Tag Archive 'gardening'

Aug 30 2018

Profile Image of Walt

Wild, Not Wild

Filed under Blog Post

A flock of turkeys wandered into my back yard yesterday morning. About a dozen of them fed along the edge between the mowed grass and where I have let my yard go wild. My wife Judy also saw the birds, as did our dog Matika who barked at them once. They weren’t much impressed by that.

Later on, as Matika was in the other room sleeping, I spotted a turkey trotting right along the edge of the patio, about 15 feet from the door. Several others followed. Clearly these turkeys have no concept of the difference between a wild landscape and a domesticated one. Either that or they simply don’t care.

A barred owl swooped across the yard the other day, landing on top of my car. When Judy and I poked our heads out the door to get a good look at it, the owl flew to the next door neighbor’s roof. We have heard owls nearly every night since then. I usually associate owls with the wild, but two miles from town my home hardly qualifies as a wild place even though it does back up against a good patch of woods. Evidently, owls aren’t as skittish around people as I thought they were. Either that or they find the hunting around here too good to pass up.

Deer passing through, spiders making webs in the siding of my house, hummingbirds at the planters, toads in the grass, and the occasional garter snake slithering into the garage – my turf is overrun with creatures that simply do not acknowledge the boundary between what is cultivated and what is wild. The other night I saw a bat flying in circles overhead, no doubt feasting on mosquitoes. Better than citronella candles to be sure.

Along the edge between the grass and the wild part of my back yard, I have planted a few domestic bushes and flowers that also happen to grow naturally in the wild. I have pulled out grass, dandelions and other undesirables there, as well, making room for the ferns and other wild plants that I prefer. “Unnatural selection,” I call it. Judy calls it “cultivating the wildness,” in a somewhat humorous reference to a book of mine. Yeah, I’ve muddled matters in my back yard to say the least.

For a while now, I’ve been pondering wildness and being human, trying to get a bead on exactly what it is that separates us from the rest of nature. It’s not an easy task. And the creatures wandering into my back yard don’t make the matter any easier. Perhaps the difference between what is wild and what is not wild is not nearly as distinct as we like to think it is. Perhaps it is just a matter of degree.

 

 

Comments Off on Wild, Not Wild

Jun 18 2012

Profile Image of Walt

The End of an Illusion

Filed under Blog Post

Yesterday I finished turning over the soil in my so-called wildflower garden, removing all the plants from it, thus ending a four-year experiment. The time had come to admit my mistake.

I had visions of a small patch of wild forest in the corner of my otherwise tame property. A jumble of ground ivy, crabgrass, bindweed and dandelion emerged instead, choking out the daisies and other “wildflowers” that I had seeded there. Things don’t always work out as planned.

For four years I had successfully resisted the urge to pull weeds from that backyard plot – something I do religiously in the much more aesthetically pleasing garden in front of my house. In other words, I let nature take its course back there. Unfortunately, nature can be cruel.

Truth is, nature is neither kind nor cruel. It only seems that way when the wild world passes through the prism of our all-too-human values. That’s precisely where I went wrong. I thought I could drop the word “weed” from my vocabulary and the beauty of deep woods would magically appear in the corner of my city lot.

Soon my wife and I will put some shade-tolerant plants back there: bleeding hearts, columbine, and whatever woodland flowers we can find at the local nursery. Then I will cultivate the plot using methods as old as civilization itself, making it domestically beautiful. And that will have to do. After all, there’s no such thing as a wild garden.

 

 

Comments Off on The End of an Illusion

Jun 29 2011

Profile Image of Walt

Newcomer

Filed under Blog Post

I looked in the dark, weedy corner of my back yard the other day and noticed that a newcomer had appeared.  The small, purple flower wasn’t anything I’d seen before, I couldn’t find it in my flower identification books, and I had no idea where it had come from.  And, quite frankly, I didn’t care.  Beautiful in all its delicate simplicity, its migration to my rough flowerbed had been a true act of wildness – what my so-called wildflower garden is all about.

As a three-year experiment, my wildflower garden has been something of a disappointment.  I expected an explosion of lush, floral wildness, but got a patchy, hardscrabble, weed-ridden plot instead.  By comparison, the domestic flowerbed in my front yard is a riot of color and beauty – carefully attended to by you-know-who.

I hacked the belligerent bindweed from the backyard garden, removed the timothy, maple saplings and unsightly dandelions, and cast bags of wildflower seeds into the plot, but to no avail.  At long last, I have agreed with my wife that it’s time to till it all over, and carefully cultivate the garden from scratch.  But I will miss the occasional newcomer.

Earlier this year, a patch of forget-me-nots broke into bloom amid the weeds.  Again, a newcomer from god-knows-where.  It has happened before, and I’m sure it would happen again if I left well enough alone.  But the hand of the cultivator is rarely idle, is it?

There is a lesson in all this, I’m sure, but I think I’ll just leave it hanging and let you, dear reader, draw your own conclusions.  After all, any legitimate philosophy of the wild is rooted in precisely that which is left unspoken.

 

One response so far

Jul 20 2008

Profile Image of Walt

Wildflower or Weed?

Filed under Blog Post

I just spent an entire morning weeding the front yard gardens. I did this instead of going for a hike because, well, things were getting out of control. It’s a scene familiar to all gardeners: lambs quarter, dandelion, crabgrass and a host of other herbal bullies had taken over while I’d been busy doing other things. So I cleaned them out, making my little plots safe for domestic favorites. Now everything is nice and tidy again. And my neighbors are happy.

The other day my wife, Judy, asked me when I was going to do something about the backyard flower garden. I told her that that one is full of wildflowers. She retorted that it’s mostly weeds. We’ve been having this conversation for a year now, ever since I bought a bag of so-called wildflower seeds and threw them down back there. Oh, she likes the daisies and black-eyed Susans that came up, but the intruders are another matter. We’ve got some ground ivy back there, along with a bunch of yellow wood sorrel. Harebell arrived not long ago and bindweed has crept in. God only knows what’ll show up next, Judy says. That’s the whole point, I tell her. I’m intentionally letting nature take it’s course. The wild is alive and well in that corner of our yard, I proclaim. But Judy is not impressed.

I know what someone with a green thumb would do. They’d plant some ferns and bracken back there, along with domestic varieties of shade-loving flowers commonly found in the forest. Then that garden would be a simulated woodland paradise, complete with the aura of wildness. But it wouldn’t be wild. A weed-puller would have to keep the riffraff at bay, otherwise they’d overrun the joint. Leave it un-weeded and the garden would degenerate back to what it is now.

What’s the difference between a wildflower and a weed? When I wander about the forest, every flowering plant I see is a wildflower. In that setting they’re all good. But the moment one of those lovelies imposes itself in my lawn or in one of my laboriously cultivated plots, I have to deal with it. Does it stay or does it go? This is largely a matter of aesthetics. Usually they go, and order is preserved.

I have a neighbor who mows down everything in his path. His yard is a carefully manicured lawn with a few well-placed shrubs. No doubt he’s the kind of guy who thinks a golf course is the ultimate expression of natural beauty. I’m sure I’ll never run into him on a forest trail. After all, the forest is completely out of control. Why would he ever go there?

In due time my wife will get her way. The urge to control that backyard plot will eventually overwhelm any inclination I now have to let things be. Then I’ll pull out some of that pernicious sorrel and plant something pretty like bleeding hearts or columbine. Maybe even a fern or two. But when that day comes, I won’t call that plot a wildflower garden any more. I’ll call it something else. It’ll be domesticated by virtue of me taking a hand to it. That is, after all, what cultivation is all about.

2 responses so far