Monday, August 27, 2012

Trowel and Error

Thought for the day:  When weeding, the best way to make sure you're removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it's a valuable plant.

Are you a gardener... or are you a garden-dreamer, like me?

I mean, I harbor amazing delusions of grandeur while browsing through garden catalogues and piling a cart high with purchases from the local nursery every year.

And then something happens.

I like to call it reality.

Gardens are not made by singing, 'Oh, how beautiful' and sitting in the shade.  [Rudyard Kipling]

Darn it. (I'm really good at sitting in the shade.)

Kipling was a real kill-joy, huh? I do fine getting all the stuff into the ground, and for a little while... just over twenty-three minutes, I think... the garden looks marvelous. Then comes these things:

                                                                      Yep, weeds.

The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden.   [Ray D. Everson]

It's a little-known fact, but I'm pretty sure weeds are organized. Not unionized yet, but they're definitely working together. Just think about it. They grow at precisely the rate you pull them out. Yank a weed from one part of your garden, and boing! another one pops up in another part. Really. I've seen it happen.

Even with the whack-a-mole racket weeds have going for them, I don't mind weeding all that much.

At first.

And then something else happens.

I like to call it debilitating heat. In Georgia, that could happen just about any time of the year, but as a rule, by the end of springtime, (which could occur as early as February...) perspiration is pretty much flowing like Niagara Falls around here.

                                                                     I'm talking ...    
Oh, and did I happen to mention our annual summer droughts? And the outdoor watering bans? And whattayaknow? While flowers and vegetables gasp for water, weeds seem to thrive under these conditions.

Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.  [Dave Barry]   

They say hard work doesn't hurt anyone, but at my age, why take chances? I tend to agree with good ol' Tex here:

The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.  [Texas Bix Bender]

Alas, nobody was around who was willing to let me stand around giving orders, so I tempted fate last week and went outside in the early morning (before the heat index hit triple digits) to weed and prune. I know. What a trooper, right?

So I grabbed a rug to protect my dainty little knees, my handy-dandy gloves, hand hoe, clippers, pruners, and trowel, and I was ready to go. Approximately two minutes later, the attack began.

First, the reconnaissance mosquito swooped down to sample the cuisine. Then came the rest of his brigade.

You think weeds are organized? They've got nothing on mosquitoes.

So, I tore into the house to swap shorts for sweat pants and to douse myself in bug spray. Which, I'm pretty sure, the mosquitoes around here actually like. Kinda like a finishing sauce.

But, I eventually managed to finish the job. (Which, of course, could stand to be done all over again now.) For some reason, our front garden is a flipping magnet for wild onions. Pain in the derriere to keep digging them out and digging them out, too. But didja know if you don't dig 'em out, they grow pretty little purple flowers? (ahem)  I may have read that somewhere ... yeah, that's the ticket...

Anyhow, the task gave me plenty of time to hum and think. Like, about editing. Wouldn't it be nice if it were as easy to axe the deadwood from a written work as it is to prune it from a bush? And, watching all those tiny bugs scurrying around, I thought about how tiny we are in comparison to the universe. Suppose we're part of some kind of a cosmic garden, waiting for the Master Gardener to come pull weeds? Then the question becomes: are we the weeds... or the flowers? (Yeah, I was getting a little heat-addled by that time.)

Even so, it kinda made me wonder. Who am I to decide which plants should grow and which should go?

Some...  no... most... wildflowers are beautiful.

And Ralph Waldo Emerson, a very wise man, I might add, said, What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.

I think he's absolutely right! So, I may just have to reconsider this whole notion of pulling weeds. Because, if you think about it,

                                                              Dandelions are quite dandy.

(sigh) If I could only grow green stuff in my garden like I can in my refrigerator... [unknown]

                                          Okay, hands up. I give. Time to throw in the trowel.

For now. I have been looking at topiary pictures lately. That just might be the way to go, ya know? Think our neighbors will be impressed?

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

** All images, except the last one, come from morguefile The topiary shot is courtesy of seniorark


  1. The answer is simple, and highly fashionable; it's called 'indigenous gardening'. You take all the plants, trees, etc, that grow naturally in your area, then organise them into pleasing designs around your home.

  2. 'The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never weeded a garden.'


    Whenever I have weeded, I like the feeling I get afterward. It is very hard work (if you let it go as long as we often do) but it feels good to work (tug, pull, fight!) with your hands like that. Nothing quite like it.

  3. Delightful post, Susan. I was a commercial gardener for 35 years and must tell you: The reward is not in the abolition of weeds --that is impossible-- but in not being indoors where everybody's nuts and bickering and expecting things.

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  6. Ha, ha! Great quotes! I love them!

    I always start out with the best intentions in the spring, but daggone it, I think the weeds ARE unionized.

    I scratched my arms all up last weekend trying to pull crabgrass out from between the cleome (the cleome had thorns!) and my husband told me to stop. So I did. Obedient wife that I am! :D

    Yeah, I could've put on long sleeves, but neither of us felt it was necessary.

  7. Love this post! Beautiful pics. I just led a retreat, A Gathering in God's Garden, so the weed analogy really spoke to me! I'd given up on my flower beds a couple of weeks ago, and then...voila!...the rains arrived and everything came alive again.

  8. I'm a total garden-dreamer. I love looking at the fruits of other gardeners' labors, though.

    And I have a sneaking fondness for dandelions.

  9. You must have been reading my mind. I am not a dream gardener, but, yes, I have been dreaming of gardening lately. I keep thinking how beautiful my yard could be if I would only get out there and work. But, alas, I won't. *sigh*

  10. Cro- Ooh, aren't you clever? Around here, that would mean dandelions, wild onions, violets, and kudzu.

    Suze- I agree... it always feels good AFTER the weeding is done. (Um, except for the ol' back, maybe.) If only the job would stay done a little longer.

    Geo- Agreed. The being outside part is wonderful, except for the debilitating heat and squadrons of blood-sucking mosquitoes. Oh, and the infuriating swarms of gnats. The darned things get in your nose, your ears, your eyes, and try to swim, and subsequently drown on your wet skin. But I do like being outside. Really.

    Dianne- Oh yeah, love them thorns and sticker bushes. Maybe you just need some extra long gloves. (Like up to your armpits.)

    Jan- Your retreat sounds wonderful. I'm glad the rains came and rejuvenated your garden. We're still pretty parched here, but Isaac may provide some respite in our area.

    Linda- Maybe when you strike it rich, you can hire a staff of good-looking gardeners. (Not that they HAVE to possess rippling muscles, but if you're gonna look at them, there's no reason they shouldn't look as good as the gardens they're tending for you, right?)

    Linda- HA! If wishing it could make it so, we'd all have magnificent gardens. (Maybe you and I can sit in the shade together, sipping iced tea, and waiting for the flowers to appear...)

  11. What a great post (how did I miss this in the morning? I apologize for being late)... I have just this year resigned myself to giving up on the garden and going with it. The land here is terrible for growing anything and this year got really dry. I would love to know how to work with what naturally grows in Ontario, only by this point I'm completely tuckered out from all my bodged attempts! Especially as, like you say, maintenance is a pain in the butt to begin with. One day, when I live in the woods, I won't need to worry about this. I'll be completely au natural! :)

  12. Ahh what nostalgia. Your post brings back my ol' horticulture days. The hairy bittercress is a right little devil to get shot of capable of spreading 5000 seedlings per plant during the flowering season. Apparently bittercress shoots right up into the air, so make sure to grab those suckers good and bag 'em.

  13. I've gardened before.

    We had a compost heap in the garden and one time a vine sprung up and grew three tomatoes. They were the most beautiful, best-tasting tomatoes I ever had.

    Some day, I'll repeat that, I'm sure of it.

  14. That was the best laugh I've had all day! It could've been a page out of my garden book :)

  15. Is that gardening glove giving me the finger? I'm kinda glad I'm not the only one who can't keep up with the weeds.


  16. Haha Susan, I can't believe you're even trying anymore. So gloves off and a clap for that! I purposely let things go fallow this year to recover from the flood nastiness, but I'm gonna weed like crazy come October. That's my story and I'm stickin to it.

