Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Carpet of Weeds

Just on the other side of my allotment fence there's a patch of nothing in particular.  As with most nothings, they're only really nothings from a distance: closer inspection always rewards the curious.  So it is that I happened upon this:

This is groundsel, or Senecio vulgaris or even old-man-in-the-Spring if you prefer.  It is considered a "common weed" which if I were a plant I would find hard not to take personally.  Nothing is really a weed in an absolute sense.  Weediness is relative.  There's much more to be said about this, but not just now.

What interested me was how this uncommon no garden plant happened to be growing in the aforementioned patch of nothing-but-not-really-nothing.  It's rooted itself entirely into moss-covered moldy carpet, seemingly quite independent of the soil beneath it.  I found this curious and wonderful and when I first happened across it a week or so ago thought I'd yank a bit recklessly from the soil, with enough roots to make the yank worthwhile, to repot it indoors, later to explore any herbal or other culinary uses it may have.  The 17th century proto-Enlightenment repository of botanical lore, Nicholas Culpeper's Complete Herbal (1653) describes groundsel as, "Venus's mistress gallant and universal medicine for all diseases coming of heat" and I challenge you to find so enticing a description of any "common weed" written this side of 1900 anywhere.

But then this happened:

It gone died on me.  The yellow buds fell off, the leaves withered.  Sensitive bugger, is our groundsel, mistress-piece of Venus it may or may not be.  Evidently a more careful extraction was required.  Today I made a second attempt, and found the plant so tightly woven into the fibres of the carpet as to make extraction without damaging the roots (presumably the cause of my previous failure) impossible.  I tore away a whole patch of surrounding carpet instead, leaving the roots as intact as I possible could, which left me with this:

It really was quite distinctly pretty; the greys and the greens, the life nourishing itself on decay.  On the underside:

I cut out a patch around the roots small enough to fit into a plant pot, and finished up with this:

I hope it lives.  I'll be sorry if it doesn't.  So sorry I'll actually go back and apologise.  It seems like the least I can do, though of course that isn't true.  The least I can do is nothing at all.  But it seems to me that the joy is to be found in doing as close to nothing as possible and still being able to call it something.

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A Walk in the Park
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