GARDENING: plant nurture enslaved by the choice of weed

Gardening is the perverse recreational activity conducted on a designated site, that endeavours to keep removing those plant species that are admirably suited to the site, and replacing them with desirable specimens that are not. Often, an initial choice is made to treat certain plants as undesirable because of their aggressive dominance in the chosen location, and immediately to direct most of the gardening resources to conducting a futile attempt at their total eradication. Eventually, pragmatism and reality prevails, and control of the undesirables evolves into a strategy of assaulting the latest outbreak with a temporary outburst of energy fuelled by an irritated and resentful indignation. The dual objectives therefore, of diminishing the presence of successful local species, and introducing a variety of imported plants, makes gardening a process of creating and sustaining a botanical incongruity. Dry places are watered to suit the intrusion of a vegetable garden. Wet lands are drained to make parklands. Glasshouses are heated invasions of tropical species into cooler regions. Gardening is thus the creation of contrivances of form, layout and botanical species, which are constructed as intrusions into whatever natural conditions exist on the designated site, and by whatever modification of the environment is deemed necessary.

A common behaviour for attempting to realize this dual gardening objective, of disapproving of one set of plants and promoting another, is comically inappropriate. Plants which are deemed to be desirable, whether for their palatability, colour or form, are usually eaten, dead-headed, cut back, or pulled out before they have had an opportunity to reproduce by any means whatever. In contrast to this behaviour, because of the normal procrastination with respect to the relentless chore of weeding, those species deemed undesirable usually flower, reseed, send out their rhizomes and stolons, form their bulbs and tubers, and thus absolutely ensure their perpetuation in the area.

Using the time-honoured technique of emphasizing those features which support a comparison and prudently ignoring those that don't, gardening is a behaviour that can be used as a metaphor for the cultivation of ideas. New ideas introduced and attentively nurtured can appear promising when initially exhibited for consideration, but will probably have a hard time of it once natures aggressive diversity is no longer kept at bay. On the other hand, certain introduced concepts or even genetically modified ideas may find their new environment so accommodating that they propagate enthusiastically and end up being classified as weeds. Societies trying to function by suppressing intellectual variability will inevitably experience negative consequences, yet they only need to look to the experiences of gardening to understand the pitfalls of mono-cultures and the discouragement of diversity.

One cannot be a gardener without acquiring and retaining an earthy pragmatism that inevitably permeates attitudes to life itself. Despite self-inflicted exasperation with the resilience and fecundity of those plant species which have been classified as weeds, gardening will always remain as one of the few activities which participates the gardener in the complex realities of nature. By devising strategies to compensate for the erratic intrusions of weeds, weather extremes, insect attacks, water levels, diseases, etc, it is possible to sustain a contact with the intricate cycles of life forms, in an existence that otherwise often becomes increasingly virtual, socially isolated and physically violent.