UWBG at Home: Plant volunteers: panacea or pain in the neck?

My garden is very high maintenance, which is fine considering I’d almost always rather be puttering in my garden than doing anything else. I have to stake up dahlias, deadhead roses and root prune the conifers I grow in containers. I also have to weed all the time. I suppose everyone does, but most of my weeds are also beloved flowers. I have to weed them because they “volunteer” or grow from seed unaided by me, in places I don’t want them, like my gravel paths. Or else they they grow too thickly or in a bed where I don’t want them.

patch of blue little flowers
Forget-me-nots bloom in early spring with the tulips with true blue little flowers, but they produce so many seedlings. Once they start to get powdery mildew I will pull them all up.

Here are the promiscuous plants I welcome:

  • California poppy
  • breadseed poppy
  • love in a mist
  • oregano
  • columbine
  • violet
  • black viola
  • red orach
  • groundcovers like baby tears, Corsican mint, blue star creeper
  • feverfew
  • foxglove
  • fringe cups
  • forget-me-nots

I have criteria to distinguish between bully weeds that must not be tolerated and charming, cottage garden-favorites that fill my yard with whimsy. The most important one is whether the plant will grow back from the roots if I pull it up. Welsh poppies and red-veined sorrel get no breaks because they grow back just like dandelions from the tiny bits of taproot left behind. The second criterion is whether or not pollinators visit the flowers. Bees love oregano, California poppy and columbine.

patch of yellow violets
A little patch of native violets, with a columbine and inside-out flowers (not in bloom yet)

One bulbous plant, Spanish bluebells, has totally defeated me. I swear the more I dig them up the thicker they grow back. I detest them because after the flowers fade the foliage continues to grow thick, fleshy leaves that will smother anything growing nearby. So now I try to enjoy the flowers while I cut the leaves off at the ground.

bluebells growing with pink bleeding hearts
The Spanish bluebells are very aggressive, spreading by seeds and by underground root suckers.