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They come up like weeds but you might want to keep them.

They come up lile weeds but you might want to keep them

In the garden, most weeds are scruffy intruders. But some uninvited plants-- usually the result of seeds deposited by wind or birds--have spurts of bloom you might welcome in low-maintenance areas. Among the best volunteers common in the West, the three described here tolerate drought and root competition. If they become too numerous (often spreading by seed), they're relatively easy to thin or eliminate.

Jupiter's beard, also called red valerian (Centranthus ruber). Fluffy seeds, like the dandelion's, often carry this plant into unexpected and inhospitable places; parking strips, roadsides, and rocky banks seem to be its natural habitat. Found in these sordid situations, it's sometimes thought of as a tramp, but treated like a lady, it's a valuable garden plant for sun or light shade.

Clumps to 3 feet tall sport abundant smooth, plumpish gray-green leaves about 4 inches long. Small clouds of pink, coppery red, or white flowers top stems in late spring and summer. Cutting these as they fade prolongs the bloom period and reduces seed formation.

Gladwin iris (Iris foetidissima). Known also as roast beef plant because bruised leaves allegedly smell somewhat like the meat, this evergreen iris grows where nothing else will. It tolerates deep shade and intense root competition from trees, though it sprouts in sun, too. Shiny, sword-shaped leaves make 2-foot clumps. Flowers, in muted colors, have complex, attractive forms and markings. Pods of bright red seeds follow and last into winter; use these in dry arrangements.

Sisyrinchium striatum. With its iris-like gray-green leaves and wands of creamy flowers, this plant bears little resemblance to its common Western cousin blue-eyed grass (S. bellum). Pale foliage fans and tall wands stand out against a dark back-ground. Flowers appear late spring through early summer. After they finish, fans turn black and should be removed. Plants seed freely (note seedlings in photograph above) but have shallow roots and pull or hoe out easily if not needed.

You seldom find these three plants in nurseries. If breezes or birds don't bring them, you can get their seeds from Thompson & Morgan, Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527; catalog is free. Order now for autumn planting.

Photo: Wands of small creamy flowers grow 2 1/2 feet tall, poking through pale foliage fans of Sisyrinchium striatum

Photo: Gladwin iris volunteers thrive in deep shade. Spring flowers of buff, chartreuse, gray, or lavender give way to bright red seeds

Photo: Tough, attractive Jupiter's beard has gray-green leaves and--in late spring and summer--pink, red, or white flowers
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1986
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