February 19, 2019

The Evils of Violets and Other Dangerous Plants

Yes, these are the evil violets growing in the author's lawn.

Janine Pineo Photo | Yes, these are the evil violets growing in the author’s lawn.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written a few years back and published in the not-so-merry month of March. Here it is again with a visual on what the rant was all about.

• By Janine Pineo •

I blame this column on 1) winter, 2) snow, 3) cabin fever and 4) the snow-sleet-rain that fell on the first day of spring.

Oh, and 5) humans destroying the world.

Get comfy because I am about to rant.

It all started last week on Spring – Day 1 when a friend handed me a letter from a company that shall remain unnamed offering to come look her lawn over to point out any pesky problems that she might want to get rid of.


Let’s just overlook the overlooking of obvious – big gobs of snow obliterating said lawn – and instead we’ll begin with this: I am not a lawn nut. I see lawn more as a stand-in until I can build another garden bed.

Better yet, it is the path between all the garden plots.

I do like lawn, just not in mass quantities. And I really don’t like “perfect” lawns.

What could I possibly have against perfection?

Well, it usually comes in synthetic chemical pesticide form and is sprayed, poured and scattered all over perfect lawns. Just what I want to run barefoot through.

Of course, if anyone actually read the precautions on some of these products most Americans toss around their yards with great glee because they are about to best a dandelion, you would be told to wear protective goggles, gloves, clothing and sometimes masks when using.

Have you ever stood near or in the garden center in a store selling synthetic pesticides and tried to take a deep breath, only to feel an odd burning in your nose and mouth because of the chemicals? Reeks of the great outdoors, doesn’t it?

Many products warn that beneficial insects (think bees, people) will be harmed and that application should be undertaken only when those aren’t about. Golly, given the current honeybee crisis, there’s one warning you could stop worrying over.

Or the warning is that the products shouldn’t be used near streams, lakes or other water sources because the runoff will kill the fish.

Darling, grab the baby and let’s frolic in this paradise.

All to get a weed-free lawn.

As if that weren’t enough to set me off, then I read the list of “weeds” that drive Americans to these practices.

Al-Qaida ain’t got nothing on these weeds, insidiously undermining the foundations of what it is to be an American lawn:

The dandelion with its evil yellow blossom.

The wild strawberry with its depraved fruit that taste like candy, obviously a plot to lull us into a sugary stupor.

Sorrel, which produces pestilential spring greens (uh-oh, I even planted some in a raised bed – on purpose).

Clover, an amoral source of nectar for bees of all shapes and sizes.

Purslane, another vice I grow in my garden to eat.

Veronica, a two-timing plant that otherwise you pay good money for at nurseries.

And then there is my personal favorite, perhaps the most noxious weed of them all.

The wild violet.

I am sure my mother was shocked when, every Mother’s Day, I brought her a little bouquet from the front yard. What a dreadful child she raised, one who rejoiced when this foul plant poked its wicked self through the new blades of grass and blossomed in all its purple wrath, intent on destroying the innocent lawn surrounding it.

But there is hope. Maybe not for me, because I welcome all of these things in my lawn. I even – gasp – have moss growing in several “lawn” areas and I revel in it.

Stop in at SafeLawns.org for a visit and take part in the revolution. This Maine-based organization has a better way to get a beautiful lawn without killing us in the process. Some of it is as simple as leaving your grass clippings on the lawn after mowing, which can provide about half of a lawn’s fertilizer needs for a season.

So what if you have furrows on the lawn for a day or two. Maybe it means you – and the rest of us – live a day or two longer.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in March 2008.