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Wednesday, April 14, 2010


A friend of mine who is a gardener says that weeds are just plants you don't like.

What does that make plants that are known as weeds that you DO like?

I mean, a dandelion is clearly a weed - hated and reviled among those who like their lawn green and lush.

But, look at it. It's a very pretty flower. Yellow. Happy. And the stems, when cooked, eaten in salad or used as tea, are supposed to be very good for you.

When we were kids, we insulted this lovely member of God's creation even more by calling this perky little flower a "Piss-In-Bed" - from the modern French name for the plant "pissenlit".

I suppose that's because the root and leaf tea act on the kidneys as a gentle diuretic, improving the way they cleanse the blood and recycle nutrients. Being kids, however, we would squeal if any one of us plucked a dandelion from the lawn, "OoooOOOooo, Mary's going to pee her bed tonight!"

A "weed" is not a weed when growing where it belongs or is wanted. When it's not, it's just a plant that is, in its present place, a nuisance.

I like the little flowers that appear at the beginning of this post. I'm not sure of their name. And yes, they can be a nuisance, but I try to keep them contained in the back yard by the lawn set.

If you look carefully, you can see them just beyond the planter in the middle of the picture on the left.

I think they add a nice counterpoint to the very 'civilized' pansies that are in the flower pots on the deck.

I've also planted pansies on the front porch, in one of my favorite planters - the one our granddaughter calls the 'dancing ladies' planter - but I really like the flowers that are wild, too.

Wild. Not potted. Not watered. Not tended to or fussed over.

And, certainly not purchased at a Garden Center.

They are free. As free as they grow. And grow. And grow.

Isn't that ironic? The plants I paid for have to be tended and fed and watered in order for them to grow and be beautiful, while the plants that grow free and without effort actually have to be contained.

Some would say that's a nuisance.

I think that's a pretty strong parable about weeds.


Mary Sue said...

You know what we called dandelions at my house?


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Love it, Mary Sue.

Kirkepiscatoid said...


Tougher than nails with itty bitty delicate beautiful blue flowers.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Is that what those pretty little blue flowers are in my back yard? Ironweed?

Love it, love it, LOVE it.

I'm thinking of a new character for one of the stories I'm writing. An Episcopal priest who is known in the diocese as "Mother Ironweed."

Elaine C. said...

Those little blue-flowered plants may have the common name Ironweed, but there is also a tall (head-high) weed that in Southern Ohio is known by the common name Ironweed ... which is not in the same family as that cute little plant ... but common names often go with different in different regions ...

LOVE Mother Ironweed

Bex said...

Yesterday as I was pulling dandelions out of my lawn (they might as well be illegal in my neighborhood) I thought of the first thing my botany teacher said to the class: "A weed is a plant in the wrong place."

okey dokey said...

Bless them weeds.

However, I wouldn't bless liars.

I ask them to turn back to God.

Riley said...

Hmmm...your ground cover with the pretty blue flowers looks like Carpet Bugle (Ajuga reptans) to me.
(OCICBW) : ) My idea of Ironweed is similar to Elaine's. It has purple flowers and grows several feet tall.

Kemlynb said...

Weeds I like are called wildflowers in my yard!

the cajun said...

Dandelions make great wine and add zip to salads.

When I lived in the woods of NW NJ, there was a flower that grew wild. A dinner plate size flat white lace-like weed that the locals called Queen Ann's Lace.

When I pointed to the flower while visiting some friends in the UK, and mentioned its name. I was told I was being 'cheeky' if not outright insulting.

It's all in the eye of the beholder, isn't it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Carpet Bugle? Can't possibly be a worthless weed with a name like that.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I LOVE Queen Ann's lace. Such a lovely weed.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Isn't there a scene in Alice In Wonderland where the weeds talk to each other? Or am I thinking of the Disney cartoon?

Joie said...

I have a parishioner who makes dandelion wine. It is actually quite nice on a summer afternoon or evening. I just learned from some beekeeping friends that dandelions should be left alone in lawns because they are some of the first food for honeybees.

