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What's in the Weeds?

Months of long rainy weather means that more than the usual amount of weeds have popped up all over the garden this year. I use a lot of mulch in my growing beds, so the weeds there haven't been a problem. However, in the strawberry patches, between the paving stones, along the edge of the road, throughout the gravel driveway, among the blueberry and currant bushes, in the mint patches, and on and on, there certainly are a lot of uninvited plants. Oh, yes, and all through the lawn...and....for a garden that claims to be relatively weed free, there certainly are a lot of them!

Last year when we made our new pathways, I planted creeping thyme between the paving stones. My intention was to keep all the weeds away and allow only this soft, fragrant, low-lying herb to wander. Thyme has long been my favourite ground cover for between pavers.

Wild chamomile came along and started breaking through the same soil. This is a weed that I use frequently in my products so I had no choice but to invite in the chamomile to live side by side with the fledgling thyme. Not long after, clover began to grow there, too. I have a soft spot for clover because the pollinators do love it. I use clover, as well, in my skin balm. So that, too, was spared the trowel. Suddenly my stone pathway looked and felt nothing like my vision. To the unknowing eye, it really does appear to be a mess. This year, the plantain has exploded everywhere. I use plantain in skin balm and soap, but there is enough elsewhere, so I haven't let it stay. Let me rephrase that: I don't want to let the plantain stay.

When I begin harvests of wild chamomile, I feel one way. Then, as I spot-remove the plantain (and the clover, too. I decided it has to vacate the premises of our walkways), my emotions run in another direction. Peculiar. I find myself transitioning from tranquility to irritation and insecurity.

My garden is not of the manicured kind. Far from it. My paradise is a working garden. I am a working mother. I don't have time for such a clean garden or yard. Plus, my gardening philosophy encompasses habitat creation, and a PNW yard needs to be akin to a jungle to provide this. This makes the negative feelings that come to the surface all the more surprising to me.

I don't dislike weeding. It's quite relaxing, actually. Yes, I have other more pressing tasks, but removing weeds is like surfing the web: hours can go by without even noticing. There is a lot of immediate gratification involved, too. So, what is the problem?

clover allowed to grow in yard to use to make soap and skin cream

As we live in an age of comfort, I think that as a society, when looking back, many of us identify far more with the landed nobility than with the peasants that the majority of us descended from. Let's look at that. The nobility had gardens. They had manicured pleasure gardens and lawns. But they employed gardeners who did all the work. The landed nobility had far, far more than a just a healthy dose of self respect. The nobility had status. Their gardens served as spaces for enjoyment and escape but also as symbols of a family's importance. The better kept the grounds, the higher the honour bestowed.

Do I have plantain growing up in the cracks in my driveway? Yes? I must be worthless. Are there dandelions or even worse, furry cats ears, flaunting yellow flowers all over my yard? Yes. How culturally low and impoverished I am. Are there buttercups growing throughout my strawberry bed? Yes? I sure do hope they're well camouflaged. If someone sees those, they are going to realize that my kids will grow up just as children of bad mothers do. I imagine that every weed in my garden whispers to some people, and yells to others - especially anyone I admire, who is going to walk all the way up to my front door - the truth of every last flaw I possess and all those that I attempt to hide. Perhaps I am exaggerating. But perhaps I am not. I doubt that I am speaking only for myself here. It is amazingly mind boggling how the human mind cartwheels freely over to negative self talk.

I do think that for those who love to garden, this is the main problem with weeds. (If you don't like gardening, you aren't going to like any of the jobs. You might be laughing at us. Again, front of mind is my friend who likens missing a garden to longing for the vacuum cleaner). The voices we assign to the unwanted garden volunteers could be enough to keep us out of the garden altogether. I can't count how many times I have heard someone mention that for weeks they have been putting off tackling their weeds. Too much notice of the weeds and you might not be able to look in the mirror lol.

Most of us don't have personal gardeners to maintain our ideal landscapes. Obviously, we cannot pull out every last weed. Every weed left standing is a flag flying, shouting out our deficiencies to the world. The larger our garden is, the more we expose. And after a while, as gorgeous as the garden is to others, there is the possibility that we can't see the beauty of our own realms. We can't see the pretty flowers and nourishing veggies, for the weeds. The more lush and abundant the garden, the more there is to dismay. We begin to apologize profusely for the yards into which we have poured our love and attention. We don't want to share.

Can we stop this track? I am not sure. We can look at the weeds differently. Just as we can attempt to see a child as his own person, finding his way while making mistakes and being naughty. Just as we try to not wrap up our pride and identities in the deeds of our children, we can do the same with each volunteer in the garden. Each weed is a life. Just like the plants we picked. Can we admire their shades of green? Can we enjoy their blooms, too? Before our eyes will they become graceful in form? Some will even have gifts to offer that might can make them downright valuable neighbours.

In the spirit of turning a loving eye to my entire garden, I have interspersed this post with images of weeds that have helped me out. May we all learn to live with what we can't remove.

Wishing you a relaxing week ahead,


Slow Botanicals are available at


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