Weeds, Dandelions Part One

Weeds, Dandelions Part One

The garden is greening in. I walked around this morning, thinking as I do every year at this time, what is a weed, and what is a plant? Weeds must be pulled away to make room for the plants. However, I have mistakenly damaged and destroyed some good plants trying to pull out weeds.

Ajuga and dandelions grow outside the raised bed, while Sorrel is thriving in the bed.
Ajuga and dandelions grow outside the raised bed, while Sorrel is thriving in the bed.

This morning I am worried about being overrun by Japanese Knotweed. I am not sure, but I think I have it. People are saying that once it takes root in your garden, only extreme measures can eradicate it. I saw one stalk, located south of Persephone, has shot up three feet high. I intend to cut it down once the rain dries away. I was told never to touch healthy plants when they are wet, and I generally keep to that rule. Also, I am holding my coffee, do not have shears, and really garden only in my mind as I take my morning walk.

As for weed identification, ten years ago, I relied entirely on Brooke, who had worked at this yard as a child, alongside her parents. I would marvel as she told me which leaves were plants, and which leaves should be pulled. I still consult with her, but these days, as often as not, we stare at greenery together, saying, ‘Yeah. What is that?’

What is a weed, but a plant growing on its own initiative. And when a plant is able to reproduce in numbers big enough to dominate the landscape, well, I either decide I like it, or give battle.

This year, I have a lot of ajuga creeping among the raised beds and shooting up six inch stems with dainty lavender flowers. I have decided I like it. It isn’t able to climb into the beds, doesn’t seem to brush my ankles, and I have no other good solution for how to manage that space. Presently, I am delighted to see all that ajuga framing the boxes. And if it successfully chokes away pesky weeds that can tunnel into my safe space, or worse launch seeds that fly into the boxes, then I shall sing them a song.

There is a stringy greenery called horse hair, and something with a white flower that makes an exploding pod. I am pulling that stuff out, because it is very easy pulling and also because it threatens to take over. Vines like prickly greenbrier and strangulating bittersweet add a subtle yet powerful emotion in the garden. A garden where plants have to fight for sunlight, water and fresh air, is full of anxiety. When the weeds are gone, there is peace and harmony.

Dandelions perplex me. Some people eat the leaves cooked or in a salad. Some people poison the earth so they will not bloom on their property. One year, after a dear friend suggested I do something about my dandelions, and I decided to make wine. It was pale yellow, sparkled, and truly did taste like summer. I will make it again sometime.

It takes a lot of dandelions, many more than I had in my yard. Collecting enough was a big job. In 2013, I picked a great hatful at Shaw’s Cove, with my father. I am quite sure, in order to have enough for the recipe, I collected more than one thousand yellow flowers. At some point, I was holding the hat at Indian Rock, and asked my Dad if he could guess how many I held. Of course, he could not. And I told him I held 147 dandelions. He was surprised and delighted. He said, that was his father’s lucky number. Whenever he had a chance to make a bet, he played 147. So I called the elixir Hansie 147.

Here I am, again wondering what to do about dandelions. Maybe I should see about making more wine. Just now, I am wondering if I can freeze the heads. I think it is worth a try. Game on. I now have a plan to collect dandelions.

A bottle of Hansie 147 dandelion wine
Hansie 147 dandelion wine

Barbie Burr

Barbie Darwin Burr was born in La Jolla, California into a Navy family. Moving every year made gardening difficult, but not impossible for her father, a disciple of Scott and Helen Nearing and a man with a vast ability to imagine and create.

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