As I work on garden clean-up, transplanting and moving of plants my mind is obsessed with both weeds and politics. One can’t turn on the news to learn about the fires consuming the West Coast, the economic costs of all the hospitalizations from the pandemic, the economy in anywhere but New York, Florida or Texas, because the latest political outrages dominate the airwaves. It is a lot like the plants that are taking over my paths and have hidden under the perennials. They are sneaky!
Weeds are plants we don’t want growing in our gardens. Many are great plants elsewhere for many reasons, but they have myriad and insidious methods of reproducing and hiding themselves in our gardens. They can overwhelm.
Some imitate the color and leaf shape of desirable plants, hiding until they are quite large and blooming, like chickweed in a sedum bed. Others grow up right next to the stem of a plant, totally disguised until the end of the growing season. Others wind around the stems of our plants, sending out branches with many inconspicuous flowers and seeds galore. Some drop thousands or more seeds that persist in the soil and germinate year after year, remaining viable for 50 years. Some blow in the wind and come up in bunches.
As I write this, a grey squirrel is planting acorns in the raspberry bed. Ants move seeds from low-growing flowers to their underground storage areas, ready to sprout if not consumed in the winter. Birds eat fruits and seeds from trees and shrubs; that results in fertilizer along with a softened seed casing ready to grow wherever it falls.
Bears and larger mammals eat berries and nuts that become plants that sometimes grow where we aren’t too happy about it. Our pets and other animals transport seeds in their fur and distribute them wherever their fancy takes them. We transport seeds on our feet and pants legs. Other plants grow by underground runners like quack grass; one node can grow 15 feet a year. The pretty little false lily of the valley has been my nemesis recently as I try to confine a perennial bed. The white roots grow in layers; as leaves fall and decay in shady areas, another lay of roots grows. There can be four to five layers of roots up to 8-10 inches deep and they are assertive spreaders.
Plants’ modes of reproduction are as numerous as politicians’ ways of spinning their tales. Some are smooth and artful; others are cunning and crafty; many are underhanded and wily; others, indirect. Underground runners sneak up on one. Weeds obscure their true design just like politicians can their real intention. One has to be as vigilant in weeding as in listening. Paying attention to detail is crucial; knowing how a plant grows helps one weed out the undesirables.
There is some saving grace with weeds; winter snows and frozen ground stops their growth and covers them up, giving us respite. Politicians never stop politicizing, even after elections. Gardening is a lot better for one’s mental health. Weeds will be here long after we and the politicians are no longer on this earth. They turn into prairies, woodlands, and swamps and eventually soil.
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