(If you see a political parallel, well…)
My part of the country is currently suffering a drought. It isn’t catastrophic (yet) but it is frustrating and discouraging, and our human efforts to treat its effects and save our gardens feel puny next to Nature’s power. But save them we must.
Our local meteorologists have predicted rain at least once a week, for the last month. Once a week, for the last month, the sky has turned a promising gray, and we have even heard hopeful growls of thunder. Alas, in our immediate environs, the clouds deign only to spite us with spittle. There may be a sprinkle a little to the North, or a drizzle a little to the South, but the combination of high temperatures and low rainfall have left us parched of both ground and hope.
Birds bob from one shallow puddle to another. The leaves wither and the acorns plummet before their time, but the weeds flourish. The weeds always flourish.
Those of us conscientious with water watch our perennials curl, and we sacrifice our decorative flowers in favor of more practical tomatoes and zucchini. We grew our basil from seed. What’s left now is its scent on a shriveled stem. Yet, among the droopy plants we nurtured and watch fail, the weeds grow and endure.
In addition to the “regular” weeds, my region is plagued with two persistent parasites. First is Black Swallowwort. It looks harmless in Spring, but if it isn’t destroyed early, its dark leaves swell, its roots reach China, and its multiple vines wrap around any stalk in the neighborhood. Worst, it forms bean-like pods which Monarch butterflies mistake for milkweed. They lay their eggs on them only to have the larvae starve because what looked like nourishment is instead false food.
Our other persistent parasite is Oriental Bittersweet. You’ve seen its burnt-orange berries clinging to fences, climbing tall buildings, and wound into wreaths on suburban front doors. Its berries remain after the leaves fall, and we admire their color as the light wanes. That beauty though, is a Siren song. By the time we enjoy its autumn display, the vine has managed either to cover or encircle everything in its path. It is entirely poisonous. In one season, it can cloak a six-foot-high window and obscure the view. Unchecked, it can uproot a…