Tag Archives: dandelion

Friday Floral Feature: Dandelions Rule


Phases of dandelion in my back yard–and yes, there is lots of creeping charlie, too.

I surrender. Dandelions were deliberately brought to the Americas by Europeans, so why fight any more?

Pretty yellow flowers of spring, summer and fall—I may spray now and then to knock you back, but that’s more for show or to get along with the neighbors. I can’t get rid of you, so I may as well learn to like you.

The gardens seem more summer like, these days. Early peonies have bloomed and quickly faded; the later smaller varieties of pink lilacs are getting ready to bloom. I’ve had one clematis plant spring forth in flower, and another that should break into flower soon.

And dandelions, which seem to be everywhere, offering their tempting pom poms to grandchildren who can’t resist the temptation to puff the fluff. Even the yellow flowers can turn chin or nose a fetching vermilion.

You win, dandelions.

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Filed under Flowers, Garden

On Creeping Charlie, Dandelion and Clover


Hawthorn, front lawn, in field of clover (good) and dandelion (OK, but requires control) Hawthorne did not bloom, still too young, I guess, but I like its foliage nonetheless.

When I noted a few weeks back via Twitter that I had fertilized my lawn, a family member put a note on Facebook: “Don’t do it! It only makes the grass grow!”

Well, as far as lawn care goes, I try to be a centrist. I do not dump copious amounts of chemicals on my lot to eliminate any form of insect grub, non-grass plant or soil imbalance.

I also do not “aerate” my lawn. Deliberately digging up dog-poop sized lawn divots is such a common process, perhaps it means something, but I can’t honestly wrap my mind around the concept of introducing oxygen into the soil to benefit plants—don’t plants consume carbon dioxide and fart out oxygen?

Pretty foot flowers

Foot flowers. Nikayla's feet today. She and her family came over and we went for a run this afternoon--Audrey can keep up with my jogging pace while pushing Tristan in a walking stroller. Speedy? Not me.

But, I make some attempts to care for it, too.  I mow my lawn regularly (sometimes with a reel mower, which really upsets the boss because it doesn’t work well at all), I plant grass seed in bare spots and I do, now and then, no more than once a year and sometimes not that often, fertilize.

Anyway, at one extreme of the lawn care theology belief system is what I call the “golf course” or “AstroTurf” school of thought. A lawn should be uniform, only certain species of grass need apply, and it should extend beyond the border of my property clear to the nearest creek. (My wall-building neighbor has been busy trying to lawn up the woods behind his house—even to the point of burning brush, which, brought him a visit from the local fire department. You can’t burn brush in Cedar Rapids, not legally, anyway.)

I don’t belong to that fundamentalist theology. For one thing, I remember the old line that you can choose to raise grass or raise kids, but you can rarely do both—and I favor the kid end of that equation, which has become, in my life now, the grandchild end of the equation.

The other extreme is the “I love dandelions” approach to lawn care. Mow your lawn enough to keep the city at bay, and otherwise learn to appreciate the beauty of whatever green thing happens to sprout on your lot. The renters on our other side seem to fall more into that camp. And my mother was an outspoken extoller of the beauty of dandelions.

I don’t belong to that school of thought, either. For one thing, I do like the look of grass, and while I don’t want it as perfect as AstroTurf, I don’t want a crazy quilt of thistles and creeping Charlie, either. For another thing, there is the “nuisance” factor. While I do not care for the wall guy’s green carpet, if I allowed anything at all to grow unmolested on my land, the many weeds of my lot would constantly be encroaching on my neighbors.

Dandelions and creeping Charlie

Exhibit A: Note the top of the photo. Creeping Charlie, despite its charms, is an inherently ugly plant and crowds out all others. This is a region on the west side of my lawn, adjacent to neighbors who do zero lawn care or weeding. CC constantly invades from their lot. I don't care enough to make it an issue with them--to each his own--but do attack creeping Charlie.

Of course, some would say, so what? But I think that some of the invaders, particularly creeping Charlie, can be obnoxious, so letting those plants take over my lot would be a bit rude to neighbors.

I guess the real crux of the matter is a plant sometimes called “ground ivy” or “creeping Jenny,” but has a more common name—how do you feel about creeping Charlie? My family member says it’s a fine plant, with pretty flowers and a nice aroma. It’s low and green and mow-able, and why not have a lawn of that fine flower?

Well. Exhibit A—the photo. I will concede that creeping Charlie has pretty flowers. But the plant itself is not really green at all. It’s sort of a dirty looking purple green. The plant blooms briefly, and is otherwise a hideous lawn invader.

An aggressive, tough, take over the world and overrun both your lawn and your gardens invader.

I wage an ongoing low-level campaign against creeping Charlie, using chemicals (but only directly on the plants, I don’t weed-N-feed my lot because I don’t want to endanger other non-grassy plants) and physical pulling.

Dandelions in clover

Clover and dandelions. I like them both, but do remove the dandelions--they just spread too much. Clover, in my opinion, is just interesting grass.

There is so much of it in my backyard that I have no hope of eliminating creeping Charlie.

So I do my best to contain it. I am comfortable trying to keep it a little humble, under control, not taking over the whole yard and gardens, but not wasting my time always attacking it, either.

Anyway, my attitude about other controversial lawn species?

