The Physician Gardener

Weeding. As a child, when I helped my mom weed I pulled plants as well as weeds. It takes awhile to learn what to pull, what to leave. Timing is also important; after a soaking rain they’ll leap into your hands.

The effort of hand-weeding can be tremendous, leading to a sore back, rose-pricked fingers, sunburn. You can try other methods. Chemicals are effective, but often kill the good plants as well. Or lay down a weed barrier before planting. This requires foresight and planning, but can also give a false sense of security as you think your precious plants are now immune from invaders.

If you think weeds won’t grow, you’ll never get down on hands and knees among your plants—which is how you’ll get to know them best. The lambs ears tickle the back of your hand. The mop heads of the hydrangea nod approval at your careful attention to their bed.

Some plants which were mere landscape fillers from a distance reveal secrets up close. The spiderwort allows glimpses of its violet blooms only in cool early morning; under the scrutiny of mid-day sun it is a gangly mess of spiky leaves.

You spend most of your time yanking little weeds, thus improving the health of your prized plants. But sometimes , a cherished one still struggles. You fertilize, water, prune, and coax. And when these efforts are for naught, you must admit defeat. Some gardeners yank up these plants, others leave them be.

Who is to say which gardener is kinder? One who actively halts further suffering, or one who refuses to play any role in a plant’s demise?

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Ann Seide MD

Ann Seide MD is an Integrative Medicine Doctor with 25 years of experience working as a hospitalist and palliative care physician. She is also a Zen Buddhist, trained Council practitioner, Navy veteran and founder of Seide Integrative Health in Thousand Oaks, California where she specializes in Integrative Oncology and Physician Health.

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