A garden of weeden in the city



Sun shines and greenbrier grows. Rain falls; wild clematis riots. Summer is a bummer, and the honeysuckle out back is a noxious shroud.

Mary says, amiably, "A weed is just a plant in the wrong place." In the side yard, out of curiosity, she was tolerating two unidentified soaring objects; they were 9-feet tall when a recent storm knocked them over.

There is a subcategory of literature called gardens, or gardening. In its pharmacologically unreal prose, and artwork, all the world's abloom; nothing grows except the prim, the dainty, the perfectly behaved.

The Baltimore I live and struggle in is a thorny tangle of burdock and pokeweed, of mullein and creepers, of wild mustard and wild onion and wild grape and wild ageratum. Of plantains and plantains and plantains. No, I haven't forgotten you, poison ivy. Scram.

Anyone like to have a few of our million zillion dandelions? Bleeping greenery.

Somebody nearby has a walnut tree. There are squirrels. Every spring, with a hacksaw, I go out and assassinate another dozen volunteer trees.

I wasn't going to go into trees. Leave that for the neighbor whose Cadillac was pancaked by a parking-strip maple in the same July storm that flattened the weeds. Trees have a benign look and make nice shade. But before long, any tree is going to lose its balance. Meanwhile, they let ivy and even more sordid vines climb all over them. We have a venerable box elder, with a big corona. Bewaring tons of dropped bough, last year we had it pruned. So now the ground beneath receives unwanted sunlight. Behold, the garden of weeden.

What's the living worst? That master of hypocrisy (its pleasant smell) and the choke-hold, honeysuckle. You can almost see it grow. Nothing fair about the way plants fight. When you lower your guard briefly, tottering off to bed, out there in the dark they keep right on growing. A wisteria has penetrated the clapboards and is growing up the inside wall of our kitchen, right now. Stuff hasn't even the grace to bloom.

Maryland is spoken of as the Old Line State: a typographical error. Maryland's most typical plant (the black-eyed Susan? what a laugh) grows no thicker than your finger but as long as a vapor trail. We are the Bold Vine State.

Mary likes plants. She talks to them; she gives them water and tough love. She adds to their population, indoors and out. Do plants respond to her affection? Hah! Today, some small, stupid thing croaks; tomorrow, something large and loathsome will be crowding out the raspberries.

Mary is kind even to a plant-detester, offering me a line of vocabulary credit. Hibiscus! bergamot! coreopsis! veronica! montbretia! varieties of bulbous! as well as the outlaw species mentioned earlier. Good of her, saying to other gardeners that a man who can't tell red from green should be forgiven his inability to tell the legal flowers from the illegal, when mowing.

Mine greensward prospers. Up to about knee-level, at the moment. Lately it's been too hot for grass-cutting, too wet, too mosquitoed. But this summer my successes have included, on different days, getting stung by a squadronof wasps, cutting the electric cord, breaking the housing and thus the whole mower.

I have long admired the people of East Baltimore, the ones who pave their housefronts solid from door to street, and then solve the backyard question by paving that, too.

I have long admired winter, with its temporary slowdown in all that obnoxious undergrowth and redundant overgrowth. (Warning: a period of no respite comes. The dimpled smiling nature of so much idiot prose has taken offense at humanity's continuing misuse and disregard; rising winds, rains, droughts and tectonic shocks bespeak nature's real mood.)

Yet when the present summer stops burning, I do not kid myself that there will be peace. Mine enemy can be counted on to deliver one last, maddening onslaught. The trees, again. Those leaves, those whole hours wasted in raking and bagging and hauling.

' Bleeping brownery.


James H. Bready is a retired Evening Sun editorial writer.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad