Beauty in the Eye
Updated: Jun 29
Last weekend, I received a late-night text from my friend Terri. You may remember her from some of my other blogs. We've been friends for over a decade now -- my! how time flies! -- and as my lifelong love of flowers has grown, hers has seemed to come to life. We had spent much of that day together, catching up on news of our families and lives, and walking around at a local garden center, seeing what was available at this point in the season. As often happens after we've spent hours in conversation, one or another of us will reach out by text with a note of appreciation, an addendum to our previous chat, or an "I forgot to tell you."
On this particular day, Terri had gotten home to find a newly-blooming and unfamiliar plant in her backyard bed. Terri is a researcher -- a Googler extraordinaire. If she doesn't know something and has the slightest desire to acquire the information, she looks it up. This is so not me. I often find myself red-faced, embarrassed when someone prompts me to "find it on YouTube." Oops! I, ummm, forgot that was a thing! Regardless of the fact that I chastise my 17-year-old son practically weekly that we have provided him with a very nice hand-held computer that he never goes anywhere without ... and that he should use that cell phone to find out why a 6-cylinder engine is more efficient than a motor with 4 cylinders, or how changing the rims on your car is much more manageable when you are replacing your tires than 10,000 miles after those new tires have been installed.
Yes! I digress!
So Terri had come home to find this lovely (arguably) yellow-blooming plant in her flower bed. Using an app to identify the plant, she not only learned that the bloom was Goldenrod, Kentucky's state flower. "Apparently," she texted me, "most people consider it to be a weed."
Ahh, Terri. It's a legitimate gardening topic, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
When I was 7 years old, my family flew from our home in Texas to Lexington. From the airport, my father drove me, my mother and my younger brother to our new house in rural Jessamine County. We pulled into the driveway in our rental car well after dark and my father left the headlights on, shining deep into the lot that comprised our six acres. Never will I forget standing on that gravel driveway, looking out into the field beyond the mowed backyard. The headlights were illuminating a field of yellow blossoms -- a backyard of goldenrod. Later, people would tell me those flowers were simply weeds -- something to be mown down or even poisoned. But that night, I was filled with wonder because Daddy had bought me a field of flowers!
Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and that perception is all the difference between what is called a "weed" versus a "plant." Often a more desirable plant is one that is cultivated, whereas one that is indigenous to the area, or grows without obvious human intervention, is often referred to as a "weed." If I told you a field daisy was a wild flower, would you prefer to have it in your landscaping as opposed to the same field daisy that I said was a weed?
The wild violet, which grows prolifically in my yard, is a plant I treasure. Throughout the years, I've dug the pretty purple- or white-blooming plants and transplanted them into pots or landscaped areas of my yards. My older daughter now follows suit, making sure to have several large, pampered wild violets residing in her own portion of our household gardens.
When I garden for others, I often ask the homeowner if they prefer wild violets to be treated as welcomed plants or weeds. Sometimes I can easily guess the answer without asking the question, of course. But you never know. One client who has curated the most eclectic collection of plants I have the pleasure to work around, asked me not to pull the violets from her beds. In fact, the violets receive every bit as much star-attention as the other plants, with their own plant markers.
Recently, in a Facebook group which I follow, I saw a post by a newbie gardener asking whether the sweet-looking wild violets could be transplanted to and cultivated in pots. A few gardeners were quick to respond that Newbie shouldn't try to propagate wild violets -- that they are invasive and should be eradicated. Others suggested that the only thing wild violets are good for is making jelly. I was relieved to see, however, some kinder, gentler responses, reminding us all that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if Newbie enjoys wild violets, why shouldn't she grow them wherever she wants.
Now, speaking of beauty in the eye ... Over the past two weeks I have weeded a thousand cress plants, and of course they had already gone to seed. If anybody has any any suggestions on how to handle cress so that the seeds don't pop into your eyes like hot popcorn kernels in a pan without a top, I'm all ears! Or I guess you can find me in the garden, wearing the safety goggles left over from my daughter's high school chemistry class. (Now THAT will be truly beautiful!)