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Willowherb - love or hate?

skankinpickleskankinpickle Posts: 119
edited May 2023 in Wildlife gardening
Hi. I was just wondering if anyone here actually keeps any willowherb growing in their garden.

I pulled up a few recently in the bottom (mowed) half of the garden, but was thinking of leaving the ones that are in the upper (wild) part of the garden.
If anyone has looked at my wildflower thread they will know that my attempts to create a wildflower part of the garden have been mostly futile.
Are willowherb flowers better than no (or hardly any flowers)? Only flowers that have come up so far are the bluebells and 3 foxglove seedlings - and of course the dandelions. 

I remember walking past someones garden/front yard area last September and noticed that there was loads of willowherb growing there. It did look very striking with it all together.

It seems a bit daft in some ways that I am pulling out one weed-wildflower yet can hardly seem to grow any others.  

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  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,421
    go with the wildflowers that will grow in your area, they will be the foodplants for the wildlife in your area. Too many people are growing 'wildflowers' that are just annuals for pollinators with no thought for the larval leaf eating stages that so may insects have. (especially Butterflies which everyone wants)


    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • B3B3 Posts: 27,326
    My garden has many wildflowers - even in London. I've never actually planted any. They just arrive and I look after the ones I like. I don't think willowherb ( rosebay at any rate) is suitable for a garden unless you're into monoculture!
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 11,300
    Right plant - right place.

    The fields where I walk with my dog has several huge patches of willowherb about 5ft tall. It's a beautiful sight in early summer when they're in flower.
    But then you get the vast number of floaty seeds that drift around in the slightest breeze and travel a long distance. I often return home with them dotted over me and my dog.

    So if I see them in my garden I'm afraid they have to go for the same reason as @b3 mentions

    Several nurseries actually sell them! and they're not cheap.

    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,537
    I have no choice but to live with it, resistance is futile!
    I have a big, sprawling, rural garden and one part of it is the 'boggy triangle' that is too boggy to walk on, so left just as nature intended. One of the things she intended is a healthy population of great willow herb with a side offering of rosebay. There will be no doubt be plenty of the small willow herb as well, it certainly is not lacking in the bit I do cultivate.
    The great WH looks beautiful when it flowers right across the boggy triangle and it is not particularly invasive, even though the flowers are followed by a sea of shimmering white seed heads.
    I allow the rosebay to grow at the side of my perennial meadow and some on the edge of the dam by the big pond. I remove the flower heads when they start to go to seed and dig up any plants that appear in other places. I always pull up the lesser WH, which is the most annoying, but even that one is popular with insects, so it makes more sense to relax and enjoy the flowers and  their value for wild life :)

  • SkandiSkandi Posts: 1,723
    We let it grow in some areas, we have a horrible stone edged flower bed in the front lawn, that is full of rosebay and foxgloves and looks lovely when they are all in flower. They also hide the grass that has totaly swamped the bed.
    In my previous house it grew all round the field in the wet swampy bits. again stunning to look at but probably only if you have space and are not a neat gardener.
  • Slow-wormSlow-worm Posts: 1,576
    I pull the few bits which appear in the garden, but only because my garden is too small to have invasive plants. I like it though, there's tons round here.
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 7,080
    I have no choice but to live with it, resistance is futile!


    Likewise. I do try to contain it, but generally fail
    Gardening on the edge of Exmoor, in Devon

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • There's more than one kind of willowherb as some posters have already mentioned. I have a big one that seems to bloom for longer and is more popular with the bees so I have a few clumps of that which are generally left alone. There is a smaller more weedy variety that to me seems to go way too quickly to just seed heads with the smaller blooms only lasting a very short time and I put this one on my priority weeding out list as if I leave it go it is likely to be already seeding when I see it again. Not much chance of eliminating it altogether with the volume of wind dispersed seed they produce but at least by removing the one I don't like I think I am reducing the overall work involved in keeping the numbers some way under control.
    Happy gardening!
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,689
    My garden's far too small to accommodate rosebay willowherb, but I do find it an attractive plant, especially the cultivars. Those little piddly annual ones are just annoying and as Rob said, are best kept on top of to avoid it seeding everywhere.
    "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour". 
  • LynLyn Posts: 23,190
    There’s loads of it along our lanes but as a fuchsia grower, I don’t have it in the garden.
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

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