Multiflora Rose

March, at home, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mine is, in most respects, a suburban family with all the trimmings. We have two family cars, including a Buick handed down from my husband's grandfather. My husband and I chose our house three years ago for the good schools and for the yard, but our choice means that we each have a commute that cannot be navigated via public transportation. We have two daughters, both in elementary school, and we each coach one of their soccer teams. Our children play...

The Perfect Turf

July, fox chapel golf course, p ttsburgh One night a year, for the local Fourth of July fireworks, we and our neighbors spill onto the golf course for a relatively unimpeded view of the display. Although this is a private golf course and very protective of its literal and proverbial turf, the management seems to view fireworks seating as a community service of sorts. We tread gingerly across the rough, aware that if we tread too heavily our privilege may be lost in the future. We also take...

Prostrate Spurge

August, at home, Pittsburgh and june 1995, THE western KENTUCKY wEEDs TOUR Accompanying the hawkweed in my friends' suburban Greenville lawn grew an entirely different sort of weed, flat and green. Prostrate spurge is hawkweed's opposite a plant that grows close to the ground, with a flower so dull and inconspicuous that even with a magnifying glass it could be of interest only to a botanist. It actually doesn't even really require mowing. Prostrate spurge is a summer annual, which means its...

Violets

MAY, MY PARENTS' HOME, LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, When I was small, my parents often told me how, around the time I was born, they had renounced the customary lawn care service because they just didn't know what those guys were spraying. Later, when I was in high school, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and my parents noted that three of the four women at their corner intersection had received this diagnosis, and all had used a lawn service at some point. (The remaining one hadn't lived...

Crabgrass

The school routine is well established now, and the temperatures outdoors no longer remind us of summer's end but of winter beginning. For months, we have watched tall, rangy masses of green rising at the back edge of our lawn, and now these awkward stalks are blooming butter-yellow feathery goldenrod, clean white fuzzy boneset, deep early morning pink tufts of joe-pye weed, and my favorite, bright purple ironweed. If I have managed to save any yarrow from the mower, it flowers now though I...

Poison

Poison ivy is not usually a weed one associates with winter. However, when I look out any window from the back of our house, after the trees have dropped their leaves, I can still see the branches of some really big poison ivy vines (Rhus radicans), hanging onto our ash trees in the back woodland, two years after their deaths. Their branches are noticeably different from the tree branches, thin sticks coming out at odd angles, arrested in their search for other limbs or trees to climb. As soon...

Chickweed

DECEMBER, CROP FiELDs ACROss INDIANA and Illinois, en route to Missouri My husband has great longevity genes three of his four grandparents are still living, all around age ninety. What's more, they all live in the same small town in south-central Missouri, not far from Springfield. The fact that they have made it this long and are all so conveniently located in the same town puts visiting them regularly at a high priority for us as a family, and if we go during the holidays we get the bonus of...

Thistle

February, Pittsburgh, with flashbacks to a june long ago in lexington Since fall, I have watched the little prickly rosettes of thistle leaves sprouting in the lawn near our front flower bed. In February, through several snow thaws, I step past these little patches of spiny green, consider finding a spade to dig them out, but always put it off. A few leaves, not a stem in sight the baby thistle seems so harmless that it hardly seems worth going to search through the garden tools for such a tiny...

Plantain

SEPTEMBER, o'HARA ELEMENTARY sCHooLYARD, PiTTsBuRGH, And remembering My own My daughters' elementary school playground was renovated during the summer before Hazel started kindergarten, and an area that had been scraggly with weeds and bare dirt is now thickly mulched and decorated with a number of imaginative vehicles for play, including a bulldozer, school bus, and fire truck. Unquestionably, it is an improvement over the half-living grass that grew there before in the soil compacted under...

Common Ragweed

SEPTEMBER, AT home, PiTTsBuRGH, AND remembering a FiELD iN In some of these chapters, I feel like I'm giving a used-car-salesman introduction to a yard plant, trying to convince you that it's good enough for a test drive at least. I'm not going to try to persuade you to like ragweed. In fact, common ragweed gives me flashbacks. So feel free to continue right on hating ragweed as you sneeze your way through this chapter. Ragweed is more often found by a roadside than in a lawn. Certainly,...

Plastic Grass The Artificial Weed

OCToBER, CHATHAM uNiVERsiTY soCCER FiELD, and remembering my maternal grandfather, CiNCiNNATi, oHio Hazel's first year of kindergarten also marked my initiation as a soccer coach. My husband, well qualified for the job after playing for his high school and college soccer teams, had been coaching Emily's soccer team since she was first eligible to play, at age four, with the city soccer leagues in Chicago. During those three years of watching small children play, I realized two things coaching...

Dandelions

Dandelions are promiscuous and can bloom anytime. I see them in earliest spring, well into fall, and once I saw one on December 5 peeking out of snow, with a yellow bloom half-open, as if hoping for a half hour of sun-warmed melting. However, in my experience the great majority will bloom at once, a single gorgeous yellow flush of blooms (often around the same time as the violets), which I remember as occurring in June in upstate New York. Whether because of global warming or the vagaries of...

Camping Pesto

Carry in dry pasta, plus small containers of pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Collect handful of garlic mustard and or wild garlic during last hour of hiking before reaching camp. Chop or pound together pine nuts and greens in a cup or bowl while pasta is cooking over fire, then stir parmesan into the greens mixture. Add to cooked pasta just before serving. Back in my home garden, I did buck the edibles-in-the-front-yard rule this year by scattering a few lettuce and carrot seeds in one of our...