Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weeds are Plants: Two Stories and One Crazy(?) Idea

Today, I have two stories and one idea to share:

I have a family friend back in Reno who is incredibly talented in landscape design. She has received national attention for her gardens. Every time I see a weed, I think of the words she once told me as she walked around our backyard with my mom and me. Shocked by it's over-sized leaves and lack of blooms (at the time), I pointed out a large Hollyhock. I had mistaken it for an overgrown weed that had been skipped by our lawn guys. It was at that moment when Sharon told me something I've never forgotten, "What is a weed? A weed is simply a plant growing where you don't want it to grow!"

hollyhocks, godzirra style
Image Credit: Chris Corwin on flikr
Squire recently relayed a story about our friends' neighbor. I guess the Home Owner's association is constantly bothering this woman to get rid of the weeds from her front yard, which are spilling over into the sidewalk. Her rock lawns in both her front and back yards are completely hidden by large unruly plants. The woman who is a graduate student at the U of A, studying some science related field, always responds, "I'm confused. Which genus and species of plant did you want me to get rid of?" She refuses to accept weeds as anything other than plants. Seems a smart way to get out of yard work if you asked me! It has worked so far too - the home owner's association doesn't know what to do with her, because they can't come up with the names of the plants they'd rather weren't growing in her yard.

I love that idea that these two women have taught me directly and indirectly. The idea - that all weeds are simply plants, only growing in what we deem to be the "wrong" place. Maybe there is a more highly regarded place for weeds in our world, in our homes?

Yesterday, as we were driving along a dirt road, I couldn't help but notice the "weeds" springing up in the uncultivated dirt patches surrounding the sidewalks. The open dirt spaces were filled with bushes, trees and shrubbery not planted by any human hand. Some were quite cheery - with white, yellow, orange and tiny purple flowers, some were mossy and flat-growing, others were fern-like, some had lace-like leaves, and others were simply bushy grasses. Looking at them as plants, I was able to detect appealing traits about their shapes, colors and textures that I had missed before.  It was then the idea hit me:

What if, instead of spraying these so-called "weeds" with toxic chemicals to dry them to their bones, we made a special place for them instead? A place where they were actually wanted? What if I harvested these unwanted plants from no-man's land and planted them in a beautiful arrangement in a cheery planter? I wonder if I could make it look good enough that no one would question my garden's outcast composition?

It seems as though some have already had an idea similar to mine (all photos featured below are credited to Caitlyn Willows on flikr):

2011WeedShow


Weed Show Display

Weed Show Display


Weed Show Display

Weed Show Display

I'm very tempted to try to make a weed arrangement or to plant a weed garden of my own one of these days. I very well might.

Until then though, I'll keep the bit of wisdom I've come to realize in all my pondering about weeds. This idea of weeds simply being plants is a beautiful metaphor for human potential. Some people are viewed as weeds. Unwanted, nuisances, in the way. But, maybe before we spray those human weeds down to nothing, we should reassess our own perspective of them - maybe, their purpose and unique contributions only need to be shifted elsewhere? Maybe, a fresh change of environment would make the difference between their appearing an ugly weed vs. a blossoming work of art? Something about that rings very true to me.

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