Weeds at Church

Published on 27 Jun 2016

By Teresa McCaffery

It started with the Rosa Rugosa.  We had planted a hedge of them between a low wall and the higher wire fence put up to provide us with a better boundary.  The beautiful flowers with their bright rose hips come on seriously prickly stems and the bushes are full of energy.  It got to the point where we needed armour to prune the roses so a rotavator was deployed to remove them.

The vacated space soon filled up with ground elder and rose bay willow herb which threatened to drown the whole garden.  With a fervent apology to the environment strong herbicide was carefully deployed.  We then put down weed matting and planted Rhododendrons.  Next up was Japanese knotweed.  This had made itself at home in another part of the garden, a neglected area which had collected unwanted items and stones for years.  Knotweed is seriously invasive stuff.  We consulted experts who quoted eye watering fees for removing the weed, and did our own research.

We bought more, even stronger herbicide and an injection kit.  As the plants had hollow stems we were able to inject the weed killer into the stems and avoid the collateral damage caused by spraying.  Once the stems had died they were harvested and burned, then we cleared every bit of litter and dug over the whole area burning every root we found (roots are easily identified by their fragility and orange sap). Left with a large patch of neat, empty ground we sowed a pack of wild flower seeds and allowed the plants to grow.  As the year went on just two knotweed stems appeared (they had grown two feet in a fortnight).  These were easily dug out and we identified the half inch length of root from which they had grown.

Meanwhile, in the parts of the garden nearer to the church a bright and beautiful array of flowers lifts the hearts of those coming to Mass.  There are weeds in those parts too, of course, but these are the ordinary sort that can easily be dug out in the general work of managing the garden.

Now I could at this stage belabour the analogies with sin, but you can work those out for yourselves.  My point is this: all plants are weeds and all weeds plants.  Gardening is a matter of how you choose, arrange and manage what you grow.  So whether you want to garden, pray or do both, get on and do something, because empty time and space are likely to attract unwanted growth. 

Friends of St Beuno’s e-news Editor - I did smile as I read this article having, myself, done battle (as well as ongoing skirmishes) with ground elder, mare's tails, couch grass and bind weed (not to mention perennial nettle and thistle)!  I often wonder whether Gerard Manley Hopkins (quoted in the May e-news with his "Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet") ever did try to cultivate ground and grow vegetables!  Perhaps we might be coming close to a answer in this month’s quote when he speaks of the need for a ‘tender’ touch.