Time in the Garden with Siberian Miner’s Lettuce

True confession:  I am a lousy gardener.  Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE spending time in the garden!  Sitting.  Or strolling about, holding a glass of wine.  Lucky for me, Brian likes working in the yard, even though he does a lot of that for a living.  Lately, while strolling in the garden, I’ve been admiring our lush patches of Siberian Miner’s Lettuce.  They look like a field of stars! 

 Siberian Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) is a cute little edible wildflower, good in salads or as an accompaniment to a glass of Pinot gris.  It is a perennial, but each individual plant seems to live for just two or three years, seeding itself around liberally in light shade.   I notice that at home, where the soil is dense and clay-ey, they are very upright, each clump is very dense and their stems are dark green.  In the little garden by the nursery office, the soil is much sandier, and the plants are more spreading, their succulent leaves intertwining with those of their neighbors.  Their leaves are bright green.  If a plant is in an exposed area, it will be very stout and low-growing and dark, almost turning deep red.  The flowers are white to pink, with tiny stripes of pink on the petals.  It is native along the west coast from Alaska to northern California and throughout the Northwest.  And in Russia—hence the name.  It’s also known as Candyflower and Siberian Springbeauty.

 At the Spring Garden Fair last month, a neighboring vendor made fun of my Miner’s Lettuce – “I rip that stuff out,” he wise-cracked.  I refrained from being rude, but maybe I should have made fun of HIM – here he has a beautiful, easy-care, tasty, native groundcover and he is silly enough to think of it as a weed!  Why would you rip it out?  Why wouldn’t you at least give it a patch of shade where it can cavort freely?  You may want to redirect its energies a bit, pulling up volunteers that pop up next to perennials that haven’t gotten fully established yet, but wherever you can, I say let it go!  Wherever you have bare ground, SOMETHING will grow, so Siberian Miner’s Lettuce is a pretty alternative to some pesky, non-native weed. 

 A clump of Siberian Miner’s Lettuce will get larger, spreading out using short rhizomes, its main method of spreading is by seed.  Now is a good time to plant some in your garden (if you are not already blessed by its presence) so it can settle in before fall and go to seed, ensuring a good supply next year.  It’s an ideal plant for a lousy gardener. 

Spend some time in your garden!   😉

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