I noticed on my first day in Portugal many years ago how even the weeds looked pretty along the side of the road - I loved the different trees, the different plants, but mostly was struck by the colourful weeds.

Now I have a garden of my own, and the idea is ridiculous. Weeds are a menace. Weeds are invasive. Weeds should be removed. But we are in a drought situation – our garden plants are suffering and wilting, the grass is turning brown, and blooms are falling. But guess what – the weeds are hanging in there and still look good. So, what’s wrong with encouraging a few to take hold a bit more?

They say that weeds are just flowers in the wrong place, so maybe they could be given a place somewhere? Add a bit of colour to a dull landscape maybe, and they will be good for the pollinators too.

One I see a lot is Morning Glory or field bindweed. Pretty flowers, or invasive weeds? It is an aggressive, invasive perennial plant. It will grow along the ground until it finds structures to climb up on. But if you need a fence covered, or to hide an ugly wall – why not train some of these purple or white blooms over it? Yes, they are aggressive, yes, they could be difficult to eradicate. But they will reduce summertime cooling costs when they're trailed up a sunny wall, diverting a ton of heat without doing the structural damage that self-clinging vines like ivy can cause. You just need to keep them under control.

Rockroses are another. Depending on the variety, plants may grow in a spreading, ground cover habit, or in large mounds reaching several feet high. Native to the Mediterranean region, rockrose are able to withstand severe heat, strong winds, drought, and salt spray - making them an effortless addition to most gardens.

Overlooked by many gardeners, Plectranthus neochilus is a fairly hardy, evergreen, small shrub with attractive, grey-green, succulent leaves that smell pungent when bruised, with deep blue/purple flowers. It has seen a recent surge in popularity as a tough groundcover, and strictly speaking isn’t a weed, but a succulent. However, it thrives in arid, inhospitable places, on exposed rocky ground with hassle-free colour through spring and summer. Known as Lobster Flower or Smelly Spur Flower, this excites my gardening heart as an easy groundcover.

Oxalis pes-caprae, otherwise known as Bermuda Buttercup, a yellow flower with an almost clover-like leaf, will grow and spread, forming dense mats. It’s a bit hard to control once it takes root, and yes, invasive, and in my ignorance, I have tried ripping it up when it seemed to be taking over, but now I let it grow, and it is quite content to fill up bare gaps of soil.

Wildflower gardens are popular, and you often see packets of seeds to scatter where land would otherwise be barren, they self-seed and look after themselves, while you can just sit back and enjoy the view with a nice cool drink – maybe a glass of Nettle Wine, if you can harvest them without getting stung!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan