Over here at the Slow Love (but crazily busy) life, I have developed a serious problem sorting out the weeds from the wanted. We've had a gorgeous, long spring, if you are of a floriferous inclination. The cool, wet days have done wonders in the garden. But I've pulled a muscle in my neck that has made it painful to type, much less weed. (An enforced blogging hiatus.)
Now the growth in my front yard is luxuriant. I realize that what I have done is create one vast perennial bed out there, with a few stones for footpaths. In other words, I've created the same garden I have had since my father and I began gardening when I was five years old. A place that wanders, looks blowsy and slightly unkempt (though I kemp as fast as I can), full of plants that play tricks with perspective, Alice-in-Wonderland style. I've quaffed the Drink Me potions of Bigger and Smaller. I stop with my morning tea and admire patches of the tapestry I've planted--though to any serious designer's eye, this place is a mess and I know it.
The weed problem. I actually like plants (and people) with big personalities and plenty of character. I don't mind aggressive, so long as it is interesting. I admire the color of the ajuga nestled (trampling would be more like it) against the white azalea. But there is a reason it is called Bugleweed. I love the supposedly demure violet, but only her ornament of a flower is shy. She is pushy--the aquilegia cannot breathe, though I don't know how long she plans to stick with this crowd anyway. I don't even know why I invited the petasides; what a thug. A few important patches just went bare--the plants I had so admired a year ago are gone without a trace. In their place are a few unfamiliar somethings.
I started to clean up, and then thought, wait, what if I'm pulling up things I will eventually like, that have self-seeded? I examine them closely. Huh? I need a Weed App. Okay, not a big market, but wouldn't it be great to take a picture of these plants (I'm too embarrassed to even show you but maybe) and identify them? Better yet, I need a friend. I'm mortified to ask Ed over at Opus Plants to come for a stroll--I know his eyebrows will be up in his hairline at the sight of my garden--but I need advice. Calling Ed is like asking the designers at Dior to check out the embroidery on your Gap jeans. Frankly, he warned me no good would come of some of the things I was taking home. Did I listen?
Then I begin to wonder, what is a weed anyway? At what point do I give up control of what is where (who says what?) and just let things evolve naturally? These plants seem, at first, to be lovely, polite, thoughtful and interesting, but they became rambunctious, even rowdy--though that was sort of fun. And then, sometime in the middle of the night, they crossed another line, and become rude, rampant, choking--crowding out everything else, pulling visual attention onto themselves, refusing to be part of the overall composition of the bed.
I stand in my garden, my gaze wandering over tousled heads, and feel that though I arrived at a lovely party with a few friends, we've scattered, and now there is a din coming from over there by the bar, one person is dominating what began as a lively conversation, but has become a scene of acting out, tempers are flaring, there may be a brawl....Oh dear, they really are lovely fellows, I assure the hostess, I don't know why this has happened, I don't want to yank them out.....And how can anyone else get past them to the bar? All I want is a drink. I want to go back to the way things were, in my garden, weeds kempt and all wanted.
(Let me interrupt my reveries to note that though I often talk about drinks, and I do love my teacup of Lagavulin, I must reassure readers that I am a moderate-to-boring drinker. I just love the aura of cocktails. And there are times when they are a necessary refinement on the day.)
Well, gardening is a bit like walking into a nursery, every little infant plant (reborn every spring) clamoring for attention. It is difficult to know what to do when things get out of hand--or rather, it is difficult to do the tough love thing: Get out the hoe, start chopping, and give everyone else some breathing room.
Yesterday I was at a lecture on energy efficiency (I'll explain elsewhere--for the beloved Environmental Defense Fund). The speaker, a gentleman who runs building facilities at MIT, was talking about HVAC, and said, "People don't generally understand what cooling is. It is moving heat from where we don't want it to where it is less objectionable." The entire room was probably blinded by the light bulb that blinked on over my brain. Just like weeding! Anything (well, just about) can be wanted in the garden--our tastes differ. Your weed is my perennial. But if I say so, your perennial is my loud-mouthed weed. It is up to me to rip it up by its throat, or move it to where it is less objectionable. Or ask it to please, quiet down over there.