Thursday, May 9, 2013


This strange world of ours where we strive for perfection and overlook or seek to destroy the imperfect. From a botanical standpoint, there is nothing that can be described as a weed. From any other perspective, a weed is something growing where you don't want it to grow. It's easy to find the weed in this photograph. But in a forest this maple seedling would be right in place.

Weeds seem to pop up where we don't want them but in the urban environment weeds can be a thing of beauty. I am drawn to the healthy form of "specimen" weeds that propagate at the sides of buildings, from cracks in the sidewalk, or where pavement meets wall. 

But it's not just the illicit pestiness of weeds that makes them beautiful in the eye of this beholder. Maybe it's because they can thrive on very little, in corners, on gravel, in hot, dusty, shady or overly sunlit spots. Weeds take on the environment and do with it what they can.

Most of our crop plants originated as "weeds." They are opportunistic fast growers that like disturbed soil and can withstand bright sunlight and dry conditions. At least that's how they started out. Today's pampered crop plants need plenty of attention, water, fertilizer, and pesticide for them to perform. Maybe when we've pampered them to extinction we'll find new crop plants from the hardy weeds that survived. Here are a couple of examples of "weedy" plants that we treasure as horticultural landscape elements. Would you believe the magnificent tree fern and water lilies could be considered as weeds?

I was in Sri Lanka for five wonderful weeks, a world with a very different concept of "perfection" from our own. One day I visited the ancient miniature stupas of Kantharodai, in the far north of the country. The keeper of the site was busy weeding the monuments.

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