25 Mar 2020

Chuffed as a weed #1

Green fresh leaves of sweet woodruff growing out of an old wall
Sweet Woodruff or Galium odoratum.
A useful and vigorous ground cover with scrambling stems that will root where they touch the soil
(or even push their way through the mortar of a brick wall) 

This time last year I was studying planting design on a course based in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. There, I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Tony Kirkham, Kew’s Head of Arboretum, Gardens and Horticulture. Basically, he’s the tree man and his knowledge of, and boundless enthusiasm for, trees has earned him a worldwide reputation, the VMH and, earlier this year, a well-deserved MBE.  You might be more familiar with the name if you watched 'My Passion for Trees', Judi Dench's 2012 tv series where Tony introduced Judi to his favourite tree, a 1500 year old yew tree in a Surrey churchyard. (You Tube clip here.) To my mind, I will always think of him as one of the nicest, funniest and friendliest people I’ve met.

But I digress. This post is about weeds, not trees, and I mention Tony here because he used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since. Describing his reaction to a bit of luck that came his way on a tree buying trip, he said “Eeh, I was chuffed as a weed.”  Tony is Lancashire born; is this a saying used up North?  I’d never heard it before but, oh my goodness, it makes so much sense when you think about it.

I was brought up on ‘Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men’ with their pal, Little Weeeeed, so it puts a big smile on my face to think of a tiny plant seed finding a nice crack in the pavement and thinking, “ooh yes, now this looks like the perfect spot to settle in. I'm well chuffed.” Of course, they don’t.  (I’m not that silly!) But weeds are plants that have developed the resilience to thrive in some fairly inhospitable environments -  or, more usually, in the soil among your prize petunias where they’ll take more than their fair share of available nutrients.  Survival of the fittest, horticulture style.

Now I'm not suggesting that we leave all our weeds to flourish but some deserve to be left alone. And as we’re all concentrating on surviving the virus raging across the world (and that’s the only reference I’ll be making to it), I thought I’d cheer up future Wednesdays with a mid-week look at some of the plants that have brought a moment of wonder and beauty into my world.  Chuffed as a weed, indeed!

Stay safe, everyone x


  1. Interesting post and picture. I'm happy to let weeds, such as dandelions, grow on my grass paths.
    Thanks, and you too. xx

  2. Find a habitat - find a weed. Each of them is a character - or more scientifically "adapted to their niche". I try to stick to the principle: you should identify each weed before you are allowed to pull it. You should hear me gardening: "Bittercress, bittercress, shining cransbill, chickweed, bittercress, groundsel, bittercress ..."

  3. Oh, I just loved Judy Dench on trees....beautiful it was. I haven't heard that saying, but it makes me smile too. Flowers v weeds...people decided that, it's all in the eye of the beholder. I leave all sorts for wildlife, nettles, dandelions amongst other things.xxx

  4. I seem to be attracted to weeds - we had an area of sweet woodruff in our old garden I wasn't allowed to bring any with me! Sarah x


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