  • The dandelion. What child has ever grown up without a love of this pretty yellow flower that comes on stems perfect for braiding into faux jewelry or hangman’s nooses for Barbie dolls? And what child does not enjoy the white puffy seed ball, which can magically be blown into the air? Sigh. Sadly, the plant spreads like crazy. I do remove most dandelions in my lawn. I do not attack them with the passion of a battle against creeping Charlie—I like dandelions—but I don’t allow dandelions to take over. (I think if you could breed a sterile dandelion, you could get rich. As long as it wouldn’t spread all over the lawn, it could be the most popular garden flower worldwide.)
  • Clover. It’s the white angel to the red devil of creeping Charlie. Like CC, clover creeps and spreads and flowers. Unlike CC, it doesn’t usually form dense mats that crowd out all other grass. Also—again see photo—clover is the same color as grass. In many lawns it was accidentally or deliberately planted as grass. My attitude? I do nothing to discourage or interfere with clover. It’s just grass without the spikes. Sure, the flowers attract bees and bees sting—a painful reality of both my youth and adulthood—but come on. In 51 years on the planet, I have been stung maybe a total of four times. Not enough to change my generally favorable opinion of clover. Just wear shoes when clover is in flower.
  • Native violets. Pretty in the garden, invasive in the lawn, I try to move some and shamelessly kill the others. Then again, I try to plant grass in my lawn and kill it in my garden, so violets aren’t the only plant whose location makes all the difference. I found a pretty white variety that is not as common as the purple type, and wish more would attempt to encroach in my lawn so I could move it to my gardens. Violets do spread, but seem a bit more relaxed than dandelions, so I encourage violets in my gardens.
Crab apple and Japanese peony

Front lawn. One crab apple in bloom (has a twin that did not bloom yet, but front lawn will be very nice when it kicks in, too). Note new peonies in background about ready to pop with pretty red flowers. The dandelions where drive meets sidewalk are the neighbor's--the peonies are near the property line. This is looking towards the rental lot. Wally would never allow dandelions on his outdoor carpet.

In sum: I like a healthy lawn, but my standards of “health” are far lower than some. I want grass that can resist weeds, and I attack the weeds that are so aggressive grass stands no chance. But I am not a “uniform turf” kind of guy—I like having a few dandelions and think of clover as “grass.” (I have not noted some obvious problematic plants—yes, I attack and destroy all thistles and garlic mustard. Goes without saying, I hope).

Will this blog post spark family controversy and passionate debate? I hope so, as long as we remember that we’re writing about fairly mundane vegetation. I’ll express my opinions and try to debate the merits of several plants, but this isn’t theology. There’s room in heaven for both the dandelion heathens and the fundamentalist Astroturf purists (although, it’s also true, God made the dandelion and likes the heathens more!)

Yeah, I know, this long blog post doesn’t even grapple with the central point—to fertilize or not. Again, I waffle. I don’t very often, but did this spring primarily due to new grass being planted, and partly because the fertilizer is also good for my gardens.


Filed under Uncategorized

You Know It’s Spring in Iowa When

  • Neighborhood kids are wearing t-shirts and shorts because the sun is shining and it’s 50 degrees.
  • The glaciers on the Rockwell Collins parking lot have become dark and dingy. They aren’t completely gone yet, but they are a lot smaller.
  • Dandelion

    Posted by "Code Poet" on Flikr. My sister Cate has seen one in bloom, which I don't doubt, and also a tom turkey trying haplessly to attract the attention of hens. Spring indeed.

    The first crocus blooms the day after the first dandelion blooms.

  • One day there are no robins. Next day they are all over the place, making noise, fighting with each other, letting the bird universe know they are here.
  • You’re riding on a bike trail in Marion and you run into a cloud of insects.
  • The sweet smell of three months of buried dog poop is everywhere.
  • Zoe finally gets a very much overdue bath.
  • Drivers in Cedar Rapids no longer seem to resent the presence of a bicycle on the street. I belong in traffic again. With the exception of male jerks driving pickup trucks. Why is that?
  • You fill up the bird feeder and the birds don’t give a damn.
  • You do one piece of yard work, and suddenly there are garden tools all over the garage and no room for a car anymore.
  • The tunnels at Mount Mercy are less crowded. At least I think they must be. I’m not in them anymore.
  • It’s light when you drive or ride your bike home.
  • It’s spring break. 2 days of hard grading followed by prep time for the busy part of the semester post break.
  • The garden stuff suddenly blooms in the aisles of Target.
  • Sledding is replaced by Frisbee golf, even if the first few rounds involve Ben sledding on mud and ruining his blue jeans. (Course, Ben could point out that I ruined blue jeans in a much more embarrassing way last summer when I bent over to pick up a Frisbee and suddenly had to hold the Frisbee just so and drive home to change my pants. Cotton tears.)
  • You can, for an hour or so a day, shut the heat off and open some windows.
  • You start thinking about training for the Bix. Then, you open a package of Thin Mints and bury yourself in them until the thinking goes away.
  • You start to wonder, again, where the rake and your work gloves are.
  • Snowdrop

    Another view of a snowdrop in my back garden. I liked the earlier photo so much that I made it my new banner when I tried out a new WordPress desgin. Do you like it?

    You notice little buds on the crab apples and hawthorns and the magnolia is starting to swell like its flowers will explode. Despite 3 months of snow cover, every plant seems to be shaking off its slumber and it feels like green things are just about to burst everywhere.

  • You don’t have to sleep under six blankets any more.
  • You meet your granddaughter at a park on C Avenue and it is crowded with tots and parents.
  • Your son has to text you “where are you” when he gets home after school because your bike got lost on the way home from the park visiting your granddaughter since your bike wanted to ride on the trail in Marion. Sheepishly, you text back (because he posed the question in Spanish) “Estoy en el parque con mi bicicleta. Estoy yendo a mi casa ahora.” Your Spanish is so rusty and you’re so bad at texting that this takes around 10 minutes—about the time it would have taken you to just ride home on your bike anyway.
  • Sweat is back , and you actually start to miss winter. Just a little. Well, not really, not yet anyway. Maybe in July.


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