28 May 2010

Born to be Wild (Part 1)

Let us remind ourselves that weeds are wild flowers/ plants. But to gardeners and garden lovers, they are seen as pests rather than elements of the wild order: they are the unwanted wild invaders. They are invasive, intrusive, parasitic, resistant to disease and repeated pulling. Also note that they tend not to be pretty in looks; actually it seems that the uglier/ the pricklier, the least tolerated they are. Think of brambles, nettles and thistles.

Daucus carota

Left to their own devices weeds will thrive, take over your garden, ruin your lawn, suffocate your borders, create havoc in your carrot beds, infiltrate your paving, climb over your fence and harbour a quantity of unsavoury characters, from roadents to roaches...

If I ask you to name a few weeds, I expect you'll list dandelions, bindweed, shamrock, brambles, nettles, thistles, ivy, lychens, certain creepers and grasses and a few others. Some will include the likes of renuncula, daisies, forget-me-nots and fern (understand: 'unwanted, unplanted plants that just happened to appear in my garden, against my will'). Some of you may even add those introduced/ cultivated species of late that have now spread onto canal banks and railway tracks: Japanese knotweed, budleia, etc.

Wild asphodelus

On the other hand, what is perceived as wild flora belongs to the botanist's realm, not that of the weed killer/ pesticide/ fungicide conglomerates. Wild flowers are studied, drawn, photographed and talked about in books, not mercilessly tracked down and eradicated; their rarest elements are protected as part of ambitious programmes of public awareness and habitat preservation. Wild flowers depict a romantic tableau of charm, beauty (even cuteness), authenticity, tolerance and acceptance. In terms of visuals, Heïdi's Swiss Alpine plateaux, or the setting of 'Little House on the Prairie' come to mind. Wild flowers are associated (but not limited to) edelweïss, digitalis, orchis, gentiane, campanula, saxifragia, fritillaria, etc.

Wild cistus

The boundary limit between weeds and wild flowers is often blurred. And both are a bone of contention for the gardener: the former are cursed and tracked down like sworn enemies (using traditional tools or the final solution of chemical warfare) while the latter are a mixed blessing (depending on the gardener, they can be cursed, tolerated, or a welcome addition). (to be continued)

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