By Jill Severn —
Today a friend asked a good question: At what age do we stop thinking dandelions are wonderful? Whatever it is, it’s a very sad occasion.
Who among us doesn’t remember the childhood discovery of the roundest, yellowest, gladdest flower in the world? And who could forget blowing those perfect spheres of dandelion seeds into the air? This was bliss.
But a lot of today’s adults’ minds were warped, early in life, by parents who paid them a penny apiece to pull dandelions, or by parents who yelled at them for blowing dandelion seeds all over the place. Children who had been thrilled to the toes by dandelions in their earliest years were, by the time they turned 10, deceived into betraying their own best aesthetic judgment. Our innocent little minds were poisoned with anti-dandelion prejudice, and the result is a multi-billion dollar industry in death-to-dandelions chemicals.
Early teaching that there are “good” plants (like rhododendrons in beauty bark) and “bad” plants (like those rogue dandelions who thumb their noses at that beauty bark) inhibits people’s ability to grasp the basic facts and concepts of botany. This, in turn, makes for a lot of lousy, linear, uptight gardeners.
More important, to lose the love of dandelions is to lose the capacity for a fully spontaneous and open relationship with nature. It is to become a fashion victim; a person whose tastes are shaped by the dictates of others rather than what truly suits you.
We could truly make the world a better place by simply not teaching the next generation to scorn dandelions. If children’s natural instincts about plants were left to take their own course, what would our gardens look like? And what would our cities and suburbs become? I can only think that they would be better – untidier , perhaps, but freer, more varied, and with more surprises and eccentricities on every block. And I’m quite sure there would be a lot less beauty bark and a lot fewer death-dealing chemicals.
Once long ago, I actually saw dandelions seeds advertised in a garden catalogue. They were being sold to vegetable gardeners as a highly desirable salad green. I wish now that I’d bought some, just to bolster their value.
But every year, there’s another chance to rectify our relationship with this extraordinary flower, and this is it – the golden moment when dandelions are at their irresistible best. To overcome the alienation of affection between dandelions and adults, go for a walk and find the tallest dandelion within a block of your house. In the first week in May, there’s a good chance it will be two feet tall or more. When you find the very biggest one, please pick the flowers that have gone to seed, and blow them all over the place.