We rent a room on land, which happens to be attached to a little patio and big wild yard. Over the past year I have done countless experiments back there – nest composting, cardboard mulching, a weaksauce veggie patch, wild salad foraging, seed saving, spider husbandry, frog chorus appreciation, smothering vine annihilation – truly I could go on.
Overall, it is an exercise in my favorite type of gardening: Gardening By Deletion.
My foreign-born husband periodically gets to “be American” and rumble through the weedy expanse with a lawnmower, maintaining a large loop path. Along the path, I have attempted to exhume the “good plants” out from under the pokey vines that levitate out of the underbrush and coil around all and any available appendages.
Any plant with an interesting leaf or bark gets freed up so it can show what else it can do. They use the window of unburdening to bloom right quick, show off a seasonal color change, push out some tender buds. In doing so, they qualify for continued assistance in warding off hangers-on. A plant shall also be spared if it has delicious leaves or flowers.
A plant makes it onto kill list primarily if it smothers or has grabby seeds. There are few things more annoying than coming back from the yard covered in little barbed hitchhikers that cannot be laundered and only come out if meticulously picked at one by one.
Sometimes, however, it is hard to stick to my own deletion rules. Here is one plant, with whom I have had a kill/save relationship for over a year, and I do not even know its name. Lets call it Grabby Butterfly Weed.
We have A LOT of it, and during the winter, it coats our sleeves with barbed seeds from even the slightest of brushing-bys.
…But this time of year, it is swarmed with butterflies, bees and a gajillion other critters. Wasps build their nests in their lower stems, where they blend in with their dried leaves. Teenage lizards blend in perfectly with the top leaves. All major thumbs up.
So the moral of this story is that sometimes I just have to trim back something before it goes to seed instead of ripping it out entirely. There might be a metaphor for life in there somewhere?
Finally, I have no idea what this plant is – anyone know its name? Another metaphor?