Saskatchewan Wayside Wildflowers (and a little rant about lawns)

Once in a while I actually do get out and see the sun, breathe some fresh air and stretch my legs a bit; today I went wildflower picking with my daughter and a copy of a wonderful little book for people living in Saskatchewan that I had picked up at Superstore one day:

Saskatchewan Wayside Wildflowers

Our main target was a patch of giant thistle flowers near the Preston Crossing ‘Big Box’ development; they last for quite a few hours without water after cutting and make for a rather striking presentation at the table.

Trefoil, which is growing like crazy on a lot of the roadsides, has an extremely nice sweet scent, as does ‘Pineapple weed’ when you crush the small, petal-less flower heads between your fingers.  SWW advises that the latter are ok to eat (e.g. as tea) but the former are poisonous.

My daughter loves dandelions, but the giant Pusteblume from Goat’s Beard are her new favorites :)

[An aside to rant: lawns are a pain; they suck water like crazy and if you want a perfect monoculture you have to apply poisons that are dangerous not only to those applying them, but also to pregnant women and children.  So I don’t and my lawn gets a little weedy.  Most of my neighbors don’t mind (you can tell who they are because their front lawns aren’t ‘perfect’).  A handful (usually older people) are obsessed with their lawns though (e.g. one waters hers until there’s a small stream running down the street) and get angry about mine; I was told in no uncertain terms that I “must” use herbicides.  Another one of them anonymously sent me a poison pen letter.  I’m fairly certain that I know who did that though (they’re old and crotchety, so I will put some dandelions on their grave when they die >;).  But anyway, if I mow my weedy lawn often enough it still keeps the desired mown look (cutting down the tall dandelion plants made my daughter cry ): but they’ll always come back ;).  In some patches where daisies are growing I mow around them until they’re done flowering.  On one side of my place I have mostly grass and on the other, mostly dandelion or clover in some spots :)  The grass side needs watering pretty much daily when its hot.  The other side gets enough from the rain and when I cut it is always moist.  I leave it to the reader to decide which is ‘better’.]

Update July 14: I note, via boingboing, an article in the New Yorker titled “Turf War“.  Apparently what I am growing on the ‘weedy’ side of my place is a “Freedom Lawn” (my, doesn’t that sound nice? :)

the simplest alternative to the modern, industrialized lawn may be a lawn that functions more or less as it did in the eighteen-forties, before herbicides or even sprinklers had been invented. In “Redesigning the American Lawn” (1993), F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe dub such a lawn the Freedom Lawn. The Freedom Lawn consists of grass mixed with whatever else happens to seed itself, which, the authors note, might include:

dandelion, violets, bluets, spurrey, chickweed, chrysanthemum, brown-eyed Susan, partridge berry, Canada mayflower, various clovers, plantains, evening primrose, rushes, and wood rush, as well as grasses not usually associated with the well-manicured lawn, such as broomsedge, sweet vernal grass, timothy, quack grass, oat grass, crabgrass, and foxtail grass.

The Freedom Lawn is still mowed—preferably with a push-mower—but it is watered infrequently, if at all, and receives no chemical “inputs.” If a brown spot develops, it is likely soon to be filled by what some might call weeds, but which Bormann, Balmori, and Geballe would rather refer to as “low growing broad-leaved plants.”

Update Auguest 24, 2009: While researching a plant growing in my lawn called Black Medic, I stumbled across this wonderful description:

A common weed, or “a feature of flowering lawns”, depending on your point of view.

I like the term “flowering lawn” even better! :)

Update Aug. 28, 2009: Here in Saskatoon, Early’s sells sacks of “Xeri-Lawn” which is a mix of low-water requirement fescue grasses:

20% Creeping Red Fescue
20% Chewing’s Fescue
20% Hard Fescue
20% Sheep’s Fescue
10% Slender Creeping Fescue
10% Turf-type Tall Fescue

I planted some and it’s established itself in a few places quite nicely, so I bought more this year :)


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