  17. Call me chemical Carla, but I like to spritz my weeds with a bit of Round-uP then lay around for a week while they die. No more bony-knee pain for me.

  18. Call me chemical Carla, but I like to spritz my weeds with a bit of Round-uP then lay around for a week while they die. No more bony-knee pain for me.

  19. Love it. I did well all summer...till last week, and don't you know the heat was horrible, the air was dry and my whole summer of careful tending with nullified with one week of neglect. The only thing that looks healthy are the thistles that sprang up!

  20. CarrieBoo- Hey, there's no such thing as being LATE when it comes to blogging. Whenever you show up is just the right time. I know what you mean about lousy soil. We have a lot of red clay here, not to mention huge chunks of granite. Makes it reeeeal fun to try to dig a hole. (So you guys with beautiful black soil, don't take it for granite!) Oh, and when you're living in the woods au natural, better watch out for poison ivy!

    Spaceguy- Sometimes, I think ALL the weeds in our yard are capable of producing 5000 seedlings. Bloody things reproduce like rabbits!

    Pixel- HA! You're funny. (So I won't tell you where that tomato plant likely came from ...)

    Rose- Something tells me quite a few of us have been using the same gardening book. Maybe we should meet somewhere... in the air conditioning ... over a pitcher of cold drinks ... to (ahem) "plan" our next garden.

    Janie- Nah, I don't think the glove is giving you the finger. Just the weeds. (Dontcha love that "mooning" bush, though?)

    Austan- I rarely let the garden go fallow ... on purpose. But it's looking pretty sorry this year. Maybe I should just plant kudzu out there and be done with it.

    Barb- We use Round-Up (or agent orange, as my hubby calls it) in some areas, like by the fences, where the poison ivy tries to set up camp. But I don't want it anywhere near my scrawny flowers or veggies. But no problem with the knees... alas, they aren't nearly as bony as they used to be.

    Elizabeth- We're getting some much-needed rain right now, so I reckon the weeds will be in charge again tomorrow.

  21. Hi Susan,
    Hoe, hoe, hoe, I can dig this posting. My human, Gary, is well into gardening and I'm going to make sure he has a good look at this when I can finally wake him up.
    Speaking of gardens, maybe you can answer this question for me. Why are some plants called 'bedding plants'? I've never seen them with a matching blanket or a pillow.
    Oh speaking of Rudyard Kipling. We live three miles from a place called Rudyard Lake. His parents went there a lot and their son was named after the lake.
    You are a very witty lady and my human Gary could learn from your writing. He ignores my attempts at making him a better writer.
    Pawsitive wishes and doggy kisses, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star! xx

  22. Thank you so much for posting this!! I spent a chunk of time today in the ridiculous heat, digging crab grass out of my flowerbeds. I really needed the laugh (or maybe I just need nuclear weapons).

  23. Penny- I'll bet you're a great help to Gary when he needs to dig in the garden. My dogs were always great diggers, but I never could get them to help me plant anything. We worked as a great team, though. I put stuff in, and they dug it out. As for the bedding plants, I'm pretty sure it's because after we humans finish putting them all into the ground, we're ready for a nap. I didn't know that about Rudyard Lake. Thanks! (You're one smart pooch!)

    Connie- Ah, so you can definitely relate! Glad you got a laugh out of the post.

  24. oh wow you are SO FUNNY!!!

    thanks for coming by my blog and introducing yourself. consider me a new fan!

  25. a fun post! I am a gardener. and I spend way too much time weeding and squishing bugs and mulching. but I just LOVE it!! guess i like it really because no one will bother me in the garden because then they will have to help and no one wants to so they leave me in peace.

  26. Pensive Pumpkin- Thanks. I'm pretty sure I signed on as one of your groupies during the A-Z challenge this year. I wasn't exactly "funny" during that, but I'll try to give you a chuckle from time to time now. Welcome aboard!

    Annmarie- HA! I'll bet there's a lot of truth to that. When our kids still lived at home, they didn't exactly fall all over themselves volunteering to do yard work, either.