Friday, April 27, 2012

Two Ways of Looking at a Dove

5:10 p.m.

Sifting through debris
Mourning Doves sit ladylike,
“coo” ‘neath bird feeders.

5:10 a.m.

Slicing through darkness
Mourning Doves with megaphones
“coo” ‘neath my windows.

Monday, April 23, 2012


As a gardener it makes perfect sense for me to oppose the growth of invasive wild plants in the midst of the flowers and bushes that I am trying to cultivate.

 “Why do farmers remove weeds from the fields where crops are grown? 

 Because weeds drain nutrients from the soil for their own growth - depriving the desired crop of vital food. Additionally, the less weeds there are in a field, the more crop can be grown.” ( 

And it makes even more sense, at least on the small scale that I am operating, to uproot these unwanted competitors in a manner that causes as little damage as possible to the “good plants” as well as the birds and bees that hang around with them. That is to say – get in there with bad guys and rip them out. It’s fun. It’s good exercise. And all that gets harmed are the weeds – and occasionally my back.

Some give up their grip on the earth easily – just a grab and yank and they are gone. Others require a more surgical approach to sever their relationship with the soil. For the latter I use one of my three best-loved landscaping tools – the fork-tongued weeder. (My other two favorites are my pruning saw and my “Big Foot” lawn edger.)

This time of year the most apparent weed is the dandelion – apparent in two ways: (1) early spring is their prime growing and sowing season and (2) they are so damn obvious with their bright yellow flowers preening above my newly emerging upstart green lawn.

Dandelions are tailor-made for my weeding tool (or vice-versa). So this past week, every day, I have been busy excising these invaders from my organically treated lawn. Once they are dislodged, I toss the carcasses into an empty fifty-pound sunflower seed bag. I began on Monday. By Wednesday, when I dumped the contents of the bag into my trash bin, the bag was half full. By Saturday, it was three-quarters stuffed. Most of the plants are small. But a few are large enough to provide salad for two if you were so inclined – which I, having “been there, done that” in my childhood, most definitely am not.

 Day One I felt overwhelmed by the task at hand, so I limited my attack to the largest section of my yard. Days Two and Day Three I swept the remaining portions clean – each time returning to the previously conquered area(s) to root out the new dandelions that had appeared there overnight. By Day Four, I was overwhelmed by anger at the insolent persistence of the show-off yellow intruders. And so it goes.

 I am obviously not alone. There are pages and pages of anti-dandelion websites. One of them (television station KAKE in Kansas) has comments about “dandelion anxiety” (similar to “road rage”) over the uncontrolled presence of the yellow flowered weed in other neighbor’s lawns.

Anita Sanchez writes about the fall from grace for this once popular flower in her book “The Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion”:

 “This most common of plants is now a despised weed, but it wasn't always that way. Dandelions were once a valued commodity, purposely transported by humans across oceans and continents. Americans today spend forty billion dollars annually on lawn care, and a hefty part of that budget goes to the attempt to eradicate dandelions–the very plant that was brought to this country by its earliest settlers, who prized the plant for its medicinal powers, and nurtured the cheerful golden flowers for their beauty. Not too long ago, prize dandelions were exhibited at county fairs--one variety was patriotically christened the "American Improved." Gardeners used to weed out the grass to make room for the dandelions. 

“What happened? In an amazingly short space of time–less than one human life-span–this loved garden flower became the most unpopular plant in the neighborhood. Thirty million acres of the United States are lawns, and an estimated eighty million pounds of pesticides are used on them annually. Probably no other plant in the world undergoes such a barrage of deadly chemicals; humans have attempted to exterminate dandelions with a passion that's usually reserved for cockroaches or tarantulas. Yet the dandelion remains.”

Although it personally bothers me to be grouped in with the chemical-barraging, lawn-lovers – I think my poison-free, manual method of removal along with the organic lawn care landscaper that we employ gives me enough ethical cover to actually feel good about what I am doing.

But now this. Anita Sanchez continues:

“Dandelions are good for your lawn. Their wide-spreading roots loosen hard-packed soil, aerate the earth and help reduce erosion. The deep taproot pulls nutrients such as calcium from deep in the soil and makes them available to other plants. Dandelions actually fertilize the grass.” 


In order to verify her claim I asked the Internet, “Are dandelions good for the lawn?” but the only answer that I got were re-postings of the above quote on various other pro-weed websites, plus generalized weed-loving platitudes from several others.

When I asked the opposite, “Are dandelions bad for the lawn?” I found an equal number of sources all of which said basically “It depends on whether you like them or not.” – then went on to describe how to decimate them chemically. I suspect that some of these websites had a vested interest in the answer – and that the relatively recent “attempt to eradicate dandelions” in general was a previously non-existent demand created by the suppliers of the solution.

