Only the lowly

Those of you who read my column in the actual paper or who possess the secret key for reading it online (here — but it’s not there yet) whenever I don’t repost it, know I got on a soapbox last week about the hideousness of lawn chemicals and the beauty of the weeds those chemicals kill. And just this week at a Plantiful talk in Seekonk, MA I got a baited question from an attendee. She asked with a little glint in her eye, “How do you feel about dandelions?”

You already know the answer: I love them! I occasionally evict dandelions from the garden but I love them-love them-love them in the lawn. And actually, even though in theory I hate my lawn and wish it would be magically transformed into garden by elves in the night, I appreciate how it frames my garden. But only because it’s a colorful frame. Bring on the dandelions, violas, and creeping Charlie. (Yes, even that.) If the grass were devoid of these lowly “weeds” as some lawns are, I would more actively despise and eradicate it.

IMG_5433I honestly don’t know why dandelions still get such a bad rap. We all know now how they provide the earliest and most consistent source of nutrition for honeybees and other pollinators. We like that they’re native (to almost everywhere in the world). And their young greens are packed full of vitamins and on every foodie’s menu.

Violas are edible too and although they’re not much visited by pollinators, their foliage hosts fritillary butterflies (the caterpillar stage). Wouldn’t we all love seeing more of them flying around? Viola sororia, the blue straight-species and variant gray “Confederate violet” are Rhode Island’s state flower. Poisoning them (and yourself, children, pets, and nearby wildlife) with chemicals is decidedly un-patriotic.

Creeping Charlie (a.k.a. ground ivy or Glechoma hederacea) has very few redeeming qualities. It’s edible but not particularly delicious. It isn’t native here, supports no wildlife that I know of, and it spreads altogether too promiscuously into the garden. But I can’t help loving its  purple stains in the grass and how it and the clover remain healthy during summer droughts.

I’m lucky that Z seems to lack the (dude-specific?) gene that controls lawn care and mandates Fenway greenness, which of course, isn’t “green” at all. I’m also lucky that he doesn’t mind mowing periodically to sharpen our garden’s colorful frame.

How do you feel about dandelions?

3 thoughts on “Only the lowly

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with dandelions. I love them for all the above reasons but I dislike the elongated flower stems which seem to grow four inches overnight. But then you have to admire that don’t you? Dandelion seedheads are beautiful and fun. At least I can ‘eat the view’ if necessary.

    Layanee, I didn’t realize that the seedheads are called clocks because you can tell the time by how many puffs it takes to blow them all away! Maybe Hailey already knew that? -kris

  2. Dandelions are a bit too enthusiastic for my taste. Ditto for Selaginella and other taprooted flowers. The Dandelions that grow in the mountains here seem to be less agressive and have nicer, showier flowers that what shows up in the lawn. The foliage is nicer, as well. Viola sororia is much nicer than the smaller darker species which show up in the lawn, but the latter are more fragrant. No matter what it is though, it is hand weeded out, with the exception of Convovulus arvensis, which gets put inside a ziplock baggie and sprayed with Glyophosphate to keep it from getting out. I don’t like spraying it when it can aerosolize. Am I the only one who can taste these herbicides in my mouth in an area after they are sprayed? Yikes.

    Ugh. Bindweed is a scourge and plague. And I’m quite sure you’re not the only one who can taste poison on the breeze! Ugh again. -kris

  3. Love this article, and dandelions. Unfairly maligned. Yes the seed clocks look a bit messy, but I keep them in the lawn as part of a mixed ground cover. Along w creeping Charlie, strawberries and everything else.

    Yay! Thanks, Buntyskid! -kris

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