Apr 29

Weeds or Wildflowers?

Weeds or Wildflowers?

Weeds or Wildflowers?

My backyard is carpeted by wildflowers. Yellow, blue, and white mix in with the green grass. It feels like a mountain meadow to me.

But to others, my wildflowers are nothing but weeds. I’m expected to eradicate them because otherwise, they’re just going to infect my neighbors’ lawns.

Who decided which flowers were weeds and which were wildflowers? I suspect it was the president of the first homeowner’s association.

It’s funny. We live in boxes. We crave nature, and so we surround our boxes with emerald lawns, shade trees, annuals that flower at just the right time in just the right places. Sometimes, we bring nature indoors with us. We’ll have a vase of fresh-cut flowers on the table or a fern in a pot in the corner of the living room. We’re happy with nature, as long as that nature remains tame.

When it becomes unruly, we get annoyed. It becomes a nuisance. An eyesore. A problem to be dealt with. We don’t have time to get down on our knees in the dirt and pull the weeds out one by one, so we blanket the yard with poison. We see the surface. The weeds go away. The lawn comes back. Everything is back in its place; everything is perfectly orderly.

I remember a time when I didn’t care about such order. Dandelions were a delight to discover. I’d hold the bright yellow bloom up to my chin and ask, “Do you like butter?” If my chin turned yellow, it meant I did; if not, I didn’t. I don’t think I ever completely understood the game. Was the yellow supposed to be a reflection of the flower off my chin? Well, I knew I really liked butter, so to be sure, I’d rub the petals against my face until my chin was good and yellow and would stay that way until bath time.

Dandelions in the Shade

Dandelions in the Shade

Small, yellow butterflies would collect pollen from the dandelions. I’d creep up on them, so quiet, then pounce, clapping my cupped hands together, hoping to catch one. Most times I missed. Sometimes, I’d succeed, and I could feel the tickle of their tiny, fluttering wings against my hand. The joy was in the hunt, not in the trophy. I’d hold onto it as long as my attention span allowed and then released it, no worse for the wear.

Dandelions were magical, turning into fluffy white balls of wishes. I’d hold it in front of me, close my eyes, and make a wish. Then, I’d suck in all the air my small lungs could hold and blow with all my might. All my might wasn’t so mighty, so most of the time a few seeds clung to the stem and my wish would go unanswered. But if I chose just the right dandelion at just the right time, all the seeds would take off on their tiny parachutes, leaving me with a barren stalk but also faith and anticipation that something wonderful would now come true.

Now that I’m grown, do I have to be so civilized? I’ve spent half a century on this earth; surely, I’ve earned a quiet rebellion. Secretly, I go out to my overgrown backyard and bask in this spontaneous garden. I leave the dandelions, and those tall, white flowers and scattered blues that I don’t have a name for, alone. I snap off a stem and make a wish. I turn away from neighbors shaking their heads.

Blue Wildflowers

Blue Wildflowers

That’s OK. Something wonderful is about to come true.


So, what do you think — weeds or wildflowers? And does anyone have any idea what those pretty little blue flowers are? It’s driving me crazy not knowing. 🙂


  1. conniecockrell

    LOL! I left a whole section of my back yard in upstate NY to go wild. Milkweed (I’ve always loved the scent of those flowers), Queen Anne’s lace, feverfew, violets, fleabane, and so much more. I took my 4-H club out there and we identified flowers and learned what their culinary and medicinal properties were. And of course, there were butterflies.

    Thanks for sharing that memory.

    1. Shelli Proffitt Howells

      I wish I knew more about the wildflowers in my backyard! I do like the butterflies that come to visit, too.

Share your thoughts.

%d bloggers like this: