Keep the Strawberries, Kick the Cinquefoil

Yesterday, I spent about eight hours clearing the weeds from my front garden bed, discovering treasures that surprised me by surviving the winter (some of which had never even come up last year), and mourning those that didn't. I got the plants I purchased at the greenhouse last week into the ground, and am looking forward to a colourful display of ornamentals and food plants within a month or two.

We live in a field of "old pasture"--meaning, it was completely covered in grass, dandelions, alphalpha, clover, yarrow, wild strawberries, and many other "weeds" when we started homesteading in 2009. Under that luscious green layer is about a half an inch of top soil, and then there is clay, sand, and gravel. (We often joke that our land "grows rocks," because new ones rise to the surface every year to do damage to lawnmower blades or become edging for flower beds.)

Wild, "Woodland Strawberries" in bloom, with some yarrow leaves for texture. :-)

Wild, "Woodland Strawberries" in bloom, with some yarrow leaves for texture. :-)

Needless to say, this doesn't make the best gardening material, so every garden bed I have has been laboriously created by hauling in dirt and making raised beds, or conditioning and creating soil in certain spots through years of compost gardening.

The front bed in question was only created last summer (when I was having a much more organized gardening year.) I did put a few perennials in there last year--my rhubarb, some lilies, dividing onions, and a Hosta. But for the most part, I spent yesterday clearing out weeds that had found a foothold through the straw mulch I had protected it with over the winter.

Domestic strawberries that survived the winter just fine. Yay!

Domestic strawberries that survived the winter just fine. Yay!

Some plants I was particularly glad to see thriving were my June-bearing strawberries. Last year, I was a very good girl and pinched off any blossom I found to let the plants establish. This year, I am looking forward to enjoying at least a few sweet treats from these treasures.

One of the most common weeds that I find in my garden are these:

Strawberry imposter--I am pretty sure this is "Rough Cinquefoil", or potentilla norvegica.

In my first few years here, I had a very difficult time telling whether or not these were actually wild strawberries, and would sometimes let them establish themselves in my garden for a while.

However, they would always prove to me that they were not strawberries before long, and then I would have to root out a much more established "weed."

Even still, I sometimes get fooled when they are in these early stages. Yesterday, I thought one might be the bleeding heart that I had planted last spring but which had never come up. (You never know--the lily roots I planted last year came up for the first time this spring.) However, after digging up a few in other locations, I realized that they were the same as my hopeful "bleeding heart", and digging the plant up to compare roots confirmed it.

Until this morning, I was calling this pervasive plant "false strawberry." When I started researching this post, I discovered that it is actually a different plant, most likely "Rough Cinquefoil" (potentilla norvegica). While in the same "Rosacae" family as strawberries (which explains the similar leaf) they end up looking very different. And although the cinquefoil has edible and medicinal properties and therefore has value of its own, it is not the plant of choice for my front flower bed.

We all have “cinquefoil” in our lives. Sometimes it sneaks in because we just don’t have the time or energy to deal with it right then. Eventually, though, we have to stop and examine the things we fill our lives with and question, “Is this still of value to me? Is this something I want to nurture right now?”

I realize that those in the "natural gardening" frame of mind might choose to embrace nature instead of fight against it and let these plants thrive in nooks in their garden. After all, they aren't "weeds," they are "wildflowers," with medicinal properties and food value and everything!

Well, since I have plenty of uncultivated "nooks" in my yard where these plants can have a hey-day, I expend a great deal of effort to remove them where they would be in competition with plants that I choose to nurture.

Will I have to be vigilant that they don't come back? Yep. Will they most likely try to take over again next spring? Definitely. But that doesn't mean I am going to give up.

And it hit me that I have habits and "stuff" in my life that is like the cinquefoil in my garden. Those things might be pretty. They might have had value once, or in the right context. But the question is, are they what I want to nurture right now?

Last week, to preserve my sanity, I had a major "decluttering" binge. Over the winter, things had been accumulating in piles of "stuff to deal with later." As I looked around my home, all I could see was all that undealt-with clutter, and it made me feel grumpy and worthless. (I know it doesn't make sense, but many women feel that if their homes are out of control, their lives are out of control. Count me in on that one.) So the binge-decluttering began.

While I have a pretty rigid discipline when it comes to keeping many types of items out of my small home, one weakness I have is magazines and books.

If I could, I would have an entire, large room to serve as our home's library. As it is, I keep several tubs of books in storage, and occasionally rotate ones into the house as my children reach an age where the books may be interesting to them.

I have the same problem with magazines. But as I was decluttering last week, I came to a realization that my house could only hold so many magazines. And what are the chances that I will ever need (or want) to re-read most of them? And I tossed that cinquefoil--er, magazine stash--right into the recycle bin.

"That's what the internet is for" became my new mantra as I found shelf space I didn't know existed. With the rush of delight I got every time I looked at the counter I could finally see, I started looking for other things to purge.

We all have "cinquefoil" in our lives, whether it is "stuff", habits, commitments, or even  relationships. These "extras" drain our resources and energy and leave less room and time for the "strawberries"--things and relationships who add value to our lives and that we want to nurture.

Sometimes the cinquefoil sneaks in because we just don't have the time or energy to deal with it right then. Eventually, though, we have to stop and examine the things we fill our lives with and question, "Is this still of value to me? Is this something I want to nurture right now? Should this take priority over the strawberries in my life?"

And if the answer to any of those questions is "No,", it's time to dig it up and throw it out.

That's how you make a beautiful garden. And a beautiful, fulfilling life.

What "cinquefoil" do you have in your life right now?

And what do you plan to do about it?