I have taken liberty with Stephen Stills’s 1970 song Love the One You’re With. The singer-songwriter, deep in the weeds of love, was working through an anguished relationship and attempting to let go. “Concentration slips away. Because your baby is so far away.”

Well there’s a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with

Tormented and loaded with love.

Have I got weeds for you.

Sexually promiscuous?


More on that later.

Weeds galore. Such a bad thing?

I am an advocate for imperfect, weedy lawns, but you won’t find a weed in sight at Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Course in early April. I am deep in the rough on this. Confession: I secretly admire Augusta one day a year.

I try to watch the final round of the Masters golf tournament with its candy-colored azaleas, loblolly pines and a challenging, tricked-out golf course pumped up with a chemical smorgasbord that could upend the periodic table. The final round of the Masters was a rite of spring my father and I once shared and loved.

Rufus’s favorite patch-o’-turf

Fateful garden perfection

I suspect some of you have made fateful  jabs at garden perfection, even in the fashion of Augusta National. I’ve found fleeting moments of paradise, in my less-than-perfect image, where I am unconditionally joyous over my flawed lawn and garden. Blue skies, perfect temperature. A little breeze. Not a worry in the world. I wish these rare moments would clock in on cue. The next morning, though, the garden looks, well, different. Not anywhere close to the glory the evening before. What was I thinking? Easy does it.

Purple dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum

Creeping Charlie, ground-ivy, Glechoma hederacea

Our lawn is wild— a slowly diminishing mix of bluegrass and fine-bladed fescues and an ever-increasing number of weeds—dandelions, plantains, creeping Charlie, chickweed, purple deadnettle, white clover, you name it. This is also Rufus’s patch-o’-turf as much as ours. He loves to play fetch and dig for moles. Any lawn should be a playground for natural survival.

Good weeds 

The lovable(?) common blue violet, Viola sororia var. sororia

Confederate violet, Viola sororia var. priceana

I have a longstanding love affair with the common blue violet. There may not be many who feel the same way.

Naysayers should take a closer look.

Botanist Patricia Dalton Haragan, author of  The Olmsted Parks of Louisville: A Botanical Field Guide, wrote: “This native lawn weed (Viola sororia var. sororia) is the state flower of Wisconsin, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island. The leaves are high in Vitamin A and C and can be used in raw salads or cooked as greens in spring. Nowadays the flowers are candied and used to decorate cakes and other pastries.”

The Xerces Society doesn’t mince words: “With their heart shaped leaves and cheery blue flowers, violets aren’t really bad guys – in fact they are the host plant for a wide range of butterflies known as fritillaries.”

There is, on the other hand, a deliberate effort every year to kill our native blue violet in lawns across the North American fruited plain. Few perennials are so easy-to-grow and poisoned by so many. I suspect the Augusta National Golf Course once had native violets on their fairways, before the herbicide 2,4-D came along in 1941.

The EPA has reported the annual use of moderately persistent 2,4-D in non-agricultural settings to be more than 15 million pounds. Poisons may volatilize, drift through the air, and can leach into soil and waterways, potentially damaging other plants besides the targeted broadleaf lawn weeds. The broad-leaf herbicide 2,4-D is often combined with amines and dicamba.

 I can smell insidious  2,4-D a mile away. You can’t miss it. It has an aroma that smells as awful as a putrid urinal puck. I prefer the sweet perfume of lilacs.

The EPA has been accused recently of failing to regulate toxic herbicides despite court orders.

The native range of the common blue violet

Who decided that suburban America should rid itself of lawn violets?

It is is a prolific self-sower, but I doubt lawn expulsion has anything to do with its peculiar and prolific reproductive skill set.

Here’s the sexy part

Viola sororia swings two ways with open and closed marriages. The spring blooms are open pollinated above ground in the normal way, but in the autumn, the species adopts a peculiar manner of producing seed by means of cleistogamy = closed marriage. Peanuts are similarly hardwired. Viola sororia and the peanut produce closed flowers underground that are set-up for closed self-pollination. The violet seeds are eventually dispersed above ground while peanuts are harvested from below.

Weed greed

I’m sticking up for weeds. Not all of course, but I’m open minded.

Broadleaf dock, Rumex obtusifolius 

I was introduced to the broadleaf dock (Rumex obtusifolius) a few weeks ago. The botanist Julian Campbell pointed it out to me, at the edge of woods, in Lexington’s Lansdowne-Merrick Park, growing comfortably with fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) and common butterweed (Packera glabella). Though broadleaf dock has medicinal properties, it is no secret that it is a troublesome, sometimes even an invasive weed throughout most of the temperate world. I fell in love with the thick clumps and big green leaves.

I want to grow a few.

This could become a problem. A few broadleaf docks could soon turn into thousands.

What should I do?

TruGreen Lawn Care keeps hammering me with email come-ons. “Beautiful lawns start here…Sign up today and get 50% off first application.”

No thanks.

I have a beautiful lawn.