Dandelions For Everyone!

dlfeOr are they wildflowers? One person’s bane is another’s cherished bouquet.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as the old saying goes, and so I am reminded by my three-year-old daughter as she erupts into screams of delight at the sight of our front yard abloom with a multitude of riotous dandelions. “Sunflowers!” she shouts. Eagerly, she recruits her two-year-old sister to assist in gathering a bouquet for Morn. Hand in hand, they dash about the yard, hardly knowing where to start, each sunny blossom as enticing as the next. After several minutes they return, each clutching a handful of twisted stems with golden heads, which they thrust into my reluctant palm.

“Put them on your desk, Mommy – in a cup of water in case they get thirsty,” my preschooler instructs me. I don’t have the heart to tell my daughters that their newfound treasures are only present on our lawn because their father applied the wrong kind of weed killer.

“I’ll bet there’ll be lots more when we come home tonight,” she tells me, unable to contain her excitement. She has no idea just how many hundreds more will appear. Certainly dandelions have a way of multiplying that defies logic. Indeed, our entire two-acre lot will soon be awash in a yellow sea, not a blade of grass visible to the eye, and our usually friendly neighbors will be secretly scorning us for contaminating the entire block with the invasive yellow flowers. The county Weed Board will probably want us to be the poster family in their “Control Obnoxious Weeds” campaign.

Over the course of the next week, my two darlings continue to delight in their morning garden-tending duties, beginning each day with a dandelion-picking session and happily bestowing their floral gifts on a succession of their favorite people: Daddy, Grandma, their day-care provider – even the family mutt. His kennel has never looked better than it does now, graced with a flurry of canary-colored blooms.

As we drive through town, going about our daily routine, our car is filled with shouts of glee as my little Dandelion Patrol Girls spy yet another yard filled with the glorious golden interloper. Elated at their good fortune in finding still more of the wondrous weed, they beg me to stop and let them gather a few more stems.

In their infinite capacity to simply enjoy life, my two young offspring gradually bring me to an attitude adjustment. “Why not take time to stop and pick the dandelions?” I finally ask myself. Who dictated that humans shouldn’t enjoy certain varieties of flowers unless they are properly contained? It was probably the idea of some chemical company seeking to increase sales. But the joy we take in a jolt of vibrant color after a long, gray winter shouldn’t be diminished just because some unknown arbiter of landscape fashion has decreed that a blush of gold spoils the look of a well-groomed lawn.

So, while my husband is consulting with the chemical expert at our local lawn and garden center, trying to determine what went awry in his carefully conceived weed-control plan, I have joined in the fun with my daughters. Together, we find new acres of dandelions to explore. My workday is brightened by five lemony blooms winking at me from a small jar on my desk, and I have a renewed, childlike appreciation for the natural beauty all around me. I am determined to slow down and take notice of all the simple pleasures nature has in store. The other day when my daughter filled her pocket with shiny pebbles she found in the driveway, she told me she found diamonds. And I believed her.
What’s a Weed, Anyway?

Whether you see a plant as a “wildflower” or as a “weed” depends mainly on your opinion of its food value or aesthetic appeal. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) defined a weed as “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” But for most of us, a weed is simply a plant that is growing somewhere other than where we think it “belongs.” If dandelions are flowers, many might argue, why not cultivate them in cutting beds? If they are so nutritious (see Country Remedies in this issue), go ahead and farm them. Just keep them off the lawn! In “Inversnaid,” the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) voiced a more tolerant view. “What would the world be, once bereft/Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,/O let them be left, wildness and wet;/Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

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