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My Favorite Weeds

Articles: My Favorite Weeds

Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber) lures you in with abundant blooms but will come to dominate your garden if unchecked. Photo: Ellen Zagory

I'm a gardener, but when I went to college, I did not study horticulture—I majored in history, intending to become an academic. When I earned a master's degree, I had lost interest in academia and decided that gardening would be a good way to earn a living. I landed a job as a gardener at U.C. Berkeley and eventually became a lead gardener.

Like most maintenance gardeners, I spent more time dealing with weeds than on any other task. Eventually I learned to enjoy weeding, a relaxing and meditative activity, and realized that weeds were a highly variable group of plants capable of spreading themselves by any number of ingenious strategies.  Almost all weeds are able to germinate, grow, and reproduce quickly anywhere there is bare or disturbed ground, and they have special abilities to thrive in particular, often extreme, circumstances. What’s more, I learned that weeds have a history, parallel to and intertwined with human history. I thought I had left the humanitie...


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