Not missing a chance to learn–a Gardening Oops avoided

We gardeners spend so much time cultivating gardens that we often missing a chance to learn about plants growing of their own accord in natural settings. I avoided a Gardening Oops – GOOPs for short – simply by taking some time to wander outside of my cultivated beds.

What is a GOOPs, you ask? On the first of each month I write about a gardening mishap, mistake or Oops I’ve made or witnessed, then give you the opportunity to share a GOOPs of your own. I had been planning to write about all the gardening blunders I encounter during garden coaching sessions, while analyzing a garden in need of redesign, and while maintaining my clients’ gardens. But, with such glorious weather finally enveloping Connecticut, I just didn’t feel like pointing out the miss-guided gardening of others.

I decided that sharing how I did not pass up a chance to learn would be a much more suitable topic this GOOPs day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I stole some time from my work schedule yesterday to check some ‘wild’ sections of our property for Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum). We’ve been working on controlling it at one edge of the front yard, where the lawn meets moss and moss meets native grasses, Jack-in-the-pulpit and other self-sown plants. Pulling weeds, particularly Japanese stilt grass, which is rampant in my area, is a soothing activity for me. It gives me time to clear my head and refocus.

After filling about a third of an empty mulch bag, repurposed for invasive weed disposal, I wandered along other lawn-to-woods transition zones to make sure the prolific and fast-spreading stilt grass had not snuck in under my nose. During this wander I found a small group of a grass-like plants standing about four feet tall. Each plant had a center stalk with seed heads coming out of the top. The flowering units resemble chrysanthemum fireworks on the Fourth of July … the type that blasts up in a single path then explodes outward in a large circle.

I’m pretty astute at keeping watch for unusual plants in my yard and this grass-like grouping is definitely new. I thought a few clicks through the Go Botany Simple ID Key would reveal the name and details of my mystery grass. But my search required a bit more time than I expected. Go Botany led me to suspect the mystery grouping is Scirpus, but it was not easy to identify which Scirpus. For that I searched Google Images for similar-looking Scirpus.

I finally found an image of Scirpus cyperinus that closely matches the growth patterns, inflorescences, height, leaf shape, and other attributes of those growing in my yard. The plant description was a spot-on match. What I have growing is common woolsedge, a native to North America.Common woolsedge 2013-07-31 16.06.55

Through Go Botany I learned Ojibwa used the leaves of common woolsedge to weave bags and mats. Potawatomi used the fruiting heads to stuff pillows.

Woolsedge often grows in wet soils – at the edge of marshes, lakes, and rivers, but can also be found in meadows and fields. Where it is growing in my yard is not wet. The group is at the edge of the lawn, among other grasses, and next to a maple-leaf viburnum planted last autumn.

Seeds could have blown in or been deposited by an animal or bird. I suspect the heavy rains we had this spring and early summer gave the woolsedge enough soil moisture for it to establish.

Common woolsedge 2013-07-31 16.07.19I’m thrilled.

After pulling so much Japanese stilt-grass, and a fair share of young bittersweet, I’m thrilled my mystery plant is not an invasive. I’m thrilled to learn about another native plant, and that our management of the wild edges between lawn and woods has allowed more and more native plants to take hold. This is exactly what I hoped for.

How did I avoid a GOOPs? By not missing a chance to learn about this new-to-my-yard plant. By not yanking it out before finding out exactly what it is. By taking the time to wander and observe.

In essence, my GOOPs post is really a non-GOOPs … a GOOPs avoided.

Do you have a GOOPs to share … an avoided one or a real garden blunder? Tell your tale in a comment below or direct us in a comment below to your own GOOPs post on your blog. Whether yours is an avoided or committed GOOPs, your tale will give others a chance to learn.

Garden thoughtfully …

Joene

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8 comments for “Not missing a chance to learn–a Gardening Oops avoided

  1. August 1, 2013 at 7:57 am

    I know exactly how you feel on discovering something interesting and native in the wild parts of your garden. In our meadow I get so discouraged about the endless invasive weeds, and then every once in a while I find a treasure self sown among the thugs — sometimes a volunteer seedling from my own gardens, sometimes something blown in like your woolsedge.

    My GOOPs is on my blog this morning, and it is about a groundcover that isn’t covering ground very well.

    • August 1, 2013 at 8:26 am

      Laurrie, finding native and/or desired volunteers is one of the simple benefits of gardening plus it reminds us we are not in charge.

  2. August 1, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Big congratulations, Joene on your discovery and on the good fortune of leaving it alone before you dispatched it.

  3. August 3, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Love this post. I often peruse our ditches and field to see what is popping up. Too often unfortunately it’s invasive plants but I love the thrill of searching out things unknown to me and expanding my understanding.

    • August 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      I often do the same, Marguerite … always looking for something new to learn.

  4. August 4, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I don’ know that I’ve ever seen woolsedge before. The flowers are lovely, they really do look like fireworks.

    • August 4, 2013 at 10:46 am

      I had not seen it either, Debbie. I really like it and will encourage it to continue to grow.

  5. August 5, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Hi Joene,
    I’m so glad another gardener is extolling the virtues of paying attention in the garden. It’s so rewarding both in the garden and in life! Thanks for the wonderful, inspiring post.

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