Though I missed the boat with Bishop’s Weed and Dayflower, having successfully pulled all these out of my yard years ago, I still have some excellent opportunities with Phytolacca americana, which comes up in various places throughout the property. I had been pulling it out, but this year, a seven-feet-and-rising specimen is dominating the front yard. It gets kind of boring out there, now that the maples have leafed out—just a lot of shade perennials, colocasia in pots, and so on—so I thought it might be fun to shake things up with a monstrous weed.
Pokeweed can use a little manicuring to look its best. If you strip away the larger leaves on the lower stem, it can assume a tree form, and then when the berries emerge and the stems turn red, you have a very handsome plant. (A picture I took in 2008 of the plants trimmed in this manner is now used on a bunch of other gardening blogs. I guess they can’t find their own pokeweed to photograph.)
Plants that just come up and flourish with little to no attention from me are always interesting, especially during a season when so much attention has been needed. In Western New York, as in many other regions, this has been a parched summer. I can’t imagine what it must be like to try to keep a garden going where it’s even hotter.
For those who enjoy a native plant that really looks wild, poke fits that bill more than any plant I know. And I justify myself with the recollection that Heronswood (the original) actually used to sell this.