It never really was about the weeds

The Art and Beauty and Soul of the Garden.  And of Ourselves.

I was at UUFE Autumn Weeding Day.  I was kneeling in front of a garden bed full of wiregrass.  A Zen moment before I attacked it with Ann Davis’s Japanese samurai mattock.

One Heavenly Bamboo left standing
One Heavenly Bamboo left standing

Kara, our Master Gardener, stopped by and helped me look up from the wiregrass to see and talk about our holly tree, the deodar cedars, and our majestic oak tree that shades half our parking lot.  “It will be dead soon,” she said.  Kara spoke of the Art and Beauty and Soul of our gardens.  And I thought of my own living and dying.

uufe trees

Then Kara helped me see that it was Heavenly Bamboo I was rescuing from wiregrass in the small bed before me.  She wrote Nandina domestica ‘Gulf Stream’ on a sticky note for me.  And she wrote “from Japan, evergreen, drought resistant.”

Kara wrote Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ on another sticky note and added, “Yucca is native, this is a cultivar.”  That mattered to me.  It endeared me to Yucca filamentosa.  And she wrote, “Yellow/green variegated evergreen foliage.”  My sticky notes were turning into college notes – a graduate course in master gardening.

gardening sticky notes collage

Then Kara explained with a mix of tenderness and firmness why she was directing me to rip out two of the Heavenly Bamboo and leave just one.

I set aside Ann’s samurai mattock while Kara described how we would work together for a denser planting in this bed.  With broad leaves to shade the wiregrass and crabgrass.  And how the weeds would stretch and strain upward through the darkness to reach sunlight a foot overhead.  “This will weaken them,” she said, “so they spread less vigorously sideways through the garden.”  I put away the mattock and used my bare hands to pull the most aggressive wiregrass that had a stranglehold on the baby yuccas.  I bowed to the rest of the wiregrass.  I thought, “You have met your match.  In time.”

Had I not heard rumors that Kara and her garden maintenance business are “soft on terrorism of the garden variety”? That she would not use nukes or Roundup?  Isn’t that unpatriotic?  But now I saw that she is Relentless for Good in the Garden, but in an agile, bending kind of way.  She knows the adversary so well that weeds are no longer adversaries.  They are also part of the Art and Beauty and Soul of the Garden.

heaveny bamboo and groundcover



Signing Up to be a UUFE Garden Caregiver

Kara was not out there recruiting, but I signed up with her anyway.  I am now the Garden Caregiver for the small bed shown on the Building & Grounds Committee inventory as “Bed to left of minister’s side door”.  But I will think of my garden bed as

The Bed of Heavenly Bamboo Facing West to the Pure Land


From the Garden I Receive

This is how I will be blessed for signing up as a UUFE Garden Caregiver:

  • I gain knowledge and skills from our Master Gardener that I can use to improve not only the UUFE gardens, but also my own yard and garden at home.
  • I get to know plants by name.  Expanding my Latin vocabulary!  Go ahead – ask me:  “What is Itea, Ilex, and Nandina?”
  • I learn to hold my samurai mattock in one had, not both.  I find a balance with all the living things in my Caregiver Garden Bed.  And the wiregrass still comes out on the short end.
  • I feel good about sharing the Art and Beauty and Soul of our gardens with our UUFE members and friends.

uufe garden 1


To the Garden I Give

This is what I will give in return – I am committed to:

  • Learn and understand our UUFE Garden Master Plan and my place in it.  Help turn that vision into reality.
  • Do a monthly check-in with my Garden Bed – face to face.  See how it’s doing. And tell it how I’m doing.
  • Consult often with our Master Gardener.
  • Take part in Spring and Fall UUFE Garden Days. Bring friends.
  • Sign up for the Summer Watering Calendar.
  • Step forward for occasional assignments from the Garden Task List.


uufe garden 3


It Never Really Was About the Weeds

Weeds?  I don’t see weeds anymore.

Read more about the work of our Master Gardener:  Carefully Wild since 2003

Contact Kara ( or me (Don, to get connected as a UUFE Garden Caregiver.

uufe garden 2

One response to “It never really was about the weeds

  1. Thanks, Don, for sharing – your blog post was interesting and gave me some new ideas for tackling those “not weeds.”

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