Weeding Out

Weeds. There are few things in my life that I dislike as much as these pests with leaves. I am almost compelled to yank them out of the ground when I see them taking root in an otherwise nice and formal garden setting. It doesn’t matter if the gardens belong to me or someone else – I have to pull that weed!

I believe that I was taught to eradicate weeds from a young age. One of my chores around the house was weeding flower beds. At the time, I didn’t know that gloves were an option, so I performed my duties with bare hands. To this day, I’m not fond of getting dry dirt all over my hands. I know, sounds strange for a kid growing up in the country, but there it is. Actually, I think it’s the texture of the soil that I never really liked. Now, when I work outside I generally use gloves. But getting dirt all over my hands these days is not that big a deal.

When I moved into my Finger Lakes home over 20 years ago, there was a weed called garlic mustard that was taking over portions of my backyard. It grows tall very early and quickly in the spring. Once it blooms, it’s already too late because it will spread its seeds soon enough. I sought to eliminate these weeds every spring by pulling every one that I saw. Believe it or not, over the years I actually saw that I did make a dent in their numbers. But I have to be diligent about it because it just takes one year of not pulling them out, and they proliferate again.

This year a new weed has taken over many of my flower beds and gardens. I don’t know the name of it. It’s vine-like, has short leaves every 5 inches or so, and it sort of sticks to your hand when you touch it. The redeeming quality is that it can be pulled from the ground easily. So, like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, I will attack my imaginary enemy – or maybe it’s a real nemesis – that is inundating my gardens.

With all of this negative talk about weeds, you’ll be surprised to learn that in this issue there’s a feature article on page 58 that actually celebrates the beauty of weeds. Derek Doeffinger has captured the delicacy of these plants employing a classic photography style using a plain white background that showcases the intricacies of the stems, leaves and flowers.

As someone once said, a weed is a plant in the wrong place. The very weeds I’m trying to rid my gardens of are probably at home and actually beautiful in their native setting.

Maybe this is a lesson for me – to see the beauty of everything around me. Sometimes I may view something that’s disagreeable and perhaps ugly to me, but in the right context, it can be beautiful and beneficial.


by Mark Stash, mark@lifeinthefingerlakes.com

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