OUR GARDEN’S MOST PROLIFIC WEEDS

Even with a field guide, weeds can be hard to name. At least in polite terms. As a gardener, identifying them as weeds is easy enough, once they’re past a certain point of sprouting – they aren’t what you’re expecting and they’re growing faster than what you planted. Staying ahead of them is another matter, especially if you’re trying to be organic like us.

Here are 10 that have been especially problematic this year.

  1. Virginia creeper: Initially, it looks like a nice ground cover in a wooded area. Maybe something to climb a tree trunk, too. But beware, it develops tenacious woody roots that can grow six feet a day – that’s not an official measure, by the way, just a sense I have returning to the same site a day after I thought I’d cleared it. This beast nearly took out one of our big shrubs last year. ‘Nuff said?
  2. Bindweed: Another one that can strangle a neighbor in no time. It looks a lot like a morning glory, which can also go rogue.
  3. Creeping Charlie: This little ground ivy and a shiny-leaf cousin take over in no time. One couple two blocks away covered their entire garden in black plastic this year in what we suspect is a futile effort to eradicate it.
  4. Mystery stalk No. 1: It has large leaves and started popping up like crazy in our strawberry bed. New to us this year. Looks like its seeds come at the base of the leaves. Think it’s also the one in two of our potato pots … kinda resembles the young tater plants. At least it was easy to uproot.
  5. Mystery stalk No. 2: This one has nasty-looking jagged leaves and a big fuzzy stalk. Also new to us this year. Can’t find either of these online.
  6. Wild chervil: Looks kind of like Queen Anne’s lace, which we tolerate, but I just read the down and dirty on this deceptive tan flower. It’s going to be big trouble next year. Ouch!
  7. Multiflora rose: Its vines are always a pain, and they take over in no time. For us, they’re often near the equally stubborn Japanese honeysuckle.
  8. Dandelions: My, what taproots! And if you don’t get all of one up, you’ll soon have another opportunity … to fail.
  9. Common purslane: Another one that gained a foothold this year and will be back with a vengeance next year. My wife says I better learn to like it in salads.
  10. Grass: Many varieties invade the garden and squeeze out what we’re growing, but the Bermuda roots and stems have been particularly nasty this year.
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WITH THE LOCO IN LOCOMOTION

My awareness of the importance of forested trails of my own sanity and balance has evolved slowly. I see two parts at work here.

First is the aspect of locomotion. I could begin with the fact I’ve never been an athlete. As a youth, I delighted in speed — as in running or riding a bicycle — or in swimming, with its parallel of flying suspended in space. But I’ve never enjoyed the repetition of exercise for its own sake, gym class was a bore, and team sports have largely eluded me. Since I existed largely within mental activities, such as science or the arts, the idea of doing something that involved a mindfulness to my own body in motion did not register with me, at least until I took up yoga after college. I could add to this a recognition that I’ve also been filled with nervous energy and general restlessness. Sitting still — and focused — is something I’ve had to learn in the course of practicing meditation and attending Quaker meeting for worship.

Second is an encounter with natural history. Somehow, at an early age, I was introduced to geology, birding, tree identification and the like. I’ve also been interested in maps and map-making. Human history, too, which often turns up as discards in places returning to the wild.

What I’ve come to appreciate, though, is largely an esthetic response in walking through places of repose. If forest trails are the symbolic ideal here, I must admit they are not the only examples. Walking miles along the Atlantic on the outer Cape Cod shoreline, for example, serves well (although walking on sand always presents an effort) or trekking above treeline or through wild meadow can be heavenly. Even a stroll through a wooded cemetery or a city park can be recommended. But I speak of forest because of its timeless nature, in both senses of the phrase; this is what this land would remain at climax, forever. Everything is in balance or harmony. There are, of course, seasonal changes, but these are within a rhythm or cycle of returning, much like the movements of a symphony played over and over. Somehow, this begins to merge with the rhythm of walking, which itself begins to pace my own thoughts and emotions. Nothing too rushed, too overwhelming: everything, one step at a time. Uphill or down, all within reach. Walking along a city street or even a country highway can induce some of the step-by-step rhythm, but the balance is off: traffic rushes past, always as a threat, especially at intersections; there’s too much commotion or stimulation; my soul’s not at rest. Look around and notice all the trash and discard, all the waste as a social illness. The wilderness, in contrast, is continually healing. “Come to the woods for here is rest,” John Muir counseled. “There is no repose like that of the deep green woods.”

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

PLACES OF RETURN

Years later, a friend relates an incident of telling his wife his intention of spending the day in a favorite place in the mountains, countered by her question of what makes him return there. Even though he’s a photographer, he replies by acknowledging that many of his writer friends have answered the question simply, saying it’s the surprises that draw them back.

Somehow, as one of his writer friends, I find the word “surprise” in this context jarring. For surprises, one would be better served by trips to new locations, rather than returning to an old favorite. Novelty, rather than familiarity. Upheaval or intoxication, rather than purity or sobriety. Even so, as I consider my own places of return, her question becomes increasingly kaleidoscopic.

First, there’s the very demand of naming a favorite place. In this context, he invokes wilderness, where return is a kind of pilgrimage. Here, return may be once or twice a year, if that frequent. I could counter that with an evening stroll, as I used to do along the canal bank at the back of the desert orchard, or sitting at the café downtown in the small New England city where I now dwell — activities that could take place daily. We could add to that an opera house or concert hall, museum gallery, or even places of dedicated labor: a studio, cabinetry shop, garden, kitchen, or laboratory. Even, though rarely for me, shopping destinations: a boutique or farmers’ market, perchance. A fair or festival.

So the question soon turns to a matter of one’s intention. What is one attempting to escape or encounter? What is one leaving behind and what does one face instead?

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