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Tangled Up in the Weeds

Tangled Up in the Weeds

According to Wikipedia; A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, "a plant in the wrong place". The term "weed" has no botanical significance, because a plant that is a weed in one context is not a weed when growing in a situation where it is in fact wanted, and where one species of plant is a valuable crop plant, another species in the same genus might be a serious weed. The term weed also is applied to any plant that grows or reproduces aggressively, or is invasive outside its native habitat.
I have recently been fascinated with weeds. Maybe it is because I visit my Mom’s house often, where there is no distinction between weed and purposeful planting. This magical yard could be the ultimate retirement home for “so called” weeds. There is no discrimination of which plants should live in this yard. All are welcome. It is, shall we say controlled chaos of all kinds of plants and mosses all spreading themselves out freely. Some of this collection was planted over the years and birds or the wind is perhaps to thank for contributing some of it. This very different type of yard fits the house and the people who live there and adds to its charm. And visiting it often does make me wonder about weeds.
Why it is that one plant can be considered a weed and another not? Or even more curious how can one plant be labeled as a weed if it grows in one place but not another. Who decides which plants are called weeds? And who decides which plants are deemed beautiful or beneficial in one place and not in another. I can understand shaping and sculpting gardens but it is not a little funny how we work tirelessly to keep one flower alive in certain place and then go out of our way to get rid of them in another place. I love Dandelions and Queens Ann’s Lace. I love how they appear in strange places like stonewalls and cracks in sidewalks and concrete. How inspiring that a dandelion can surprise us with bright yellow flowers and can grow with such vigor with such little support. Dandelions have all sorts of medicinal and herbal uses and are 100% edible, yet so many try to rid their yards of them.
One of the most recognizable Zentangle patterns we use was indeed inspired by a weed, (I mean plant) that grows here in New England. It is known by a few names such as Pokeroot, Pokeberry or Pokeweed. I find them to be quite amazing in appearance. Their beautiful purple berries are mesmerizing and their ability to grow almost overnight is fascinating. And although the plant itself can be poisonous it also has medicinal benefits if used specifically. What alluring properties for something that can grow with almost no soil. Last year one of the most spectacular pokeroot plants appeared in my Mom and Rick’s front yard. Bursting through a space between the sidewalk and the driveway. It of course was welcomed with praise and offered a permanent home with other plants formally known as weeds.

This year I have been watching as we approach summer to see if the giant pokeroot will return to my Mom and Rick’s yard for us all to enjoy again. I started to look in other parts of the yard and smiled to myself because I realized that their whole yard was much like a Zentangle. The subtle suggestion of pathways and walls lay down like a string and each spring begins a new season of getting covered by wild growth. Each species weaving its way this way and that revealing beautiful blossoms and fruits. The collection of different plants covers spaces enthusiastically knowing that their life on this land is free and unrestricted just like tangles on a tile. There are no rules for these tangled masterpieces here and each plant is deeply routed like black ink proudly bearing its unique style. This garden celebrates the beauty in the not so common, sees splendor in the personality of things, and illuminates the not so perfect. If I were weed I cannot imagine a more beautiful place to grow up.

Enjoy, water and nurture all the seeds in your tangled garden. Embrace what they become and remember to look for beauty as they grow… no matter how tangled up it gets. Because when you truly look for beauty … you will see it.

Molly Hollibaugh


  • Fantastic post. I’ve always wondered about some of these things myself. This is making me feel a lot better about not having my flower beds weeded yet :)

    Jody Genovese on

  • Yes beauty is in the eye of the beholder, great perspective! Walking the garden of life and appreciating every step on this journey!

    Alice Roche, CZT 29 on

  • Molly, I really enjoy your description of your Mom’s and Rick’s garden. I feel exactly the same way about “so called” weeds. I let the dandelions be. I think they are so adorable with their yellow tops and fluff balls when their time is over till another year. In fact, as I plan my fall ZIA classes, you have given me inspiration for my botanical workshop. Thank you!

    Brenda Shaver on

  • I have never seen a Pokeroot plant before but certainly enjoy the tangle. It is a beautiful plant as so many other wild plants like salal, oregon grape, lady slippers, red current, vetch etc.

    I was fortunate to be in the last group trained in Worcester and was very privilege to visit Maria and Ricks lovely home. Love this article Molly

    Donna on

  • This is a delightful blog which perfectly describes both Maria and Rick’s garden and the uncanny resemblance to the freedom of Zentangle. ❤️

    Joanna Quincey CZT29 on

  • Wonderful perspective – thank you for sharing!

    Heather Moffatt on

  • Beautiful sentiment, and I would love to walk through that garden! How lucky you are!

    Kate Ahrens on

  • Truly, beautiful thoughts.

    MKay B B Watson CZT17 on

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