Tag: weeds

This Is How My Garden Grows


From Mary Valle’s blog, Killing the Buddha

People have been asking me for years about my garden. Being a bit contrary, I refuse to answer. Frankly, I’ve been of the opinion that gardening is for jokers—but I was so wrong. Go ahead, ask me how my garden grows.

It grows like this:

1. Here’s a hell strip, bane of the urban gardener’s existence. Also known as the “parking strip” or “incredibly bad urban planning idea,” this shabby little plot of rocky soil is usually left to weed.


Nice one, planning masterminds.

2. This “bed” is also subject to dog presents, salt in the winter, and the occasional red Solo cup. Weeds truly are the broken windows on the sidewalks of life. A few months ago, I decided to do something about my hell strip.  I put in a bunch of plants, not knowing which were going to take. Turns out: they all did.


Welcome to the jungle, babies. We’ve got fun and games.

3. The microgarden needed a pinch of pizzazz in the form of a few miniscule tchotchkes. I like the idea of a St. Francis or Buddha, but neither of them in particular. Here’s what I did:

A. Acquired small plastic Joan of Arc.
B. Broke a takeout chopstick in half, and,
C. Hot-glued it to the bottom of the Maid.

This patch isn’t a mere curbside getaway. It’s the Joan of Arc Victory Garden. Greet my patroness:


La pucelle.

Wild Gardening: Learning From Something Toxic

Photo by Cynthia Zanti Jabs
The author’s beautiful, but deadly, Poison Hemlock. Photo by Cynthia Zanti Jabs

When I leave my gardens behind for summer adventures, I try not to think too much about what I’ll find when I get back. This year that’s going to be hard to do. Because I never planned to grow what grew in my garden last year. Really.

That spring when I was clearing weeds to make way for this year’s vegetables, there was one I couldn’t bring myself to yank out. It was a neat little tuft of parsley shaped leaves. Very different from all the familiar vines I was pulling. I thought it might be from one of last year’s carrots. I decided to let it grow and find out.

There are lots of weeds that look like carrots, my elder sister warned. I didn’t care. I always have loved wildflowers. I started learning their names before I could read.

This one kept on growing and so did my attachment to it. I loved the symmetrical whorl of its stems, the vivid green its leaves held onto through weeks of drought. I started to imagine I might harvest some kind of lovage or ligusticum for an herbal decoction. Or, at least, some salad greens.

Then, in late spring, we got one of those phone calls that rearranges the landscape. My wonderful father-in-law had just died. A massive heart attack. Totally unexpected. Doctor told him his heart was just fine the day before it happened.

We were away most of the next two weeks. And when we were home we weren’t paying attention to the garden.

When I finally got round to it, the little plant I’d spared had shot up eight feet and blossomed. Bunches of little white flowers hovered over a massive clump of feathery leaves. It was just stunning and I loved it.

It wasn’t til I peered deep into the thick of it that I noticed blood colored blotches on its stems. That’s when I knew this had to be Poison Hemlock. The stuff Socrates was famously sentenced to drink for “corrupting the youth” with his mind-bending questions. My favorite part of that story was how he supposedly kept conversing with his students while the toxins slowly killed him. I couldn’t stop staring at those spots, as if staring might make them disappear.