Saturday, August 06, 2016

That’s Just The Way It Is

In a rose garden, even a simple blade of grass is an ugly, invasive weed.  Also in a sidewalk crack, or by the side of a curb.  That’s just the way it is.  A weed, of course, is also a weed – as are several other plants, which are unknown to me, but definitely are not fragrant floribundas (or pieces of concrete or tar).  And to that end I have spent last weekend removing these unwanted plants from some of those very places.

I began on Saturday morning with the garden that had formed along the curbside on the front of Mars and my property.  And the first candidate for removal that I noticed sat on the corner edge of the snow shelf hanging over that curb – oblong, almost jade-like leaves growing from succulent-type, ground hugging stems that sprouted radially from a rooted base.  Not wanting to kneel out in the road I bent over at the waist, grabbed the weed in my left glove-clad hand, and pulled it out of the ground with a gentle tug.  Its identical next-door neighbor, slightly larger, required a yank.  And the third one in that area, same size as the first but obviously more deeply rooted, necessitated a full out, two-handed / two-legged up-heave.   The tone was set for the rest of my work. 
Forty-five minutes later, now hot and sweaty from having used a combination of waist-bending pulls and crouch-and-yanks, I had de-cluttered about 80% of my front curb  – removing mostly grass but several honest-to-goodness weeds, some of which were delicate and pale colored while others were gnarly and of a darker more ominous hue.  Plus a few more of those jade-leave guys.
My allotted time was up – Mars and I were to be off to an event – leaving the remaining 1/5th and my sidewalk cracks for the next day.
On Sunday that remaining 20% took about the same time and effort as the original 4/5 and was done entirely in a crouch position with periodic rapid lifts upward.  So, no longer needing to be aware of oncoming traffic, I was pleased to take out my yellow, rubber knee-pad and switch to a yoga Child’s Pose position (knees and shins on the ground, butt on heels, chest on thighs) in order to get down to the sidewalk weed’s level.  In addition to getting my chakras in balance this also allowed me to (in most cases) peal the strips of grass from between the cracks like pulling the paper-and-string strip on the top of birdseed bags (when it works).  Again it was the same suspects – including the ubiquitous jade weed.
The next afternoon it was off to the town’s Weston Rose Garden, which my Men’s Garden Club planted and maintains.  I had not been there for over a week due to 8 or 9 or 10 days (who can remember) of a heat wave, which made any thought of voluntary outdoor work, including golf, unimaginable.  I had hoped to just deadhead the roses but that was not to be.  There were just too many weeds – most of which were, aargh, the low-lying jade trespasser.
But there was also grass, lots of grass, Franken-grass – tall blades growing up within the branches of the rose bushes, and even higher ones surrounding and dwarfing over the fragrant perennials for which this space was intended.   Satisfying work in that the vast majority easily relinquished their grip on the earth with just a forceful tug.  Frustrating labor in that many of the long, narrow leaves had rooted themselves within the thorny stems of the rose bush and necessitated a degree of manual finesse, which I did not possess, to extricate them without injury.  But a quick shower at home followed by splash of hydrogen peroxide and some Neosporin removed the entire sanguinary residue before Mars returned home from her afternoon mission.
The following day she and I, along with other members of our “Gourmet Group”, visited another rose garden at Boothe Memorial Park & Museum in Stratford, Connecticut.  Our culinary club has switched its focus from group preparation of epicurean edibles to restaurant exploration, sometimes combined with visits to historical or cultural venues.  This was our educational stop on the way to a seafood session along New Haven Harbor.
“[Boothe Memorial Park & Museum] was the estate of the Boothe family for many generations and willed to the town in 1949 for the public to enjoy.
"The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are many architecturally unique buildings and attractions on the grounds as well as a new, handicapped accessible playground. The park is open and free of charge year round and is the home to various volunteer clubs and organizations.”
One of the attractions is a 1940s Merritt Parkway Toll Booth Plaza – pun intended – that was moved to the park in 1988.  Another is the rose garden within which some of the “Friends of Boothe” volunteers were working as we meandered through the flowers prior to our 11:00 am tour of the main Homestead.
The gardeners were good-naturedly complaining that the abundance of weeds this summer has also caused them to spend too much time removing the unwanted invaders and not enough on the actual maintenance of the roses. 
One member of our group, T, asked about the particular plant that the male member of the work crew was digging up at that very moment – jade-like leaves, succulent-type, ground hugging stems and firmly rooted base.  It’s stalking me!
The man at whose feet stood a pail bucket three-quarters full with the mystery weed opined that it was Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) – which he said was an edible, salad ingredient originally brought to the states by English settlers, whose diet the greens were a regular part of. 
Wikipedia, which tells us that the plant is “also known as verdolaga, pigweed, little hogweed, red root, pursley, and moss rose”, says that Native Americans, as well as Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine makes frequent use of Purslane.  No mention of the British connection.
T, ate one of the freshly picked leaves and since he survived both the park visit and our subsequent seafood lunch without visible pain or distress, I will accept the fact the weed is digestible, and apparently not lethal – at least in the short term.
So now I know the identity of that jade-like thorn in my side.  But I don’t really care – especially after the previous few days experience.   In a rose garden, even the most edible of plants is an ugly, invasive weed.  Also in a sidewalk crack, or by the side of a curb. 
That’s just the way it is.


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