Mind games Posted on May 20, 2011

I give myself one point for an English name and two for a Latin one. Names of weeds, that is. I play silly mind games in my weeding time, or recite poems – or even sing songs. One of the games is categorizing my fellow gardeners into tribes or tendencies – of which those who enjoy weeding is, or so I’m told, one of the rarest. I don’t believe a word of it. Weeding is the very essence of gardening – and in May, when leaves are at their most aromatic, its most sensuous task.

There is, though, a clear division between those who relish perfecting an already orderly picture and those who are only happy tackling chaos. It is partly, of course, a matter of how many acres you command, but those whose idea of heaven is rearranging granite chips around a Lewisia are likely to be daunted by my idea of a great afternoon: pulling nettles, digging docks and gathering great sticky armfuls of goose grass (cleavers for one extra point, Galium aparine for two).

I worked my way this afternoon to an isolated and overgrown rose bush, a tall dome spangled with dishevelled pink flowers in a wide skirt of cow parsley (Queen Anne’s Lace, Anthriscus sylvestris). The scent reached me yards away, achingly sweet. I picked a flower (it is R. Californica plena) and asked a visitor what it reminded her of. ‘My mother’, she said.

No, weeding is the wrong word for the springtime editing of the flora that distinguishes a garden from a meadow.

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