By DAVID GREEN
Some friends stopped by for dinner one night last week and they wanted to look around the yard. These are people I generally see in the woods. That’s where we meet.
Since they’re the woodish type, I figured they can handle my yard OK. It’s far from manicured.
You start off with a member of the umbelliferae family right there in the front. It’s obviously a cousin to chervil and parsley and wild carrot. I was pretty sure it was sweet cicely. My friends were pretty sure it was water hemlock.
I’ve spent half an hour trying to figure it out tonight. Do the upper leaves have distinct blades? Are they pointed at the apex? Do the fresh leaves have a nauseous taste?
That last question could help identify the plant as poison hemlock. That’s what it looks like to me. Did someone slyly plant this stuff in our front garden hoping we would mistake it for parsley?
Maybe it is parsley, but maybe I would die like Socrates trying to make the determination. It was one of those items coming up that you aren’t really sure about, but it looks interesting, the tiny flowers are attractive, you let it grow.
There’s a lot more to see.
Take a few steps south and you come to the milkweed. This isn’t the native stuff you find everywhere. It’s a more attractive garden variety, I suppose. It all depends on what you like. I find the flowers of common milkweed uncommonly beautiful.
OK, let’s round the corner of the house. What’s that down the row? Why it’s common milkweed. My wife has been so kind to allow me to grow a small patch in back, but this is a new volunteer, and this is why normal people don’t purposely grow plants such as milkweed and poke. Fortunately for the milkweed, I’m not normal.
Milkweed is the star attraction anyway, because one of my friends is pointing out how to look for monarch butterfly eggs on the bottom of milkweed leaves. We discovered that I’m rich in monarch eggs.
I’m wealthy in other respects, too. Walk into the back yard and discover that my lawn is actually a plantain research station. We’re growing lots of them, but not by choice. They just like it here and no Round-Up has stymied their growth.
I’ve spent two or three hours pulling them in recent weeks, but I don’t have enough free hours to get the job done. Besides, they’ve dropped their seed. They’ll be back. So I’ll pull a few dozen more next year. It’s a relaxing pastime.
There’s some tall weedy stuff on the way to the back. I don’t know what it is, but ants are very fond of it. The darn mulberry is coming back again, along with the dreaded Siberian elm. I see you can get rid of that stuff with a regular regimen of prescribed burning.
Next comes the red horsechestnut with all the broken branches. It was so heavy with fruit that branches have been snapping. Over alongside the back steps is where I once tossed a honeylocust pod. Now I have a small tree that I cut every so often. The thorns are real leg catchers.
Here, also, is my most impressive mullein. It’s now about 6-foot-6. Another “weed” my wife allows. She’s kind in that way.
Next to the garage is a waferash, a unique tree that grows along Bean Creek. Below is a patch of wilted sweet joe-pye, next to a volunteer redbud.
This is our former vegetable garden. It now has lamb’s quarters, a mint, ragweed and more milkweed. There’s another volunteer redbud along the fence.
Over in the far corner by the weather instrument shed, a lovely patch of Queen Anne’s lace is thriving. My wife hasn’t mentioned that. I don’t think she goes back there. We have motherwort and some nasty thistle that needs pulling.
There’s the walnut tree that arrived on its own. It shows beautiful, symmetrical growth, but it’s got to go. Perhaps this fall I’ll get out the saw.
Then comes our vegetable garden where a rabbit gnaws down the broccoli, the lamb’s quarter grows tall and purslane serves as a living mulch. We should be eating the stuff. It has everything from vitamin C to omega-3 fatty acids.
Well I guess that’s the bulk of my yard. There’s also my wife’s yard. That’s the nice one you see as you walk by, trying to ignore all the weeds that I grow.