OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer
Margaret Roach, one of my favorite garden bloggers, describes this month by saying, “July always starts out as “Throw in the Trowel month” for me, as in: “I give up!” I want to throw in the trowel; mow the whole place down or turn it under (think: bulldozer)”.
As I gaze out the windows in the sunroom, I see at least 3 kinds of grasses growing up among the daylilies, swamp milkweed, and a few other brave perennials in the flower bed in front of my raised vegetable garden beds. It was actually “weed free” a month ago, but thanks to the spectacular rains and heat, the grasses are winning the battle! I just must remind myself that it will be ok, that the weeds can be pulled, and the mulch can be spread. Remember, we garden because we love it. I will repeat that over and over in the next few weeks.
The vegetable garden took another hit this week. The cabbages have the centers eaten out of them, and the leaves on the cucumber vines are being trimmed. I have been researching different ways to prevent future damage, but I think the first thing I will do is put out the wildlife camera and correctly identify the culprits!
One of my favorite plants in the landscape is considered a weed by some people. Common Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus) is in the Snapdragon (Scrophulariacceae) family and is a biennial. It forms a velvety-leaved basal rosette the first year and an erect flowering stem the year following.
Stan Tekiela lists Mullein’s characteristics in his Wildflowers of Ohio Field Guide as:
Height: 2 to 6 feet
Flower: Club-like spike, 1 to 2 feet long, of many small yellow flowers, ¾ – 1” wide, packed along the stalk; each flower has 5 petals that open only a few at a time, from the top down
Leaf: Large basal leaves, 12 to 15” long, with thick covering of stiff hairs, velvety to touch; upper leaves are stalkless and clasp main stem at alternate intervals; leaves progressively smaller towards top of stalk
Bloom: Summer, fall
Cycle/Origin: Biennial, non-native
Habitat: Dry, sun, fields, along roads and disturbed areas
Range: Naturalized throughout the state
Tekiela shares that Common Mullein is a European import known for its very soft, flannel-like leaves, hence its other common name, the Flannel Plant. Its dried stems stand well into winter. It is said the Romans dipped its dried flower stalks in animal tallow to use as torches. Victorian women rubbed the leaves on their cheeks, slightly irritating their skin, to add a dash of blush. Early settlers and American Indians placed the soft woolly leaves in footwear for warmth and comfort.
Start looking around to see if you have this interesting plant in your landscape! Common Mullein is a great plant and can look nice with many of our native plants like Compass plant, Cup Plant, and Joe-Pye Weed.
Remember, “The only difference between a flower and a weed is judgement!”