Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Gardening Metaphor

Having just spent an hour digging out dandelion from the yard, I started wondering why I fight with nature every year over them. They are quite a pretty flower, the greens are even edible. They bloom all summer long. Why do I dutifully dig them out every year? After all, there is a quote at Nick's Garden Center that says "A weed, is just a plant out of place." And for xeriscape gardening using native plants and flowers is how they keep water usage down.

Then I remember the morning glory in my yard, you know, the wild kind, the one that is called field bindweed. The first spring after we moved in, that spring sixteen years ago, I saw morning glories coming up. I had heard that they were bad, and I shouldn't keep them, but they were so pretty.

Unfortunately, by fall, those pretty vines and flowers were climbing up my vegetable garden plants and choking them out. Still, I thought, if I could just confine them to one part of the yard, I could enjoy their beauty without the risk. I'm hearing laughter in the background, I'm sure of it. Those of you who are more experienced than me at gardening know better. Once weeds get established, it's a forever fight. Now every year, I have to pull the morning glory. That still doesn't kill them, they have a web of roots that can go clear across the yard and pop up somewhere else. The only way to truly kill them is with roundup. Pulling them up is just a temporary fix. But roundup is so chemical, and so final, and so easy to spray on the wrong thing.

And then there is the thistle. It's pretty easy to know that one is a weed, it's not that pretty, and it's prickly, some more than others. I think we have three or four varieties in our yard. Did you know it is a floral symbol of Scotland? There is a legend telling how that came about, having to do with the prickles and defense of the kingdom, of course. I suppose I could justify leaving the thistles alone as a perimeter defense mechanism, but I think I'll leave that to the roses.

Did you know that spraying roundup on dandelion and thistle isn't enough? The plant will still go to seed as it is dying, to afflict and torment man for another season. You have to dig it up, put it in the trash, then spray roundup on the leftover root. So much work! 

I feel that somewhere in this experience is a metaphor for life. It's easy to let bad habits take root in our life, sometimes they are so enticing, just like the pretty flowers. Digging them out is a lot of work. Older, more experienced people will tell us to avoid the bad habits to start with, just like the older gardener had told me that morning glory was bad. Young people think the old ones are old fashioned, and judgemental. Really, it's just because they are older, have experienced more in life, either personally, or by the observation of others. 

Young people, like young gardeners, seem to have to experience things for themselves before they will believe what they've been taught. And so, sixteen years later, I'm still fighting the fight with dandelion, morning glory, and thistle. It would be much easier just to let things be, rather than continue the fight. But I don't want my garden to become overwhelmed. I just hope that my children won't take that long to learn the lessons of life.