Although it is only the beginning of May, the rising temperatures are a portent of changes to come. Before long, spring will be unceremoniously ushered out the door to make room for summer and its hellish heat.
To Ralph Waldo Emerson a weed was “A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” But horticulturist, Luther Burbank, believed that “A flower is an educated weed.” Of course, your definition of “weed” or “flower” will depend on your lifestyle and where you live.
For example, it would not be spring without the pink flowers Hubby calls Evening Primrose, also known as Texas Buttercup, popping up in grassy expanses like our lawns, pastures or along highways. Why are pink flowers called buttercups? Buttercups are golden yellow, or should be. Oh, never mind.
In suburbia, people enjoy the great outdoors by wasting weekends manicuring front lawn along with the bushes and trees du jour sold at every nursery and garden center. And let’s not forget those suburban backyards large enough for a swimming pool the size and shape of a hospital barf tray or a patio with outdoor kitchen.
The outdoor kitchen is the heartfelt desire of anyone responsible for keeping a clean home. With this new toy, they have the additional joy of cleaning indoor and outdoor kitchens. Oh, the blessings of owning stuff!
But we digress. The entire front lawn of an elderly neighbor lady sprouted Evening Primroses. Frantic neighbors doubled up on spraying their lawns with weed killers to discourage those “unsightly” weeds from taking up residence in their yards. Some contemplated a middle of the night spraying of her lawn.
One morning, the lady invited a few neighbors over for coffee. She mentioned how happy she was to see all those lovely pink flowers blooming in her yard. “My children used to bring me bouquets of those flowers when they were little,” she explained with tears shimmering in her eyes. Her story stopped the neighbors’ kvetching.
Having escaped the confinement and regimentation of suburbia, manicuring our lawn (as in several acres) seems a bit absurd. Wildflowers, including the Evening Primrose, pop up everywhere. Rather than fuss about some unplanned flowers disrupting the monotony of the grass, we simply enjoy them.
But even in the country some flowers, or at least what a city girl might consider flowers, can be unwelcome weeds to farmers and ranchers. To complicate things even further, just as with the Evening Primrose/Texas Buttercup the locals may call other so-called weeds by more than one name. Pity the confusion of former city folk who must navigate the intricacies country lingo.
The sight of a pasture filled with the huge white flowers of the milkweed plant is not only beautiful but also quite common out our way. In fact, Monarch butterflies love them and need them to survive. However, to the serious rancher, they are an unwelcome weed that takes over good grazing land, and cows will not eat it.
When the milkweeds appeared in the yard part of our property, ignorant at the time of their connection to the Monarchs, I tried to pull them up. Ugh! Those buggers fought with every root strand to stay put, and I ended up on my butt in the dirt. Then they leaked milky, sticky, icky stuff all over my hands that was difficult to wash off.
Another plant making its appearance in the spring is a purple flower that looks similar to the Batchelor’s Button. The farmers call it Ironweed. They don’t like that weed either. Again, cows will not eat them. They overrun the land, and they are tough to mow. It takes several passes with the mower before the stalks are completely gone.
The apparent nuisance factor of the purple flowers, the Evening Primroses, and other lovely flowers branded with the weed label does not mean everyone hates them. The seeds are available in local nurseries or by mail order. They are wildflowers.
If you do decide to plant wildflowers, just ignore the wailing and gnashing of teeth from your lawn-manicuring neighbors. Enjoy your yard covered with those pretty and colorful weeds, I mean flowers.