We’ve had a good rainy season in Oakland so far, and the plants leave us in no doubt as to their enthusiastic approval. Most of the rains haven’t been particularly heavy, but the accumulation has worked wonders. Even our new favorites, the drought-tolerant plants, look particularly good. “They are, after all,” a friend points out, “not drought-loving, just drought-tolerant.”
There’s also a great effusion of seedlings. Some of them are welcome. I have masses of California poppies coming up in the bark paths of the back garden. (They will have ivory-colored flowers. I love the orange ones, too, just not in my garden.) On the one hand, their profusion is a great thing. On the other, where does one walk, much less drag heavy objects? I’ll be forced before long to make some hard decisions about which parts of the paths I can surrender to them and which I will have to reclaim.
And there are always the weed seeds, waking up bright and energetic after the rains: varieties of grasses, oxalis (some from bulbs, some from seeds), dandelions, thistles and thistle look-alikes, and a score of things I don’t even have names for. One of them makes quite a beautiful rosette of leaves, from which a short, wiry stem will rise in a few weeks with tiny white flowers, to be followed by seed pods that explode on touch, firing the next generation in all directions. Their first year here, I was seduced by their seemingly innocent green charm. Not any more!
Lots of work to do, but I am not alone among gardeners in finding that weeding has its pleasures. After several weeks when it was too wet to be doing much out of doors, a few dry days this week let me get back in touch with the soil. Quite literally in touch, since many of the weeds are still so small that you can pull them up only with bare fingers, and you come back into the house with dirt under your nails—lovely dark brown garden dirt that still smells faintly of rain and prompts you to imagine all sorts of garden splendors in the months to come.
The physical activity is part of it, too, particularly for some one who spends too much time sitting in front of a computer, trying to navigate the half-understood technical substructure of something like this blog or get a half-formed idea to grow up into a page or two of prose. Even the aches and pains that follow me back into the house are welcome in their own way as reminders of the pleasures that led to them.
Another thing about weeding is that it gets you right down in among the plants, where you see things you would have missed otherwise. If some of these sights are less than pleasing—some new and particularly well-rooted pest, perhaps—others are delights, like the first sighting of the newly-sprouted checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris). This is my third or fourth try at them, and the first time I’ve at least gotten some healthy looking plants.
And, of course, weeding provides a great sense of accomplishment. You can look back over the ground you’ve covered and revel in its restoration to something more like the way you wanted it to look, planned for it to look, and still hope for it to look. There’s nothing quite like it for letting you see exactly what your labor has accomplished. Of course, it’s also true that as soon as you’ve put your tools back in the bucket, you will turn around and see some blades of unwelcome grass right under your nose. Impossible to explain how you missed them! Never mind, there’ll be another day of weeding—or maybe, if you can get just the right grip on it, you’ll be able to pull the offender up right then and there and get a little more wet dirt on your fingers.
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