The Joy of Weeding

We all know that weeding is a chore, right?

We also know that a weed for one person is a flower for someone else. Or, as often expressed, it’s any plant growing where it isn’t wanted.


Some people don’t like ajuga in the lawn.
I do.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it better, describing a weed as “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” My favourite quotation about weeds, though, is Shakespeare’s contribution: “Great weeds do grow apace.”

And indeed, they do. Or, at least, this summer they have.


A very weedy flagpole stream
with an intriguing spot of red.

Generally, I’m not a neat and tidy person. I don’t have time to be, and most of the time don’t even want to be. I like genial chaos, as long as it’s not too chaotic.  But the border above is beyond geniality, even keeping in mind that it is a transitional border, marking the beginning of the trail that leads from the tended garden to wilder areas.

Last week I decided enough was enough. After several weeks when I have been out of town or simply out of the garden, I took the time to weed. To cut off seed heads. To tidy up. And (horrible to acknowledge), I found that I enjoyed the job immensely.

It was a nice sunny day, not too hot, with a gentle breeze. The garden was quiet and peaceful, and all alone I  could focus on what I was doing. There were no distractions. Bliss.
I enjoyed the physicality of weeding, despite knowing I’d suffer from an aching back. (I did. But it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected.) I enjoyed the view up close of what I normally see from farther away. I enjoyed the smell of nepeta as I crushed the leaves and the dark odour of black dirt. And I revelled in the sense of virtue and satisfaction with a job well done.
One of many piles. This one is mostly lady’s mantle and nepeta.
The lady’s mantle that should have been cut back a month or more ago finally was. Ditto for the nepeta “Six Hills Giant.” Comparing the before…
Lady’s mantle in the lower garden before the hair cut
with the after…
Much neater, and almost tidy
I am forced to acknowledge that I should have done the work weeks ago.
But delaying sometimes pays dividends. If I’d weeded that transitional border earlier in the month, I’d probably have pulled out the lobelia cardinalis that is blooming now.
lobelia cardinalis in the flagpole stream, so called because
(wait for it) there is a stream with a flagpole nearby.
I was delighted to find the lobelia. I started it from seed a few years ago and scattered several dozen plants in likely spots; it didn’t like my choices and instead has made its own. I’m happy with that. I’m less happy with the inula magnifica ‘Goliath’ that also blooms in the transitional border that I call the flagpole stream. (see caption above for the obvious explanation.) I started the inula from seed, too, in the years when I was teaching myself about plants. I don’t particularly like it but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. When it blooms, it adds a cheery touch of yellow that sparkles against the shaded space behind it. When it finishes blooming, I rush to remove the seed heads which I think are particularly ugly.
Inula ‘Goliath’ seed heads in the flagpole stream border
This year I didn’t cut them off. And I found, to my surprise, that up close they aren’t ugly after all. Still not beautiful, not even particularly attractive but interesting and worth examining. They look like old-fashioned mop heads.
This plant needs a haircut.
But I like the messy tangled look.

And on the subject of examining things:

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