The flowery phalanxes of my backyard turf war

When I mowed my own lawn, I noticed the intruding weeds and stopped to pull them out before a few could colonize into many.

But for the last 10 years, I've been delegating the mowing to a succession of lawn services and high school boys, all of whom are eager to get the job done as fast as possible. They stop for nothing less than a fallen branch that would not pulverize easily.

So after these years of speed- mowing, my lawn still looks uniformly green at a distance, but - up close - is a virtual anthology of plants. The original grass is losing territory every year, but I'm continually interested to see what else crops up.

In early spring, tiny purple and white violets nestle in the grass. They get chopped off in the first mowing, but they come back every year.

All the weeds in my yard are short ones, of course. Tall ones can't survive the mowing. If the legions of maple sprouts didn't get lopped off, I'd be living in a forest by now.

I have a spectacular annual bloom of dandelions. Who decided those are undesirables? They're beautiful, although I don't think my neighbors are thrilled about my abundant crop going to seed next to their dandelionless lawn. I suspect some lethal chemicals are maintaining that flawless green carpet over there.

Inexorable English ivy marched uninvited through the hedge from my other neighbors' garden. It actually walks, shoving grass aside, putting down little footlike roots, then reaching out a few inches and putting down more roots to grip the ground. I keep ripping up long strands of it, but it keeps coming. It also tries to claw its way up the brick chimney.

The wild strawberries are sneakier, sending out stringy feelers hidden in the grass to create new plants. The birds love their tiny fruits.

A patch of moss, so cushy to walk on, spreads itself a little wider every summer. Once in a while a ruffled, rust-colored fungus materializes overnight. Patches of white clover bloom. Plantain weeds thrust up their spikes until the speeding mower levels them. Their flat leaves, undiscouraged, keep their iron grip on the ground.

There are so many other plants in my lawn whose names I don't know.

I do keep pulling out the weeds that sprout from the cracks in the concrete walk because I notice them every day as I go in and out. Like the lawn weeds, these plants are role models of tenacity. They never give up. Rip them out by the roots, spray-gun them with weedkiller, and they reproduce themselves anyway in what looks like a quarter teaspoon of leaf mold.

One plant in the concrete had leaves that looked vaguely familiar, so I let it grow, out of curiosity to see what would happen. It eventually unfolded purple-pink blossoms and turned out to be a very determined snapdragon.

So my yard may be a summit meeting of weeds, but it is never boring. I tell people that I'm ahead of the trend for botanical biodiversity.

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