Friday, June 1, 2012

In Praise of Dandelions

Lately the locals of Stouffville are in a panic over dandelions. At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten when reading the local paper. Yikes, Attack of the Dandelions. Apparently they are attacking and strangling the local children. Dog walkers, a little larger and stronger manage to make their escape and write about their experience in the ‘letters to the editor section’.
Me, I’m not enamoured of them, but I’m also less than impressed by the chemically derived monoculture lawns that they replace. Ontario recently enacted a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides; Ontario lawns are experiencing the awful symptoms of withdrawal. I sympathize. 15 years ago when I moved to my home on Musselman’s Lake, I withdrew chemical assistance voluntarily. I never did like astro-turf, and I wanted spend what little disposable income I had on frivolous things like annual and perennial flowers and shrubs. A lawn is something green to walk on as far I am concerned. It can take care of itself.
But a lawn that has been treated with chemicals, mowed regularly within inches of its life, and raked clean of all nutrients is not a healthy lawn. Remove chemical assistance and the disaster underfoot is exposed. Dandelions take advantage of the sterile wasteland and make the most of the sunshine, peppering our world with eye-ball searing yellow.
For most of us, a sea of school-bus yellow it is not a pretty sight.
But I’m still having trouble understanding the latest diatribes against dandelions. People can be allergic to all kinds of things; grass, birch trees, dogs and cats are some of the most common allergens and no one is trying to rid the world of them. My earliest memory of a dandelion is thinking, ‘pretty’ and then picking profusions to turn into a green and gold tiara. And although I have yet to do my own taste test, I hear that they are delicious in salad. We have maintained a chemical free lawn for the past fifteen years. It is lush and green. Our lawn care consists of mowing high (between 4” and 6”) with a mulching mower and leaving all clippings behind to nourish the soil. We also avoid mowing during a drought to minimize the browning of grass during the height of summer. The presence of clover adds nitrogen, a natural fertilizer, to the earth and pleases the bees, butterflies and myself with sweet smelling flowers. This year, I found a wild strawberry, and I hope to make a tiny tasty harvest in June. With all this competition, the dandelions are minimal and our lawn looks and smells fabulous and feels great underfoot.
Here’s my garden: (yes, there are some dandelions there, but it’s thick and lush and green)
So I think I will add some dandelion motifs to my art. They are beautiful tough and prolific. They are European invaders, just like me, and they multiply explosively just like their arch enemy, homo sapiens.  Funny how we hate the things that are most like us.
The top image is a gelatin print, this time finished with coloured pencil and regular roller-ball pen ink. For the gelatin print, I plucked ‘weeds’ from my lawn and garden, and placed them onto the inked gelatin plate. I picked the best out of eight prints, then finished with hand-drawing dandelion motifs. I have more info and a close-up posted on Etsy if you wish to look. 


Chrissy said...

Made me laugh anyway. I do sometimes use Verdone I confess ~ we have hundreds. We live next to a field covered in them and we wouldn't have any grass left. But, I restrict it to once a year and even then last year, my neighbour asked if I was submitting my crop to Burwarton show (a flower show) haha. This year a Lupin set itself right in the middle of the lawn and I couldn't bear to kill it .....your grass does look very luch for sure. Sadly ours doesn't but the lupins and dandelions look nice ;) Lovely art :)

kaslkaos said...

My husband will mow around a daisy patch if one turns up. Our lawn was all dandelions the 1st few years, but then it all seemed to settle out. BUT I also moved to a community that seems to have a higher tolerance for such things. Folks a few km south are freaking out about the ban.

Michelle Basic Hendry said...

"Funny how we hate the things that are most like us."
That is so true!

Your garden is gorgeous. I, for one, always liked a few dandelions and if we don't poison them with sprays, they are wonderful bladder and liver medicines. I actually buy dandelion down here at the Health Food Store. Ironic isn't it?

Down here these little purple flowers grow with these beautiful delicate heads and the grass is even beautiful. I think I'd let it grow up in my yard if it weren't for attracting too many copperheads! (I miss Ontario's lack of poisonous snakes!)

I love that you are so passionate about these things! :) This place (Oklahoma) has such a subtle beauty and the some of the environmental indifference is the one thing I have struggled with most here. Can you tell? LOL!

Most important -
Your art is really beautiful. It has a joyful quality to it!

kaslkaos said...

Little purple flowers? Wild oregano perhaps? Tons here, smells nice underfoot, fairly invasive, easy to rip out from perennial beds.
Yep, I'm trying to have more of a 'voice' here. Just sent a slightly edited version of the post to the local paper.
And thanks. Drawing the dandelion actually gave me a new appreciation of the tough little guys. Apparently, folks buy super dandelions here to. I have no idea why...

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

no grass here, its all little stones :/

when i did have a lawn, the only time i ever used any kind of chemicals were when we couldn't get rid of all the nettles, and only then when they got to be 6 feet tall o.0

kaslkaos said...

Jennifer, all I can say to that is, ouch! (of course, I hear you can eat them too, ;-)
Sorry about the little stones, gosh that must be boring. I love my green cushy 'mixed' lawn.


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