Confessions of a Lenient Gardener


It is June and there are drifts of glory in my front yard. Unlike the uniform parcels of well-disciplined turf belonging to my neighbors, the variety of privileged plants that represent my unconventional lawn have formed a living map of ecological coexistence—and all with my approval.

Beneath the topsoil imposed by the developer, their roots explore the ancient heritage of weathered rocks and mellow volcanic soil and make some choices. Each in season displays its badge of triumph with its own parade of color and texture.

Jostling for space, the grass has given way in some places to a brocaded carpet of buttercups and patches of clover. Seeds of English daises, scattered inadvertently by passing birds, have elbowed their way into niches and claimed space. Purple violets whose seeds were catapulted from the flower border have adjusted to the hazards of weekly mowing and produce blossoms that comply.

Across this varied carpet, an ancient oak and white-barked birches splash shadows in a compass ark, and the games go on.

It is June and the buttercups are on parade with each of their golden blossoms poised identically on two-inch stems.

Among the weeds that eluded me this summer, were a half dozen thrifty, long stemmed dandelions (Agoseris glauca) that came uninvited into the garden that I share with the whims of sea and weather.

As soon as I saw them, by gardener’s code I resolved to expel them. They defeated me by sending out a shower of golden stars on tall, delicate stems—each a small miracle back-lit by the morning sun. I caught my breath in wonder.

“Later” I said, “before they scatter their seeds, but later.”

Then too soon they changed into myriads of pale balloons untangling their individual parachutes on the breeze.

While I watched, a swoop of small brown birds (pine siskins, I think) chirping their jubilance, gobbled them up for breakfast.

I hope that they left at least a few seeds to grow in my garden next year.