Sunday, June 24, 2007

Respect in the Garden

After waiting what seemed like an inordinately long period of time for our new back fence to be installed...the one that will give us more privacy from the house next door...I finally decided to weed the long fence line. I was intending to wait to do this job...the builder next door has promised to raise our fence two feet in height, and then placing the fence directly on our property line, giving us two feet of extra space from where the fence is situated now.

But con- struction has its own time line, whereas weeds don't wait for anyone. They were taking over the shrubs and plants, pulling at them and obliterating some of them. The extra two feet would have made this job far easier; however, I could no longer wait for empty promises...the weed situation was becoming drastic.

Buttercups and Bindweed, Fire Weed and Horsetail, Blackberry Vines and wild Geraniums...all of them were having a heyday along the fence line. They were tangled amongst the climbing Roses, the Lilacs, the Sweet Gum tree and the Lavender...insidious baby seedlings, looking innocuous and gentle...and very, very lush. And some were robust adults, beautiful and in their prime.

I don't like weeding. Not because of the work involved, but because these weeds look so healthy and fine. In many instances, they look better than the cultivated plants and shrubs, with nary any insect or disease damage.

And most of them have healing properties, of one kind or another. I drink Horsetail tea, and young Blackberry leaves dry well, to be used with other herbs in a tea, for Winter's Flu Season.

Horsetail, aka Mare's Tail, Bottle Brush, Fairy really an amazing plant! This plant absorbs silica from the soil. The Romans used it to clean their cooking utensils...not just to cleanse them, but also to make them non-stick, thanks to the silica. As well, it's used to scour pewter, brass and copper, after its stems are dried. I drink a commercial brand, for its astringent qualities for the urinary system and mild diuretic qualities; it's also used in prostate woes.

This plant is left over from prehistoric times, surviving almost unchanged. Horsetail is a permanent resident in my garden; only vigilance, on my part, keeps it somewhat controlled. Its root systems have been found to extend 40 feet; the plant requires no watering, no pests mar its leaves, and it cares not that the weather is foul and not conducive to growing much.

It's been associated with various Goblins, Toads and Snakes, over the years. The Goblins and Toads are residing here; I have yet to see a Snake on my plot of land...a creature very sorely missed. More information about the plant is found here.

As working amongst the plants will do for me, I quickly lost track of the greater world around me, becoming absorbed in freeing Lady Lavender, Peony, Rhododendron Bushes and Rose Bushes from the intruders that threatened to choke their roots and their branches. Bindweed, aka Morning Glory, will sometimes hold up a Clematis vine; when I break the tie to its roots, more than once the whole plant has fallen over.

Morning Glory is tough; this long vine has been used, in a pinch, for string...although I would not recommend it...a tiny piece of that innocent looking, long string like root will grow and grow and grow, covering large areas, even finding niches in the siding of houses to travel through walls...

The white perfection of the Morning Glory blossom is makes me want to see more, and sometimes I will allow it to grow, to my everlasting regret. It will choke the life out of any plant, in very short order. But those a certain light, their breathtaking whiteness, like a spiritual trumpet calling angelic troops to order...Morning Glory can hold its own against any well-bred beauty.

Each time my hoe rips a piece of vine from under the soil, I know that there are many more feet of the root, hiding, waiting for me to be gone, when once again, it will circle and twine, wrapping and smothering its host, if I do not use vigilance and awareness.

But, as I clear the weeds, I remember those blossoms with longing, remembering the days when I lived on acreage, when a stack of wood or forgotten stump, covered with this green, green vine and white blossoms, took such a grip on my heart. Even against all dire warnings. there anything as cheerful as the yellow, shining face of the Buttercup blossom? But this spreading plant has a very strong root system, and travels by runners, much like a Strawberry plant. Each time the runner touches the soil...a new plant grows. And on it goes, until the soil is covered with those cheerful, yellow blossoms. But Buttercup is also insidious...her roots become tangled among the roots of the cultivated plants, finally choking the life out of it.

As my hoe dug deep, as I bent down to wiggle a root out of the earth, as I cleared...once more the cultivated plants shone...and I had a pile of green matter for the compost. Great stuff...but inside I still felt uneasy, I still felt a loss, as I glanced at that green pile, wilting now in the hot Sun.

All things are one. I have just eradicated a part of me.

But I am strange... as I weeded... I consciously left some rootlets behind...I made sure a new generation of "weeds" would visit again. Just in case. Just in case one day I may require the largely undiscovered benefits these plants have.

Respect for the plants, in my belief system, means I do not destroy every "weed" that grows near me. Understanding of the plant system, its growing habits, and its benefits tells me what I can live with so I can leave a few new beginnings...

Sense tells me I cannot let every plant in my small garden run rampant. I must show control, if I intend to have a garden.

And so, respect and sense find a uneasy, difficult one, to be sure.

But a balance, nonetheless.


  1. Wow, you must truly be the most compassionate person I've men on here, to show compassion for Weeds! lol Great post as always :)

  2. Probably the most poetic recount of a gardener's battle with weeds I've seen. I can identify with your efforts. The poke weed or poke salet is rampant in my new yard. This is the same hardy plant that my grandpa used to collect for my grandma to boil up a "mess" of. He was a man who believed in living off of the land and wasn't beyond eating all sorts of creatures.

    Thanks for the lovely photos, too.

  3. Matt...I love weeds, as much as I do the cultivated plants. So much folklore and magical properties are involved in the most common of "weeds"!

    Sheila...I saw a "mess" of Poke Weed at the grocery store the other was in the gourmet section, lol!

    I think our grandparents had a whole "mess" of incredible knowledge of plant life and the plant benefits...I wish I had half of some of that wisdom.

    I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's book...Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, where she chronicles living on seasonal, local foods, for a year. Amazing how much we take for granted.

  4. This is the first house I have not had Morning Glories growing at. I miss them! They do overtake, but in such a lovely way.

    Your photos are beautiful!

  5. It's always interesting to me how a plant that is a weed in one place has to be mothered and coaxed along, to grow in another. I remember, as a teenager, seeing maidenhair fern growing wild in the woods in Oregon, while here I had to keep it in a pot and mist it everyday. I suppose you'd have a difficult time keeping prickly pear or matilija poppies alive. (I'm in Southern California.)

    Have you ever read about Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott? He at one time wouldn't weed his yard, declaring the weeds had as much right there as any plant. I can't now recall where I read that.

    One gardener's weed is another gardener's treasure.

  6. marion,
    I can't have a garden living in this condo and I miss it terribly! I do have a smalll patch of moss roses on the side of my patio that I love tending to. It calms me to weed my little patch and from now on I will apologize to the weeds at the same time! Thank you for another view of things! hugsssssssssssss

  7. I'll add my compliments on this post! I don't know if the battle against weeds can ever be won; you're certainly giving it a go!!

    Amazing coincidence, we both have garden posts published today. :o) Must be a good vibe going around.

    I wanted to let you know we're having a Friends of Kilroy carnival. Days are running short to submit a post. If you do that will be great.

    The carnival is for those with whom I have link exchanges...and people you have links with. Gotta love two degrees of separation.

    I've started a new experiment as well. So, I'll be back for surfing and commenting. Will look forward to it.


  8. I always learn something when I come here, I did not know that about weeds, now your going to have me transporting them instead of discarding them! lol :)

  9. Thank you, Anne. I wish I had photos of the morning glory, but none had bloomed yet, when I cleared them out.I am sure some have escaped, and I will be able to find a blossom or two to photograph, later in the season.

    Barbara, I definitely identify with Bronson Alcott. I must do a search...I'd love to read about him.

    The two plants you mentioned are for sale at the local nursery, and coddled along in gardens, here! The prickly pear overwinters in my house, lol.

  10. Oh, Lorna...I bet those Moss Roses love you! Great new photo, by the way!

    I would have to keep a spiritual connection with plants within parks or public gardens, if I lived in a condo. Or perhaps a neighbourhood garden might spring never know!

  11. Kilroy, thanks for the reminder. I'll head over today and submit.

    Gardens lend me such inspiration; I'll wager it's the same for most...a call from the soul.! please don''ll end up smothered in plant life! Those weeds are tenacious; I guess that's why they survive so well...but yeah, a little respect when you "lay them to rest", lol, would probably be much appreciated!

  12. Great post as always Marion. Keeping up with weeds is like painting the forth bridge, a never ending task. It's interesting how some of these plants have special properties. We could learn a great deal from our ancestors.

  13. I felt transformed. Your shots made me feel as if I was in the midst of all that beauty. Thank you

  14. Maarion you have made me almost like Marestail. It was the bane of my life when I had an allotment. The only credit I could give it was that it had survived from pre history.

  15. Naomi, it took my partner to tell me about the Bridge. He is Scottish and told me about painting the they started at one end of the bridge and when they were finished they started to paint all over again. A never-ending paint job...and that is exactly what weeding is like!

    Dave, I'm glad you enjoyed those photos. I am very grateful and lucky to have this garden.

  16. Davem, Lol...I can imagine. With my eyesight not as good as it could be, I miss seeing those thin, asparagus like stalks until they furl out...and then I suddenly have a field of Horsetail.

    I have let it grow in a rockery, it makes a kind of ferny hedge, and so far it has behaved...coming up in the same spot every year, and staying put. It's very pretty there.

