The Persistence of Nature, by Tasha Halpert

Weeds and GridWhen I was growing up my father was an active member of our local Horticultural society. At the age of twelve I used to go to the meetings with him and learn about growing trees, shrubs and plants. In addition every year there was a Horticultural show late in the summer. There was a children’s division with cash prizes. This was exciting to me. One in particular that interested me was a prize given for gathering and identifying wildflowers.

Although I had a garden, it held nothing prizewinning. However the wildflower competition was an easy one because we lived amidst a great variety of them. Each year I scoured the surrounding fields and woods for the 25 flowers to be gathered and identified. Most other young people who entered the show were content to do something easier, so I had no competition and usually won first prize. As a result I gained a lifelong interest in wild flowers and to this day remember a lot of their names and even their properties, for my interest grew into a study of herbs as well.

My eye is often drawn to flowers growing in the wild. Recently I was traveling down 495 when a lone Brown Eyed Susan waved at me from the concrete divider. As I drove by the dark center surrounded with bright yellow petals seemed to wink. I wanted to stop and take its picture however the traffic on 495 is pretty steady and to pull over to the center srip in the midst of a busy stream of cars is to court an accident.

A seed had taken advantage of whatever soil had collected in a crack along the edge and sprouted this brave, solitary flower. Nature is opportunistic. Wherever enough grains of soil fill a crack in a manmade surface, Nature plants any available seeds. Openings within the pavement host all kinds of new life. Abandoned buildings and properties are soon festooned with green decorations eagerly seeking a place to grow.

There is a saying, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Certainly if the gardener is not vigilant, weeds fill up any empty space in a garden. Yet this also works to keep soil from blowing away. Poison ivy may be the bane of New England beaches, however it is one of the reasons the sand above the high water mark does not blow away. When the early settlers plowed up the prairies they lost the important topsoil that the grasses had kept in place.

I love the way Nature fills up empty spaces with greenery and flowers. Recently I noticed an evergreen hedge that had acquired a host of little white flowers courtesy of the bindweed that had decided to take root there. The small morning glory look-a-likes decorated the bland green hedge in a most complementary fashion. I rejoice that weeds are flowers too. As I pass by them, I enjoy the summer’s wayside offerings, and I thank Nature for its persistence.