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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Weeds are Welcome!

by Kathleen Blease


wild blue flox
photo source: http://darylrice.com/pawilist.html
I think weeds could be the most precious of Pennsylvania plants. They are sweet and unassuming, they crop up anywhere they please, and they are quite hardy. They come in an array of lovely colors--from soft pastel to vibrant neon. I have to admire that. Sometimes I'm content to see the lawn go unmowed...a better chance to enjoy a few more days of the tiny buttercups and minuscule blue flowers that blanket the...

Wait a minute! Did I just say that?  Could it be I am becoming soft and losing my gladiator gardener spirit? Is this the same woman who flexed every muscle and stretched every tendon to pull arm-fulls upon arm-fulls of  weeds from eighteen tomato plants and ripped away hundreds of "little daisies" that were choking the babies off the butternut squash plants? This couldn't be the same mom who had to give in with exhaustion and retreat to the cool shade of the porch for a refreshing drink, only to turn to her charges staked on top of the hill and call out, in the words of the Governator, "I'll be back!"

Each and every time I approach the garden, it is not with a zeal but with a darn-you determination to take out those buggers once and for all. My husband admires the piles of  hanks I yank out of the ground, but then in time he cautions me, "Honey, you're going to hurt yourself. It's time to stop." Stop? I have miles to go before I sleep! And the womanly machine of cleanliness among the dirt churns on. As you can see, I approach my veggie garden with what my grandmother called a tiger-like zest.

Ah, yes. But, dear readers, that's the vegetable garden, the plot that feeds the kids, my precious little ones--or should I say my voracious teens who probably would support the boxed cereal and dairy industries if left to their own devise.


A short view of the lay of the land. The lawn sweeps up along
the right and heads to the garden and the grape arbor.
To the left are the mill and pond.
And behind us are the pool, orchard, and woods.
  Let's talk about the other terrain, the one I am not able to weed and water due to pure exhaustion, and there's lots of it.

When we first moved here, I had every intention and hope of clearing out the nooks and corners so I could experiment and ponder over new cultivars, the kind that catalogs promise will bloom from the wet spring through the chilly fall. I dreamed of a showy and intoxicating display, whatever the cost--even human. And those catalogs showing up in our mailbox every January didn't help quash my unrealistic dreams.

If you can imagine a land that's squeezed in between veggie garden and woods, tucked into hills with an uneven lawn that reaches into an old orchard that makes us happy when it produces a mere basket or two of fruit, then you can surely imagine our place. And after a few years as director of land maintenance, I am coming to my senses, albeit a little bit at a time. These sorts of things take a while for me.

Just today, as I was walking across the lawn and thinking it was getting shaggy again, I had an epiphany that has probably been baking for a while. Here it is: There are plenty of nooks (even sweeping scapes) I am happy to give over to nature, and she always fills them in happily. No seeding on my part is required, and the flower show each year is worth the long, if neglectful wait. Thank goodness I have finally obtained this basic knowledge before the labor took too much out of me. What a relief.
Pink clover takes over the vinca just as the cultivar
finishes blooming.

The pink-flowered clover, wild blue flox, Queen Anne's lace, common milkweed, wild rose, honeysuckle, and the wild raspberries surely make a palette and nosey perfume with which my gardening experience could never compete. And why would I try? Why wrestle out the clover to put in lilies? Why hack away the honey suckle to put in some cultivated climbing beauty that can't handle the rugged terrain the muskrat digs into and the chipmunks and moles tunnel without shame? Along the edge of the garden the wild raspberries and thistle has taken over, and what a joy to sneak among them to pick the juicy berries. (Granted, I have to wear long rubber boots, but trudging in the brambles actually cleans the garden mud from their deep treads. That's one less chore for me.) By the garage, vinca vine and English ivy have been overrun by pink clover. And why not? The vinca finishes blooming just in time for the clover to reveal its summertime show, something that would require the use of a journal and a few years of observations and notes if I were to get it right on my own.

pink clover
I'll admit that the flowers we find in the catalogs and nurseries are intriguing and down-right lovely. But in the end my practical side, my human and frail side, has to accept the reality that I can do only so much, then I have to let Creation creep in and take over. And ain't it lovely! 


Below are a few more pictures of the lovely weeds that have made their place here.

God bless!




iron weed
photo source: http://darylrice.com/pawilist.html

milkweed
photo source: http://darylrice.com/pawilist.html


Okay, this isn't a weed. This is a small portion of the
clematis that has taken over an arbor near the back
entrance.
Times this by two; it also has take over the
other side. Every fall, I cut this down to the  ground
and am met with a big show every summer. It is at least
fifty years old.
Purple coneflowers have naturalized.
The old concord grape arbor stretches out next to lilies. Wildflowers and naturalized cultivars flank it.



 

1 comment:

  1. I love your weeds, I have 5 acres and there is no way I can keep up with half of it. I have been working at introducing "native weeds", that is native species of plants that will naturalize. I am happy to say that the native wild flowers are starting to naturalize. "Weeds" make me happy, after all a weed is just a useful plant.

    ReplyDelete

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