Weeds

There’s a belief going around that talking to one’s plants will cause them to flourish. Well, there might be some validity here. A person who talks to her or his plants obviously cares much about them and no doubt offers them better attention than those of us who remain silent while gazing at the marigolds. One might argue that a parent who gives a child special attention can expect a successful adulthood for that person. At any rate, someone is obviously talking to the weeds in my garden. Of course, the plentiful rain we’ve had in late winter and early spring may have helped, but rife is too mild a word to describe the unwanted volunteers. And I wish that whoever, if anybody, is talking to my weeds would stop.

Now, some weeds are welcome. Consider the wild poppies that this year for the first time have tried to blanket all empty spaces in my garden. As I have been growing annuals lately, there is room for them now when the annuals are still very small. And the poppies are small plants, not tall like the familiar garden poppy. Their pink flowers therefore remind me of a favorite poem, “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae, an officer in the Canadian army, who in WW I served as both physician and fighting soldier. (I’ve included a copy at the end of this blog.) Artificial poppies, of course, have been handed out on Memorial Day for many years as a remembrance of our soldiers killed in war, and the origin of the custom is the small, wild poppy that grew over battle fields in WW I.

But I digress. There are some weeds that are edible, although not necessarily welcome in my garden: Purslane (which, however, I consider a handsome plant), plantain, chickweed, dandelions, ground ivy, onion grass and periwinkle, to list only a few. And there are not only a great many more but also countless books, guides for identifying, harvesting and serving weeds Perhaps you are a disciple of Euell Gibbons (or Ewell--the spelling of his name varies) and are familiar with his books, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop and Stalking the Healthful Herbs. I find Johnny jump ups, a miniature pansy, attractive, but that’s the only edible so-called weed that I’ve eaten. (It makes an attractive garnish on a salad.)

My principle concern with weeds is not dietary. Rather, along with most everybody else I’m eager to get rid of them. Dandelions and sparrow vetch (a ground-hugging vine with feather-like compound leaves) are among the most difficult to eliminate permanently, and if not too close to prized plants, these will get dosed with weed killer. Wild garlic gets special treatment. Difficult to uproot, in my garden they get a rubdown with a gloved hand wet with weed killer. Did you know that the white ball of fuzz produced by the dandelion is really a gathering of flowers? Each one produces a seed, then scatters throughout garden and lawn.

Mainly. though, I plant my knees on the ground to get the work done, a posture I painfully dislike. How about using a hoe? I’ve found that one’s age has much to do with the duration of her or his time using this ancient tool. Perhaps one should use the Japanese version recommended by Lisa Ziegler. It has a business end of a more practical shape.

There’s an easy solution to the problem, however. Pay someone to do the work. Was there ever an inexpensive hobby? With regard to expense, it’s certainly easy to compare gardening with, say, golf, or stamp or coin collecting.. And there are young folks around willing to do the job. So here’s to youth and money, surely the salvation of all evil causes.

In Flanders Field

By John McCrae

In Flanders Field the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with our foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch, be yours to hold it high,

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Field.

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