Monday, August 06, 2012

Weeding According to the Rules

As usual the most outstanding plant in Mars and my garden this year is a volunteer – i.e. a plant that grows on its own, rather than being deliberately planted by a farmer or gardener (Wikipedia).

It grew within the outer edges of some arborvitae that demarks the southern end of our property so it actually achieved a fairly considerable size before either one of us noticed it – a foot or two in height with large elephantine leaves and stems thick enough to support their weight. My first thought was skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), which appears in the wet areas along the bicycle trail that ends (or begins) across the street from our domicile. The fact that the land from which our weed was erupting was as arid as the sands of the Sahara did not enter my mind.

Anyway, it looked not totally terrible so following my first basic rule of weeding –“If you don’t know what its is or what its going to look like, let it grow. You might like it.” – I did just that.

It quickly trebled in height and I began to hope, unwarrantedly, for rhubarb. This was actually even more unlikely than my first misguided guess since the closest possible source was sitting in the produce section of our local Whole Foods, several miles across the Connecticut River from our house. Nonetheless, dreams of strawberry-rhubarb pie overruled what little commons sense I was applying to the situation so I envoked rule number two of weeding – “As long as there is the faintest hope that it’s something you might want, keep it.”

Within a month it had morphed into an eight-foot-tall clone of Audrey Jr., the human-sized, human-eating plant from the movie “Little Shop of Horrors”. Rule 3 – “If you are afraid to touch the plant, don’t.”

And now our volunteer has flowered – so to speak. It is a thistle. (The common name of a group of flowering plants characterised by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins, mostly in the family Asteraceae. Prickles often occur all over the plant – on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation that protects the plant against herbivorous animals, discouraging them from feeding on the plant. (Wikipedia))   I am at least partially herbivorous and it is keeping me away.

The fourth (and most important) rule of weeding: “Never wage war with a weed whose weaponry is more whetted than your own.”

I am certain that next year our skyscraper thistle hedges will be the horticultural hit of the neighborhood.

No comments: