Saturday, June 16, 2007


Was everyone out in the garden today?

The weed-whacker is my new best friend--and why? I am almost embarrassed to say, but the reason I am currently so enamored of it is that it whacks weeds. We have been using ours to mow the lawn, because we really don't have much lawn, and not to whack weeds, because the weeds in our yard put me more in mind of a scythe or a machete, or possibly a flamethrower, not a little spinning piece of oversized fishing line.

And you thought I was a gardener. Pshaw. I just like plants and dirt.

It was A.'s job to mow the lawn until last year, when she never got around to it. This doesn't have the result you might think, because at a certain point in the summer in the Mid-Atlantic, grass stops growing because drought sets in, while weeds keep right on keeping on. Last year we made the experiment of just letting them, and there are these sort of pretty sunflower-y looking little biters that turn out to create thousands and thousands of burrs per plant come October. The dogs bring the burrs in, they lodge in the upholstery and the blankets ... and socks!, do they ever prick in your socks! And outdoors the results are sort of what you might think--lots and lots of baby sunflower-y biters growing everywhere this year. I need to get me a guide to common weeds of SE Pennsylvania, that's what I need to do. The good news is that they're an annual, so we just need to keep 'em from going to seed for one season and they'll be gone.

So this year lawn care has fallen back to me. Which is okay, I guess. Today, I hacked down the lawn (it hadn't been mowed in oh, 5, maybe 6 weeks, and it is not the drought-afflicted part of the summer yet), then, whacker still abuzz, I looked at the rest of the yard, and thought, why not? Friends, it was a revelation. Pokeweed taller than my head toppled to the ground before me. What was looking like, well, a whole lot of weeds, was reduced to a gentle carpet of weed stems. The apple trees are discernible from the house again. Our yard is big for the city--a 40-foot wide lot that runs something over 100 feet deep--more than half the block deep. Some of it is beds and some is patio and some is something close to woods and a goodly chunk is raspberry and wild grape thicket, but enough of it is open to weed-whacking to make the ligaments in my hands feel like taught rubber bands by the time I'd finished buzzing everything down. I have a blister, too. I like it a lot. I worked hard today, and it still felt like shabbat.

Afterwards, I went to the pool all by myself while A. and Z. were napping. It was delicious.

The pictures are all of plants that are not weeds that are currently making me feel like it's worthwhile to spend time paying attention outdoors. Edited Sun. morning to add: on sleeping on it, I realized that in a properly informative gardening post, I need to identify my pics, weeds or not, so from the top: A fig tree grows in Philadelphia (the cultivar is Hardy Chicago for those of you wondering about zone and hardiness); The pumpkin vines that we planted sort-of accidentally in Z.'s digging box as a result of her last-October project of drawing on pumpkins with oil pastels and glitter pens; A clematis to satisfy even Z.'s purple jones; A Scarlet Emperor lily, which is actually about twice as sexy in real life, if you can believe it--why aren't we giving these to each other on Valentine's Day?


Magpie said...

I love this post! Several years ago, I bought a book called "Weeds of the Northeast". I love it. My sister, the horticulturalist, dismissed it and said "it's just a weed; it's not like you need to know your enemy". But I like knowing the enemy - I can mutter about it while I'm doing them in. HOWEVER, my diabolical weed - the Bishop's weed - isn't in the book! What's that all about?

S. said...

Magpie, in my weed-slaughtering yesterday I saw the first incursion of bishop's weed (I like calling in goutweed, but same thing) along the fenceline with my neighbors. It gave the a nasty shiver. I need to conference with them on a joint eradication strategy.

niobe said...

I'm madly jealous of your clematis. Mine had only six blossoms. Although that's a marked improvement over last season's single flower.

And what does bishop's weed/goutweed look like? You and Magpie have given me a healthy fear of it, but I realize that I wouldn't be able to identify it even if it took over my yard.

S. said...

Niobe, maybe next year it will take off?

I'll get you a picture of goutweed this week. It's rampant around here.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I'm not sure what goutweed is, but I'll see you one and raise you the Japanese knotweed peering across the drunken neighbor's yard at us.

Of course, we're covered in black swallowwort, so who am I to talk? Sigh.