Jul 20 2008

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Wildflower or Weed?

Posted at 3:17 pm 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

2 Responses to “Wildflower or Weed?”

  1. Jerry Siegrest-Joneson 23 Jul 2008 at 2:18 pm 1

    Thank God that you live in a place where the neighbors aren’t in your face about keeping every corner of your yard sanitized with the same species of McLawn. Keep
    wilding on!

  2. Deedee Burnsideon 23 Jul 2008 at 9:25 pm 2

    Keep it wild! and you must educate your neighbors! I did, and I live on a street in suburbia where everyone has a perfect lawn. My yard is almost totally wild and it is beautiful! I am a little selective and do not encourage some things. I have a virtual butterfly habitat and it feeds the birds all winter. I like your blog site and, by the way, McLaughlin, you are the “Real Deal!”
    Deedee Burnside