    But when I first moved here and saw Horsetail growing with great gusto everywhere, I knew I was in for an ongoing battle!

  17. A very lush place, your yard. How are the tomatoes doing? Mine are about 4" around, largest circumference.
    Oddly enough I plant morning glories and let them trellace up the shed wall. Seeds fall, regrow next year, instant perennial.
    Your island seems very prolific.

  18. Happy Canada Day :)

    Sorry about the delay but the time has been going so quickly due to many protests, petitions etc to be done (we now have our own disgusting Seal Hunt in our neighbouring country Namibia plus a few animal cruelty incidents I won't mention as they were so horrific and broke my heart and I don't need to break yours).

    Wonderful photos. Everything blooming so beautifuly. We had a little snow in our city last week for the first time in 26 years..not enough for snowballs but enough to make the trees look pretty...melted by mid morning but you can't have everything :)

  19. I grew up in the middle of the city and watched my grandmother and her friends battle weeds in their gardens - while going out into the rampant vacant lots to collect burdock and dandelion and poke weed and so many other "weeds". She had as much respect for her carefully cultivated roses and tomatoes as she did for the plants that grew on their own wherever they could set roots - as long as they stayed out of her garden. I fell in love with dandelions and borage, blue burdock and stock, and only grew to love them more the more I learned about their various properties. Thanks for this post! I've posted a link to it as an inspiration for poetry over at my blog.

  20. Both of my grandmothers had so much knowledge of plant (and weed) lore. My parents thought it was all foolish. I so wish now I had learned more that they had to teach me.

  21. Goatman, unless the weather suddenly decides to become sunny and warm, I may not have many tomatoes. So far, not one has set. How wonderful that yours are so far along!

    I plant morning glory seeds myself, especially the beautiful blue variety. But the morning glory or bindweed that I'm talking about is not the same.It is the wild variety. The flower is white; the vine and the roots are very, very strong and extremely prolific.

  22. Jackie, how wonderful that you should have snow! When I think of Africa, I don't think of snow...more like tropical weather! Shows you what I know, lol!

    Seal hunts in Nambia. Wow. I am glad that you are so involved in the protests and takes a very dedicated person to do all those on an ongoing basis. I know how hard you work!

    We had a great day on Canada Day. We now have visitors from the US staying with us, and today we will celebrate the fourth of July...Independence Day for Americans! Can never have too much celebrations, but it slows down my blogging!

  23. Deb, as soon as celebrations and visitors leave, I am going to peruse your site in depth. I really like the whole concept that you have going!

    I'm with you on Burdock and Borage...Borage has the most heart-stopping blue flower...I love it, and Burdock has amazing properties. I'm with your Grandmother...I love every plant, just as long as they don't tangle themselves amongst the roses and vegetables that have to have room to grow as well!

  24. Jan, it seemed there was/is a generation where all that old knowledge became just stories, not to be taken seriously because suddenly there were chemical additives and medications; they were deemed to be much better for us.

    I'm trying to show we had the knowledge from the plant lore all along, and I'm trying to remember and find as much old plant wisdom as I can. I don't believe that knowledge should just be lost!

    I think, like Sheila's grandpa, that we could eat off the land much more than we do. We had some amazing salads this Spring!

  25. A very interesting post! I never knew so much about those plants!
    The pics are great.

  26. I like your blog, did you take shaman elder maggie's course at shamanelder? Your name does sound familiar.... I took both 101 and 201 a few years back. I just moved to a new house and the morning glory fills half the forgotten garden that I am now nurturing. Nice to meet you!

  27. Marion,

    Your photographs are always so beautiful; your writing so captivating! I didn't realize buttercups were weeds. When I was a kid my mom told me that the way you can tell if a person likes butter is to hold a buttercup under their chin and if there's a yellow reflection on the skin there, then they like butter.

    Everybody liked butter.

    Miss T

  28. Delightful post, Marion. I always feel that I have visited a private and secret sanctuary when I visit your garden/blog. I love weeds too.

  29. Thank you, Hann...the weather was cloudy, and the colours in the photos didn't come out as well as they could have.

    Small world, Angie! I do remember you from Shaman Maggie's course. How exciting that you have moved to a new home! Bindweed will certainly become very well known to has a really beautiful blossom.
    Thanks for visiting and welcome!

  30. Miss T, I'm so glad you nurture your Buttercups, lol! I bet they are lush and beautiful!

    My granddaughter insisted she did not like butter, when she was wee, until I did the Buttercup test.

    She couldn't refute Mother Nature...butter became, overnight, one of her favourite foods, lol.

    Thank you, Princess...a huge compliment from somebody who is as creative and talented as you are!