As you know if you\’ve been reading along, last fall I attempted to soften the severe Yankee looks of our house by making a flower bed.
Our front porch rises about 2 ½ feet above the ground. Right where the foundation meets the dirt there was a scraggly old row of tiger lilies that had been invaded by Bishop\’s Weed. The orange blooms didn\’t look very good against the barn red of the siding, and I knew I didn\’t stand a chance of getting rid of the Bishop\’s Weed as long as it could grow into and around the lilies, so I decided to euthanize the lot.
In November, I razed the lilies to the ground, covered them in black plastic, and threw some mulch on top. By March, I felt pretty certain that the snow and ice and lack of light had done their deadly task. Just to make sure, however, I bought a truckload of “mulch hay,” the stuff that farmers sell cheaply because it is too old or moldy to feed to animals.
When you cut the strings that hold a hay bale together, it comes apart in neat accordion-like flakes, each about three inches thick. I covered the area where the tiger lilies and Bishop\’s Weed had last been seen with a three-flake layer of hay that reached a third of the way to the floor of the porch. Then I stomped everything down to make a deadly thick barrier against light and air.
A few days later, I was checking the hydrangeas for signs that they had survived the winter when I noticed something funny. The mulch I had put over the tiger lilies had risen like a loaf of bread, and was now even with the floor of the porch.
I went to investigate, and heard a crunching sound as I walked on top of the hay. I parted a couple of flakes and saw that the yeast that had caused the rise was none other than the tiger lilies which, undeterred by plastic, mulch, and hay, had heard the call of spring and were doing their best to reach the sun.
The leaves that were pushing their way under the hay were pale but turgid. I attempted to pull them up but the best I could do was twist and mangle them and break off the tops. My hands were wet with sap, and as I dug around under the hay I found the inevitable Bishop\’s Weed, waiting for the merest drop of sunshine to rise up and take over the flower bed, if not the world.
I must say I feel abashed by such drive, such joie de vivre among these ordinary plants. Shouldn\’t this kind of optimism and self confidence be rewarded somehow?
It should, but in me, not in weeds. I will continue to pull up every shoot of tiger lily and Bishop\’s Weed I find, while reminding myself to emulate the moral qualities of my vegetable enemies.