Monday, 23 February 2015


"Weeds are flowers too, when you get to know them", Winnie the Pooh.

Now I've done my share of pulling weeds over the years. The earliest memories are of a Glasgow back garden's crazing paving. That late 60s predilection for putting a hammer through perfectly serviceable cement slabs and then laying the shattered parts on top of soil. My small fingers being considered ideal for extracting the fine, fiddling meadow grasses. Even then, I was devising ways to make the job quicker and easier. Only to be caught and reprimanded. I probably shouldn't have employed the bone handled fork from the Sunday dinner service. There followed the part share in an allotment that had imported topsoil and an epiphany. Not all soil was the glutinous, evil-yellow boulder clay of the Clyde Valley. There actually was something called 'fibrous mould'. It too grew excellent weeds, only now they were easier to pull out.

Agricultural college followed, only now weed control became the domain of herbicides and spray booms. Addresses morphed, employers changed, still the undesirable plants grew, still, they required extraction. Industrial landscaping taught me the shortcuts, how to tease a client into believing they've got the perfect, weed-free, tidy garden. Organic vegetable production, the skill of crawling on your knees, extracting by the root a plant that's reluctant the give up it's hold on Mother Earth. I'll need these skills for my latest ploy.

Chickweed and fat hen, redshank and couch-grass, sticky-willy and fumitory. I've pulled them all. To this list, I can now add a few new ones. More exotic than poetical. Coconut palm and Date palm, Fishtail palm and Palmetto palm. The first is, fortunately, in the singular, as another nut crashes onto the fence, causing the metalwork to quake and vibrate. I shudder to think of the damage one of these might do to my head or a Merc's bonnet. Whilst the other palms shed a carpet of smaller fruit, that, evidence suggest have a magnificent germination rate. There's a forest of thin palmlets sprouting from the mulch covered ground. Plantlets that have a tenacious determination to stay living in the ground.

We're staying with my sister's family in Miami, Florida. A sub-tropical environ of Strangler Figs, Joseph's Coats and flowering orchids, an understorey for the forest canopy of palms.

I could have replicated my contractor's methods. Ripped off the surface vegetation, then covered the evidence with fresh bark mulch. It was after all, my standard method for countless commercial landscaping projects. The evidence of my deceit, recovering, creeping through the surface, months after I've fled the scene. This time I haven't the restraint of commercial expediency. I have time to do the job right, the time to enjoy the task. Even after all these years, it's strange how satisfying a weeding job can still be.

The aspect helps. A warm, balmy winter sun, swaying palm fronds, the lapping waves of a swimming pool. Maybe the last is an exaggeration, more a surge of agitation as the circulation pump suddenly switches on, resulting in sudden splash that has me convinced another coconut is trying to 'nut' me. Still, if we cycle the short distance down to the coast, we can find those waves, along with the fishing osprey, the wading egrets and the kite-surfing Adonis.

Which modifies that bears observation. " a rose in the potato field is as much of a weed as the potato in the rose bed".