it feels like January again.

1/28/10 Update....I found the answer to the mystery weed! See comment below!


  1. Unfortunately, I don't have enough plant knowledge to help you figure out what the weed is, but I agree that it's cheerful-looking!


  2. at first I thought it was Ground Ivy, but up close, not at all. I struggle a lot with that one in my yard. I would watch how it grows, as if it shoots runners/daughters then maybe you can narrow it down to the mint family, or whatever.

  3. I think I found what the plant is: Cymbalaria muralis (Ivy-leaved Toadflax or Kenilworth Ivy). Found it on a British website

    Apparently debatable if it is a weed...many people seem to actually buy this and grow it on purpose! It is indigenous to southern Europe and grown on rock walls. According to a few sites, leaves are edible and similar to cress.

  4. Hi Abbie,

    I'm running the seed project at Garden Bloggers and I was going through the list adding people. While doing so I noticed we didn't have your last name and your Email address was incomplete. Can you shoot me an Email and provide your last name and your Email addy you want to use?

    You can find my Email under my picture in my blogger profile.