‘Weeds’ can be valuable garden ingredients
By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 11:04 pm
The query goes like this: “Is that a plant or a weed?” The answer goes like this: “Yes.”
Well, duh! A weed is a plant. A plant is not necessarily a weed.
I know what they mean. What the questioner really meant was: “Is that a plant you put there or is it a plant that, somehow, came in on its own?”
In our lower damp border adjoining a wet weather ditch, there are hostas, wild irises, hydrangeas, summer phloxes and other things that revel in the wet stodgy clay there. Upstream, and about 100 yards away, there is a stand of wild ragwort with flat plates of yellow bloom 4 feet above the ground on sturdy stalks. It appeared on its own years ago.
In more recent times, it has seeded, via flowing winter water, on down to our mentioned damp border. There, it has become ensconced comfortably and it blends adroitly with its surroundings. When it blooms in spring it adds immeasurably to that bed.
Yet, visitors often exclaim, “That’s a weed!”
And indeed it is, when it overruns farm fields before it is burned down with herbicide for the planting of crops, which are not weeds.
Yet, in my own setting it is most definitely not a weed. Well, let us condition that statement:
It is a weed when there appears too much of it, which is often the case. Then, it must be controlled, which is an easy task. Young seedlings pull sweetly from the soggy soil in March. The relatively few that are allowed to remain are, as I said, definitely not weeds. Get it?
Plants that have been placed by your own loving hands can, in time, become weeds. Monarda, gooseneck loosestrife and numerous “cultivated” plants can easily overwhelm anything within reach with their relentless thuggery, either at the root or by fecund seeding.
A weed can be anything from a seemingly innocuous wild violet to a towering oak. The former swarms over everything in its path with that excess seeding, while an oak 3 feet from a house foundation can be a destructive weed indeed when it crashes through your roof in a windstorm.
In fact, trees constitute just about the most evil weeds extant, and why people are so reluctant to do away with one (or many) is one of the mysteries of life I will never understand. A doddering old box elder, brittle and senile and an accident waiting to happen, has a preservation order on it. Why? Because it is a tree and Joyce Kilmer maintained only God can make one. He was right, of course.
God also made chiggers, ticks and crabgrass, and those same tree huggers will spend inordinate time and effort ridding themselves of such pests.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — What is a weed? Any plant growing where it is not wanted.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 7.8.08