I've never seen such early mowing, but the grass is getting tall and difficult to ignore.
When I got home from work yesterday, I was relieved to see that the husband had mowed only the back yard and not the front. I was happy for the delay because I know what happens when the front yard is mowed. The weeds that are not-so-slowly overtaking the front garden only look taller.
About a week ago, the scourge that is deadnettle began to appear. This little weed is the bane of my front garden. It pops up so quickly in spring that I barely have time to get out my garden tools before it's everywhere. It grows among the azaleas, wiggles between the creeping juniper stems and practically covers the daffodils, blooming now at least a month early. I can't remember when the daffodils and the hyacinths bloomed at the same time, if ever.
But those weeds!
Purple and red deadnettle (Lamium pupureum), is an annual that spreads by seeds. By the time I usually get to them the flowers have bloomed and the plant has already begun to set seeds. So because I can't get to them in time, they keep coming back bigger and stronger each year. Sure, I'm a busy person, but it's not just my fault.
Purple deadnettle can bloom at any time during the growing season, from April (or this year, March, it seems) to September, a persistent deadnettle plant can grow and make seeds anywhere in the yard, garden or adjacent field.
A member of the mint family, this plant has square stems just like all the other mints. The leaves start out slightly scalloped near the bottom of the stems but by the time they get to the top, the leaves are near perfect triangles.
Similar to purple and red deadnettle is henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), so much so that the plants are often confused. I tend to call them both henbit, and a lot of people do, but there is a difference if you pay attention to how these plants grow.
L. pupureum leaves are pointed on the ends and are somewhat tighter as they grow up the stem. The space between the stem and the leaf is called a petiole. On L. pupureum, the petioles are longer on the bottom of the stem and shorter at the top, giving the entire plant a pyramidal shape. As the leaves form at the tops of the stems, they seem to take on a purple or red tint. Because of the tight configuration of the leaves, the purple flowers seem to peek out from beneath them near the tops of the stems. And although the leaves on this plant are hairy, its common name, ''dead'' nettle, indicates it is not the stinging variety.
L. amplexicaule leaves are rounder and more scalloped than its cousin and the entire plant is spindly with wide spaces called internodes between each group of leaves that grow directly opposite each other on the stems. There is basically no petiole between the leaves and the plant's stem, which is indicated in its botanical name. Translated, amplexicaule means to ''clasp the stem.'' This plant has weak stems although it is able to stand upright without any problems. Lower stems sprouting from the bottom will lay horizontally on the ground.
The light pink flowers grow between the plant's leaf and stem in a space call the axil. This type of flower growth is called axillary inflorescence. The flowers are produced near the top of the stems and seem to stand upright.
While I hate to see these plants in my gardens, I love seeing them in the fields and along roadsides. They are the earliest of purple bloomers in spring and the leaves and flowers are quite edible. The leaves and flowers can be steeped to make a tea and they also can be added to salads. Don't eat them if you use chemicals in your yard or garden.
Henbit, by the way, got its common name because chickens seem to love pecking at the plant. Chickens aren't the only critters that love this plant, bees and butterflies love both henbit and deadnettle. They are mints, after all.
It shouldn't be a surprise that most plants we consider weeds in our gardens were at one time used as culinary and medicinal herbs. Now that we can buy our herbs in jars and get our medicine from the drug store, we don't really need to forage in the fields, but it's still fun to know what's growing in our fields and yards.