I plants LOTS of hybridized weeds in my cottage garden: black eyed susan, echinacea, salvia...they are so good when the summer gets hot and dry. Dwarf Joe Pye Weed is something I want to try soon.

The contribution of weeds to the bees and to the garden (in the form of hybridized weeds) gives me something to chew on where the parable of the weeds and the wheat is concerned.

Riley said...

Well, Carpet Bugle isn't a weed, although it IS invasive. I'd opt for a 'wild' plant over a 'civilized' one any day.

I LOVE Queen Ann's lace as well.
Soft and delicate, with a tough
wild side. Kinda like me. :)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Joie - I just remembered that I have tasted dandelion wine. Sweet. Light. Good. I've also had dandelion in a sort of tempura batter, deep fried. It was Very Good.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Riley - somehow I just knew you were a wild child. Are you sure we're not related?

Anonymous said...

like your friend, I was taught in horticulture classes that the definition of a "weed" is any unwanted plant. I too find it interesting that some people go to great pains to rid their yard of dandelions. But, these plants are necessary and critical for monarch butterflies. The plant also has medicinal purposes and was used by Native Americans for intestinal problems. So, while some may call a dandelion a "weed." I rejoice at its sight. When I see a dandelion I think of butterflies and spring and my heart becomes light again. Like the Cherokee legend, I believe God created butterflies to remind us to be happy.

MarkBrunson said...

There are a lot of wonderful weeds out there - thyme, basil, rosemary, catnip, mint. Those really are just weeds we found a use for early on.

I have much blue-flag in my yard, as well as dandelions, four o'clocks, lyriope. All these grow naturally - weeds. In fact, the only thing that really annoys me is the wisteria, which can in one season, do major damage to a structure.

Kudzu is, in this part of the state, not as huge a problem as north of here.

Alison said...

Hmm, looks like Creeping Charlie to me. I think Carpet Bugle, or Bugleweed, has larger leaves and more spike-like flower heads. If it has a nice astringent odor (like eucalyptus) when you crush it then it is Creeping Charlie.

I used to say that if it weren't for the Dandelions and Creeping Charlie I wouldn't have anything green in my lawn at all! That was when I had a lawn.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

There are several varieties of ironweed around here--it blooms late summer/early fall and the flowers range from blue to purple. Here are some pics:

"Mother Ironweed." I like it.

the Reverend boy said...

your post reminds me of the Highline Park on the West Side. They took an old elevated train track and trestle and turned it into a park. On either side of the path are all these lovely wildflowers, plants and of course weeds.

Weeds definitely add to the wonder and beauty of creation don't they?

Riley said...

Yep. Wild and free, like those little blue flowers you love.

You? Wild? No. Say it isn't so.
You're shattering my image of you, sweet lady. Stop! : )

Riley said...

Alison, Now that I look at it more closely, I think you're right about the carpet bugle having larger leaves and flowers that are more 'spikey'. I googled images of creeping charlie, and it looks like a dead ringer to me.
The leaves have the same scalloped edges and the flowers are 'tubular' like the ones in Elizabeth's pic. Good call!

I sent the pics. to Elizabeth for
comparison, so she can tell us for sure.

Whatever they're called, they sure are pretty.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Riley, not only are they carpet bugles, they are BADASS carpet bugles.


Riley said...

Really? I was convinced it looked more like the Creeping Charlie that Alison suggested. Well, okay then.
BADASS Carpet Bugle it is.

I was just having a little fun with you yesterday. I think we all know you've got a BADASS streak in you a country mile long. Those Carpet Bugles in your yard are right where they belong. : )

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Actually, I think BADASS Creeping Charlie sounds better than Carpet Bugle.

I do try to keep my BADASS streak - even though it IS a mile long - under my sparkling white Anglican clergy collar, but it IS a bit of a chore that's exhausting at times.

Yes way.

Riley said...

I think it sounds better, too.
Maybe Alison would agree. : )

Well, you can keep your BADASS streak under your sparkling white clergy collar and I'll try to keep mine under my hat.

What happens when the collar comes off is totally up to you. : )

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

And, Ms. Conroy ;~)

Riley said...

I was wondering if you'd pick up on that. Yes. And, Ms. Conroy. : )