A Little About Gardening Touches A Lot About Life

So what Does a Dandelion Have to Say? The one above looks a bit forlorn considering the mention of the Balance of Nature.

The tiny seeds are part of a small army the plant sends off into the world. Dandelions are not taking over the world or anything, but they did get me thinking of things that are or prove detrimental in one way or another. One seed sent me on a journey through thought and into a world of bigger questions.

The seed above is all about balance. The balance of nature, balancing of time left in the year, the balance of how all organisms live with and affect one another; or out-compete their neighbors, a dandelion specialty. They produce in such high numbers that it is hard not to notice their existence.

The fact they are so disliked in our lawn and landscapes, helps keep their numbers in check, at least where we don’t want them. Some do it organically with corn gluten or digging willpower, while many do it with herbicides containing 2,4-D, MCPP and dicamba. Either way dandelions are on the receiving end of a lot of herbicide, a virtual warfare on their existence. But they prevail and still keep new ones plentiful.

Sheer and excessive numbers of anything implies that there is not balance or a harmonious order. It also pretty much guarantees warfare in one way or another.

Whether it is the lowly dandelion, or it is people over stepping their bounds, whenever too many assume a home not their own, a conflict develops. Just read the daily headlines of Israel and Gaza if you think to turn a blind eye.

One might think to say, what if the whole world was made up of caring gardeners? Considering gardeners are the worst at deciding what stays and what should be eradicated, I would question that too.

The equilibrium paradigm is rare in nature because environmental determinants and biologic competition cause instability, uncertainty and at worst upon reaching a climax, chaos.

So what does “balance of nature” mean if it means anything at all? It is such an ethereal thought. Nature is all that we see and know, but that is precisely the problem.

The term ‘nature’ is a social construct and very vague as defined by mankind. We determine what is allowed and what is not. We feel entitled, even compelled to control and shape the world’s ecosystems, both big and small. What we easily control is gardens, the very thing we lovingly call and generalize as nature.

Ironically, gardening is an unnatural activity, a social construct. It is a group of plants in an unnatural order. As much as many try to do good for the environment and creatures, we are still shaping with what we deem allowable.

We are creating space that nature would not create. Introducing species new to habitats, and reforming ecosystems. If a dandelion was inherently virtuous, it would be anything but a weed, certainly it is a matter of perspective. Ironic, since it is food and sustenance to some, medicinal to others, and vehemently hated by many.

It is our collective attitude towards what constitutes a ‘pest’ that needs reconsideration, mainly because pests require pest control. That presents a dilemma for those caring for the environment. It is a moral dilemma in areas around the world deeming certain people in the same regard.

The dandelion has an amazing ability to live just about anywhere in the world, barring those of extreme temperature, but has a preference for the temperate climates of the Northern hemisphere.  Quite a feat for a lowly weed. The dandelion inhabiting places it did not originate seems to be why it became successful also. How did it get here? By people who saw value in it.

Dandelions are resistant to many types of herbicides and rarely are bothered by pest or disease. They will thrive in almost any soil condition, even the worst of waste and disturbed soils. Not every plant is as tough as a dandelion.

Maybe the lesson the successful dandelion is teaching is to select plants that thrive and survive where you live, indigenous or not, that make peace with the climate in which they live. This thought is not a new one, but one to consider in making the gardens of our future. Extrapolate that thought to the world and would we be in this same contentious predicament all the time?

So back to balance. If the dandelion lives so prolifically and can self pollinate, along with being pollinated by insects, does that mean it has become a plant out of control in nature? How does nature put the brakes on anything out of control?  It has its own processes in which to do this.

Nature is always adapting to meet a climax, and thresholds are constantly modified or crossed. The theory of a nature in balance has been to a great extent debunked to where anything but a balance prevails. Yet, the idea and construct persists. Is disaster nature’s recourse? Next in the series of Dandelion Days, we look at recourse.

Missed a post in this series? The next post asks the biggest questions.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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31 Responses to A Little About Gardening Touches A Lot About Life

  1. nicole says:

    It is amazing what we can learn from the dandelion. You are so right…we should plant species that are native to our region. Gardening being unnatural is so true. Makes me sad to think of it like that but we are creating an unnatural landscape that wasn’t formed organically. Wow what a thought. You got me thinking Donna! Great post!

    • Gardening is unnatural for the environment, but so natural for us to do. But with the warming weather, the experience has been seeing new insects and birds to our area. Nature has nothing to do but to catch up with the plants on the move. I wrote on this before and it will undoubtedly happen more in the future.

