Sneak Previews of Forthcoming Books : When a Weed Is Not a Weed

‘When Louise and I moved, our friends gave us gifts of plants.’

From “Thoughts While Tending Sheep,” by W. G. Ilefeldt, published recently by Crown Publishers Inc.

THE VALUE we place on things is subjective. For instance, after the war, when Louise and I moved out of our apartment into our first home in a suburb of Los Angeles, our friends gave us gifts of plants and cuttings from their own gardens. We planted them here and there, with little knowledge of what they would grow into. We figured we could leave them if they fitted in, and transplant those that did not.

Amongst all this, one plant appeared and produced an exquisitely fragile, light blue, trumpet-shaped flower, most likely an exotic member of the lily family. Neither of us had ever seen a flower quite like it before, and we could not find it in our search through reference books at the library. We assumed that, because it bloomed only at night and closed up during daylight hours, it was not a popular flower and therefore not worth listing.


I would take guests out with a flashlight and proudly show off this most rare of flowers and ask if he or she knew what it was. No one did. One suggested we call it a night-blooming jazzman, which is what we did call it until a more knowledgeable friend said, “Man, that’s no flower; that’s a goddamn weed!” Somehow, learning that it was a weed did not lessen its beauty for Louise and me. I felt somewhat vindicated years later when I heard a horticulturist say, “There’s no such thing as a weed, only a flower in the wrong place.”

Copyright 1988 by W.G. Ilefeldt.