My favourite story about goldenrod (Solidago), the ubiquitous, aptly named native plant, surrounds the tone of surprised delight from one of our visiting, hort-mad Welsh aunts: Solid-aah-go, she trilled, grows wiiiild here!
Well, yes. It does. It does grow wild, in every sense. In fact, if there’s a stranger in your Toronto garden with serrated, lance-shaped leaves, chances are quite good it’s goldenrod.
We gathered from our aunt’s comment that in the U.K. it’s not as, um, generous there, making it a valued garden plant. But in Canada we often treat it as a weed.
Now, I like goldenrod. And butterflies and bees love goldenrod. And goldenrod isn’t the culprit if you’re sneezing right now (that’s likely the fault of ragweed, the lyrically named Ambrosia sp., which blooms at the same time). I agree with my aunt. If you have the space, there’s a place in the garden for Solid-aah-go.
Goldenrod isn’t the indistinguishable frizz of gold we take it for. It comes in spikes, sprays, tufts, pyramids; shorter, taller. According to the website of U of Waterloo biology professor John Semple, there 29 species of goldenrod in Ontario; some are even endangered.
The newer cultivars have names like ‘Fireworks’ or ‘Golden Fleece’ that suggest the effects this late-summer bloomer can have in your garden.
A caveat, though. Sarah purchased one of the better-behaved dwarf cultivars a few years ago. Yet, it’s difficult to tell it apart from the wild guys who seed themselves around so liberally. We often stand peering at hers in the spring wondering: is this one short because it’s supposed to be short, or is it short because of the dry shade? If you plant it, mark it well. Then stand back and enjoy the fireworks.