Saturday, April 14, 2012

In Defense of Dandelions

On several occasions, when I was young, I brought my mother a bouquet of the yellow flowers I found in my yard. Together, we filled a brandy snifter with water, added the short stems, and put the resulting display in a place of honor: the center of the dinner table.  It would remain there until the blooms wilted, usually only a day or two later.

dandelions in bloom
Stock photograph from here via Google.

I must have learned that dandelions are supposed to be weeds from a book, perhaps one where the young protagonist obtained summer employment in a dandelion-pulling enterprise, because my parents never cared about whether our lawn had dandelions or not.

After we moved when I was in third grade, our lawn boasted patches of brown dirt and brown grass. Occasionally, there would be a patch of purple-and-green ajuga-- my mother's nemesis, as it spread rapidly and encroached on her carefully-tended patches of shade-loving flowers.  Every spring, my father would embark on another project designed to coax grass to grow in spite of the shade, and there would be patches of turquoise grass seed that we were cautioned to leave untrodden to grow.

purple and green ajuga leaves
The previous owners thought the ajuga was pretty, and it is. It's also a menace. From here via Google.

I only cared about where I could walk in bare feet. The patches of soft sand, the smooth stones, the mossy bricks, and the hated ajuga were kind to my feet, but the grass was always too prickly, and the rain-ridged dirt camouflaged acorn tops-- which were, in turn, better than the asphalt, which absorbed the summer sun and required young feet to run over it on tip-toes.  I avoided the forbidden patches of grass seed in hopes that lush green foot-friendly grass would sprout.

Someday, my fiancĂ© K and I will have a lawn, too, and I don't care what it looks like.  I think that like my parents before me, I'll leave my lawn to (mostly) its own devices in hopes that one day, I will get bouquets of dandelions from my own children.  I've considered putting in patches of chamomile and other herbs, suitable for small feet to step on, if I can figure out how to encourage them to grow without invading the neighbors' yards*.  After all, if I wanted a perfect bright green lawn made out of chemicals, I would put in Astroturf.

*Ajuga, I am looking at you.

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