Mary insists this is a fine specimen of a Chestnut Hill dandelion.

by Mary Gulivindala

If it weren’t for weeds, I’d have no flowers at all. It’s summertime, and the flowers are blooming. Chestnut Hillers are out in their yards tilling the earth, planting flowers, manicuring bushes, watering their yards and weeding their gardens to make their curb appeal beautiful. I secretly observed one neighbor singing to her tulips.

Gardening is new to me. I don’t have a green thumb. My thumb is brown; I only work in dirt. Three years ago I rented a small property where all I needed was a weed whacker for lawn maintenance. My porch flower pots were my pride and joy. Well, things have changed. If I didn’t have weeds, there would be no green in my yard.

I purchased my own lot of land. Now I’ve moved up to a non-electric push mower. Gratefully, I can still get away with the weed whacker method in a pinch when necessary. I called up a landscaper friend and asked if he would come over and tell me what I bought. I didn’t know if I was pulling weeds or flowers.

So he came over and pointed, saying, “That is a weed; that is a weed; careful pulling up that weed because it has little seeds that will spread and give you more weeds.” Finally, “That is a flower; this is called…” He proceeded to speak in Latin, and I rolled my eyes.

I began to become more conscious of my surroundings walking through town looking at my neighbors’ landscaping. Perhaps you’ve seen me? I am the one with my phone taking pictures of your lawn; be flattered, not frightened. One day while pulling weeds in the hot, merciless sun, I realized that gardening is hard work!

I started looking around and questioning why I was pulling certain weeds when they are just as pretty as other leafy greens. They are small, dainty and not intimidating. What’s wrong with this clover-like specimen that has been labeled a weed and therefore discriminated against? They serve a purpose, which is to send your kids outside and tell them to come back when they find a four-leaf clover. Then we will get a pot of gold!

My yard doesn’t have much color, but I do have a few beautiful small yellow flowers. They are known as dandelions. Dandelions have been unjustly labeled a weed, dismissed, plucked and thrown out by many. I thought to myself, what person on high said the dandelion was a weed? Why is it the black sheep of the gardening community?

I think dandelions are awesome! They start with a green stem and a white poof of blow-away wishes. They are little wish-makers and have given many children countless moments of magical hope. I remember my lawn growing up as a child and pulling that flower, closing my eyes, making a wish with all my might and then the big moment, blowing on the mystical white seed heads.

I would watch as they floated off to wish-fulfillment land. They were my field of poppy bliss, and then I would forget about them. I used to make bouquets out of them for my mother, and by her reaction I figured they were the finest flowers ever grown.

So how come “someone” has wrought havoc on the dandelions and convinced people that they are less than, say, the tulip or hibiscus? I started to get mad because here I was in the dirt on my hands and knees killing an innocent flower because someone’s aesthetic said I should.

Well I have some news for that “someone.” First, the dandelion is not a weed; it is a flower, and I have proof. I wikipedia’d it. “Taraxacum (/təˈræksəkʉm/) is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae (French dent-de-lion, meaning lion’s tooth). Like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a ‘floret.’”

That is FOUR TIMES the word FLOWER is used in just the opening paragraph. Wikipedia is a very credible source for research that I find quite convenient. They make topics easy to research and understand. For some reason, the school system doesn’t consider it a valid source. I think they are wrong. Opinions: everybody has one.

Dandelions are pretty flowers and even have a lot of nutritional value. Energy, dietary fiber, protein and multiple vitamins like A, B, C, D, and K. Europeans have gathered dandelions to eat since prehistory. Dandelions are used to make beverages that are healthy like caffeine-free coffee, root beer and wine. I told you they had blissful, happy mystical qualities. They have medicinal properties as well. Did I mention wine?

I would like to encourage “Hillers” to champion the dandelions. Don’t pull them out of their natural habitats. Let them grow. If you do pull them, please use them. Make a dandelion salad, and have it with some wine. Have your neighbor over, sit on the porch, fellowship and watch the grass grow while you enjoy your delicious, nutritious meal.

“Life coach” Mary Gulivindala is the founder of Blue Print Life & Wellness Coaching in Chestnut Hill.

  • Gerry

    My dad also questioned who decided which were flowers and which were not. I say if it grows, leave it be.

  • Julie Byrne

    Weeds are in the eye of the beholder? :)
    This one seems to be endemic in Chestnut Hill. Does anyone know what it is and the best way to get rid of it? Its trying to take over my garden! Thanks!

  • Lyn Baskett

    Too funny!!!!! love your perspective on weeds – the flower’s stepchildren

  • Holly Shoup

    Enjoyed hearing about your adventures in horticulture ! Keep it up!

  • LyndyLoo

    My Italian Mom-Mom used to make dandelion salads all the time!

  • Sheana Ochoa

    Fantastic article. I loved the line: “They are little wish-makers and have given many children countless moments of magical hope.” It made me think about Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”where the main character a girl thinks dandelions are flowers too until someone tells her they’re a weed, reflecting her own self-worth, thinking she’s not a flower, as a working class African-American and needs blue eyes in order to be pretty. Anyway, dandelions are flowers dammit!

  • Wonder Woman 4

    really1 You have a REALLY enjoyable way with words, Mary! I needed a good way to defend dandelions. which I’ve always adored. I hope you will go on defending the other flowers or weeds that people don’t appreciate. If I were a weed, I’d want YOU to defend me!
    much love, Joyce (American in Italy).

  • Alexia Rees

    Dandelions, what a lovely topic for contemplation. I agree, its a fine flower, and a perfect specimen for making garlands out of, especially for a handsome young fella of your choice. At least that is what we did back in the old country, the almighty mother Russia. That’s right, us commies use to weave garlands for that special someone. Mary, you are very funny. I always knew that, but the part about going around neighborhood, taking pictures of peoples backyards, I can just see that. That is very hysterical. I’ll be waiting for your next episode of exploding weeds!

  • Andrea Gregoire

    Enjoyed your article, smiled the whole time, just imagining your spirited defense of this lovely ‘weed’ flower. And I’m in total agreement, when I was informed, as a child, that dandelions were ‘just weeds’ it was akin to Santa Claus is ‘just a guy’ dressed up in a red suit. Awaiting your next work, they’re always amusing!