Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Hey! Who are you calling a WEED!"

I've been thinking a lot about weeds lately.

Over the winter, I bought my daughter a wildflower book. I have lovely memories of picking wildflowers with my mom. We went for long walks, picked lovely flowers and pressed them. I remember putting the flowers between sheets of paper and placing them into our huge unabridged dictionary and Encyclopedia Britannicas to flatten them. We decorated photo albums with the flowers. (As an archivist, I now know that decorating paper-based materials with living things hastens the demise of one's creations, but this isn't important to the story. I just thought I should mention it.) As a kid, I also loved searching for four leaf clovers. For the past two years, my daughter and I have sought a four-leaf clover for good luck. My album as a kid was full of them, but today I can't find a single one on my lawn, the lawns of my friends, or a public lawn. I'm sure my friends think I'm strange when I get down on hands and knees picking through clover, but one must remain forever childlike when playing in nature. I just don't care what others think about my exploits!

My wildflowers and clover are surely considered "weeds," but I love them just the same. A weed is a plant in the wrong place at the wrong time. But there are right times and places for them and we must consider their use wisely. Weeds should not be eradicated without thought. (By the way, why do we sometimes call weeds "wildflowers" and call wildflowers "weeds?")'s a plant that most Americans would surely agree is a weed, but I have a new found love for it. The dandelion is a bane to every American lawn. In my effort to go organic, I used corn gluten on the lawn to eradicate weeds early in the season. Dandelions remain on the edges of my property. What luck! A green lawn and happy peripheral weeds. My daughter and I collected the dandelions we found and made dandelion tea with a little Melissa Officianilis (a lemony herb) mixed in. It was yummy. My daughter asked for more the next day. (To make dandelion tea, use the leaves and steep in boiling water a top on - a tea pot works great - for ten minutes.) I have read that dandelion leaves are super nutritious and lovely in salads. I will have to try this after our dandelions replenish themselves.

I am currently reading "Secrets of the Soil," which talks about the importance of weeds for aerating soil. The right weeds can even help your more favored plants thrive with one plant feeding another's needs side-by-side. This is something I plan to look into a little more. I am also reading "The Organic Lawn Care Manual" by Paul Tukey. He devotes a whole chapter to weeds and discusses how the type of weed you have on your lawn can tell you what treatment your lawn needs. (The chickweed on my lawn indicates a lack of calcium.)

So the next time you see a weed, don't pull it right away. Give it a little consideration and recognize that the weed is just another part of nature from which we can garner information and a little beauty.
I purchased this 'Dark Dancer' clover at the garden center last week. It is surely a weed in someone's book, but it is a treasure to me. It is full of four leaf clovers!

I found this lovely little 'weed' on the corner of my street and brought it home. It looks very much like the Brunnera flowers I paid good money for last year and I think it is a forget-me-not, another flower for which I paid a nice penny.

This chickory 'weed' tells me that my lawn needs calcium. Thanks chickory!

This 'Jacob's Ladder plant was dug out of a friend's woods. The local nursery charges $14 for it.

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