Build me up buttercup

by James Alexander-Sinclair

For me, buttercups will always be a reminder of early summer, of lush young grass and slightly debauched picnics.

Field buttercupsOn Saturday I returned home after five days at the Chelsea Flower Show. As often happens when I return after being away at this time of year, everything has tripled in size, including the weeds. The winner is a rodgersia, which is now obstructing the footpath.

We have a bit of wilder ground by the orchard, which tends to grow unmolested. As a result it's completely swamped by buttercups at this time of year. Buttercups may seem to be a terribly annoying weed, but they belong to a huge and distinguished plant family (Ranunculaceae), which contains such diverse plants as aconitum, hellebores, clematis and thalictrum.

Anyway, we are mildly overrun by creeping and field buttercups. Creeping buttercups lodge in my lawn and many happy hours are often spent pulling them up with a strong spike. They have roots that hang on like anything and spread fast by sending out runners - in the same manner as strawberries. They thrive in the slightly compacted clay soil upon which my lawn grows.

But in the orchard they are no longer a pest but something extremely beautiful - a classic example of a weed simply being a plant in the wrong place. There is a thick blanket of the creeping variety, through which the occasional cranesbill forces its head later in the season. Not much else survives there so it's best to just live with things as they are.

But it's the field buttercup that really takes my breath away. Where its creeping cousin is lumpen and solid, this is tall and gorgeous. It grows here amongst long grass, vetch and clover, and is as elegant as Marlene Dietrich (but without the German seriousness).

For me, buttercups will always be a reminder of early summer, of lush young grass and slightly debauched picnics. However, if they migrate to borders all romance is lost and they become a complete pain.

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Gardeners' World Web User 27/05/2009 at 08:19

At this time of year strolling through the wilder parts of Bristol Downs is a delight because of the buttercups- large and small.

Gardeners' World Web User 27/05/2009 at 19:32

We have open fields belonging to local farm full of every weed, buttercup and you name it...looks lovely but they all find homes in my garden ! Im not against them but they are hard work along with the nettle, thistles, reeds, docks, dandelions...but i enjoy the fight .

Gardeners' World Web User 26/06/2009 at 14:16

hiya sorry its not about this topic but i have a rose plant which i think is kind of strange ithas blossomed but instead of stamen in the middle its got another 3 buds pertruding is this new

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:38

We stopped in a lay by on the way back from the Hay festival (after seeing Dan Pearson)on Sunday where there were grasses, field buttercups and ragged robin in abundance. Its exquisite perfection was most striking.