That same marketing-driven, dandelion-phobic movement probably influenced me.

 Or maybe it was the tart, biting salads made from the yellow-flowered plant that I was fed in my youth – free-range florets from an empty neighborhood lot. Some bitterness lasts forever.

 I don’t care what their advocates say – I still don’t like dandelions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Ship is Lisping Badly

How could anyone
not know of the Titanic?
It's unthinkable.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hoary Sonneteers

For the past four years I have submitted haiku poems to the Gerard F. Melito Senior Citizen's Poetry Contest sponsored by Altrusa International of Central Connecticut. There is a reception at which the "contestants" read their work and the entries are compiled in a booklet that is given to each entrant and distributed to local libraries.

The whole thing is something like this...

Hoary sonneteers

telling life’s stories in rhyme --

experience counts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Basic Evolutionary Question About Dandelions

Sometimes natural selection looks an awful lot like UNintelligent design. e.g. the color of dandelion flowers. Or maybe it is just nature’s way of giving the rest of us – the majority of who clearly do not want these daisy-weeds besmirching our otherwise pristine lawns – a chance against them.

The Basic Evolutionary Question About Dandelions

If they don’t need bees,

and no one seems to want them,

why are they yellow?

Monday, April 09, 2012

Hydrangea Rage

“Guerilla Gardening” and “Hydrangea Rage” have been in the news recently. And although both have their roots (so to speak) in Great Britain – they each provide valuable information on how we colonists can make our own horticultural efforts that much more rewarding.

First, some basic definitions. “Guerrilla Gardening” is simply gardening on another person's land without permission. “Hydrangea Rage” is an aggressive or angry behavior by a gardener in response to an assumed assault on his/her flora. The former is an organized horti-sociological movement. The latter is, at the moment, the spontaneous response of one deranged individual. (Although when you hear her story…)

Wikipedia says: “[Guerilla gardening] encompasses a very diverse range of people and motivations, from the enthusiastic gardener who spills over their legal boundaries to the highly political gardener who seeks to provoke change through direct action. It has implications for land rights, land reform. The land that is guerrilla gardened is usually abandoned or neglected by its legal owner and the guerrilla gardeners take it over ("squat") to grow plants. Guerrilla gardeners believe in re-considering land ownership in order to reclaim land from perceived neglect or misuse and assign a new purpose to it.

“Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden. Some garden at more visible hours to be seen by their community. It has grown into a form of proactive activism or pro-activism.”

The term “guerilla gardening” was used for the first time in 1973 by Liz Christy and her “Green Guerillas” group, who transformed a derelict private lot in the Bowery Houston area of New York City into a garden. It now has its own “global internet forum” ( and its adventures are tracked, at least in Great Britain, by the mainstream print media – which granted when judged by some of our uptight New England standards may not seem like “real journalism” – but still.

Hydrangea rage, at the moment, seems to be exclusively the property of one 87-yeard-old grandmother. As reported in London’s “Daily Mail”:

“Hydrangea rage! Grandmother in court after going potty because a neighbour trimmed her plant

“She may be an 87-year-old grandmother, but touch her plants and Margaret Perry can get particularly nasty.

“In what has been described as a ‘hydrangea rage’ incident, the retired council worker shouted obscenities at neighbour Brian Kelly when she found him trimming her prize flower.

“Storming out of her house, she branded him a ‘menace’ and screamed, ‘b**** up your a***’ before threatening to cut his internet cable.

“Mr Kelly said he was merely cutting the plant back after it had grown into his garden and was blocking the sunlight from his tomatoes.

“Perry, a former Greater London Council employee, denied shouting abuse at her neighbour, but admitted asking him what he was doing to her hydrangea.

“During the hearing, Mrs Pool [the Judge] was forced to tell Perry to keep quiet after continued outbursts in court.

“Perry, clearly distressed, pleaded with the bench: ‘What am I supposed to do? He cut my flowers.’”

Say what you want but I think that both of these trends are good for the game of gardening. I was listening to an interview with sportswriter John Feinstein and he was talking about how unexciting PGA golf had become during the years without Arnie, Gary & Jack, or Tiger & Phil. Sometimes I think that our favorite avocation has become too much like that also. Too many over-planning, by-the-numbers, lookalike perfectionists simply following the label and avoiding excessive use rather than just going out, digging up some soil, throwing in a bunch of seeds, and dealing with what happens.

Imagine instead: covert ops floricultural revolutions with night-vision goggles and camouflage gardening gear – or going off unabated on Limbaugh-like landscaping rants, with the implied threat of physical violence. Now that’s a hobby a real red-blooded gardener can sink his (or her) hoe into.

See you in the British tabloids!