  2. waji says:

    ahh such a beautiful post…these dandelions are memories of my childhood when i ran behind the its fur…awesome:)

  3. Reblogged this on filmcamera999 and commented:
    ..aahh…the season is done…!

  4. I like the contrast of text and images that illustrates not only the part about dandelion, but the discussion you bring up about sustainability and correctness of use of plants when gardening. There are two provocative thoughts here, same that are bothering me for a while already, what is native, endemic? to what extent in terms of absolute time is native? 2000 years, 20.000 years, beyond?Isn’t true that when our ancestors hunter- gathering could well already carrying seeds from native to non natives areas? And when they developed into sedentarism they could have been the first ones to try to adapt species to new areas? Second concept is the negative valoration of so called “weeds”, without knowing that there a time when they were considered very valued plants for medicinal or edible uses, i.e., I am learning here about beet leaf-chard, or Beta vulgaris, that grow now massively in my area, and they are delicious cooked in many wasys, and I do not have to cultivate, nor buy it in the farmer’s market, is there for me to forage. But I see this is a very long comment to your post, and I should leave room for others. Donna, thanks for this series and opening the discussion. Lula

    • Lula, you will be really surprised at my next posts. They mention what you brought about sustainability, and our prehistoric ancestors. I am glad you were thinking along these lines because the post being a five part series, my story then seems to have cohesiveness.

      I so agree on the value of plants that we dismiss. Look at all the plants from the rain forests that have medical value, and we keep burning them down for agriculture??? We live in too fast a paced society with immediate needs, and no time to think where our actions will lead. The world is a garden and all that we could want can be found there if we just consider that a cure for something might be found under our feet.

      • Greg says:

        Hi. I suppose when it comes to needs its all about perspective.

        • I appreciate that there are those in countries such as this that have needs far greater that we in this country can imagine. I saw it first hand in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. While I was on the streets in Costa Rica, Nicaraguans stormed a bank with guns right in from of us. We were very fortunate we were not assumed to be Americans. I was the only American in the group of one Colombian, and two Costa Ricans, and being very pale and blue eyed, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I can feel for their poverty, but does that justify the actions? Does it justify raping the rain forests? There has to be ways. Honestly, what you see happening around the world right now, a solution we might not like or live through may be what fixes everything.

  5. I loved your microphotographs. I am not a fan of dandelions but this past spring, which came early and very warm, I saw birds eat the dandelion seeds. There wasn’t much else available. I guess I try to observe, then enhance my gardens so I am more of a caretaker than a gardener.

    • That is really interesting. I never saw a bird eat them. Their value was always that the bees used then for gathering pollen, but I never would have thought birds eating those tiny seeds. Great observation in your gardens.

  6. Just beautiful, almost haunting images. The dandelion does not look lowly under your lens;

  7. I have always loved the dandelion from its tasty leaves to its flowers and seeds. It is hard to figure out the delicate balance. I try to follow nature as those hardy plants prove to be the best for my conditions and the critters…profound thoughts!

    • Ironically, if we garden, we do not follow the course of nature. We define nature by our own environmental and social experiences. We just do the best we can with what we CHOOSE to include, especially if we look to native plants. But native plants are not necessarily, or even likely what would grow if nature controlled a particular site. Native, just means it was growing somewhere in our area or state, not necessarily where we live. Even when it is located in a particular area, it is usually in less numbers than included in gardens for instance. I am sure many other professions that deal with ecosystems could explain this far better though.

      The next post is on what happens when we don’t interfere and what happens when we do. We often don’t think about how we disturb existing ecosystems.

  8. EcoGrrl says:

    lovely post! happy to stumble upon your blog. while i pull up the dandelions in my yard, i’ve never sprayed them – they go to my next door neighbor whose chickens love ’em!!

  9. Wonderful post on the ‘lowly dandelion’. Love your photos of the seed. As for nature keeping it in check…funny, we have very few dandelions here in my area of the woods and open meadows.

    • Dandelions rarely would inhabit woods because they need much sun. They only show up in isolated clearings in wooded areas. They could not compete in meadows because of their size. They do not grow tall enough to reach the sun with the grasses and tall perennials making up meadows. But they do move in first when a plot is cleared. Also why they like to grow in grass. The competition is something they can deal with. There seeds don’t need to experience the cold of winter to germinate. You would think they would like warmer climates, but prefer not to live in high or dry temperatures. Up here, they do well in the droughts, but look pretty pathetic. But it is still better than dying, like many other plants will do.

  10. b-a-g says:

    I’m really impressed with your macro shots (and the way that the humble dandelion has encouraged you to search for the meaning of balance). I can’t achieve these with my auto settings, even on the macro program.

    • It is funny because there never is balance. The act of succession due to weather disaster ensures no true balance can be achieved. Environments are always in change too because of climate. Looking back in time, gives a clue how much change environments experienced. Not to mention, us. We are the great modifiers.

  11. A.M.B. says:

    Wow, these are beautiful shots that really highlight the dandelion’s elegant simplicity.

  12. Barbie says:

    How magical the Dandelion is… we see it as a weed but nature knows it to be special. We need to rethink our silly beliefs!

  13. Brian Comeau says:

    Wonder post Donna. You have such a way with word and images to make us think about a much larger picture. Certainly lots to think about after reading this one. Thank you!

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