Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's Evolution, No?

Aren't weeds basically plants we do not want? Or, put differently, aren't plants the weeds our ancestors so long ago decided they wanted--for aesthetic, medicinal, or other purposes--and so began to cultivate?

Of course, some weeds are rather beautiful. Why, after all, would we own books such as  Wildflowers of Delaware and the Eastern Shore? (Unless those books are merely devious tools to help us identify the subjects of our murderous rampages.) Regardless, I had not the foresight to photograph the ones I banished from my father's gardens this past weekend, and so I resort to borrowing two images from the internet.

Those tall weeds (Daisy Fleabane) with their formidable, extensive root system sported lovely diminutive daisy-like white flowers with cheery yellow centers. And they proliferated. And proliferated. And proliferated. Their subterranean orgy resulted in a demonstrable display of their fortitude, a shroud of white across the multilevel beds. They crowded out the Tiger Lilies, and nearly killed the Large Flowering Bellwort. Of the four Burning Bushes my father and I planted last summer, only one was visible through the thicket. And to serve as a vast underplanting carpet, Creeping Charlie invaded the chrysanthemums and the lilies, the Spirea and the sedums, the climbing rose and the astilbes. The weeds were so dense that even the English ivy, itself a noxious invader, was stymied.

Ah, yes, evolution. It both "saves" the pretty plants and obscures our better judgments.

As I wandered the gardens in my bedclothes with morning coffee in hand, I heard those weeds speak to me, nay mock: "Ha! All I needed to do was produce these silly little flowers and voila! I survived--and not only have I survived, but I conquered!"

And so I donned gloves and began pulling and yanking, careful to grasp the base of each clump and pull upright to get as much of the root system as possible. The many days of rain made this more intensive form of weeding rather easy and, consequently, addictive. I couldn't stop. (Well, that is until 2.5 hours had passed and I only cleared half a bed--there were many weeds to be sure!) After clearing that portion, my father commented: "Oh, that looks great! I would have done it myself but I hated to kill the pretty weeds."

I suppose I trace my garden snobbery back to such (dirty?) thoughts. These weeds clearly resembled daisies (or vice versa), and so why would I waste valuable real estate on such ordinary, weed-like plants?  I can say the same thing about so many plants, but surely the visitor to my gardens would comment on my hypocrisy (for instance, I have Feverfew--it mysteriously sprouted two years after we bought the house) and my own brand of ordinariness (more hostas?! Gees. So pedestrian.). I supposed just as 'one man's trash is another one's treasure,' one gardener's plants are another one's weeds. This is the stuff of evolution.

My brother and 9 year old nephew were visiting from Florida, and soon my nephew, C, joined me in my weeding frenzy. Just as my Aunt Annie introduced me to gardening when I was 6, so it was my opportunity not to pass the baton, but to introduce and perhaps indoctrinate(!). C was a great helper, and listened well. I implored him to extricate the roots; if he did not, the weeds would merely return with a vengeance. If at first he merely broke the stems, he soon found the joy in yanking the plant out, roots and all.

I think he enjoyed weeding--or perhaps he just enjoys my company--because he offered to come to my house and help me weed. "But I do not have weeds," I responded. "I don't," I repeated with authority, and with a smirk. C liked my smirk, and we both stood up and surveyed his Grandpa's gardens, looked at each other, and grinned ear to ear.

Ah, evolution: the omnipresent struggle between transferring knowledge (and passion) and devising ways to stay alive, seduce, and become coveted. And all animated with a healthy dose of snobbery!


  1. You were in town and didn't tell me?

  2. I am so sorry! Really! It was a very quick trip--Saturday afternoon until very early Monday morning. Todd and Christopher were visiting from Florida, and we had a family dinner on Sunday. I'll be up for a longer spell in August; I do hope to see you then.