The Quote Garden

 I dig old books.

 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Weeds


A weed is but an unloved flower!...
All sin is virtue unevolved.
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox, "The Weed," New Thought Pastels, 1906

I always think of my sins when I weed. They grow apace in the same way and are harder still to get rid of. ~Helena Rutherfurd Ely

Weeds are nature's graffiti. ~J.L.W. Brooks

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except learning how to grow in rows. ~Doug Larson, United Feature Syndicate, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1994

One is tempted to say that the most human plants, after all, are the weeds. How they cling to man and follow him around the world, and spring up wherever he sets his foot! How they crowd around his barns and dwellings, and throng his garden and jostle and override each other in their strife to be near him! ~John Burroughs (1837–1921)

A careless gipsy vagrant,
Out at play,
'Midst the corn rows loitering,
Lost its way.
Climbing up a friendly stalk,
Weed Bo-peep
Twines its tendril arms about and
Falls asleep.
~Adelbert Farrington Caldwell (1867–1931), "A Weed"

Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons. Oh, I know you've seen advertisements for lawn products that are supposed to kill crabgrass, but don't believe them. Crabgrass thrives on these products. ~Dave Barry

I learn more about God
From weeds than from roses;
Resilience springing
Through the smallest chink of hope
In the absolute of concrete....
~Phillip Pulfrey, "Weeds," Perspectives,

First time I've picked weeds in almost a year. Definitely missed it. I love the smell of dirt and plant revealing their hidden nature. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson, tweet, 2009

Weeds are Nature's makeshift. She rejoices in the grass and the grain, but when these fail to cover her nakedness she resorts to weeds. ~John Burroughs (1837–1921)

May all your weeds be wildflowers. ~Author unknown

Free Weeds
U Pick 'Em
~Author unknown

I have already said that, to the flowers in my garden, I seem to stand in the same relationship as to a guest under my roof. But the ground-ash was neither guest nor friend of mine. Not only had it come hither, uninvited and unwanted, but it was the enemy of my loved flower-friends. Otherwise, and on the principle of 'live and let live,' I would have let it alone, as I let alone many a wild flower which gardeners tell me is a weed, and urge me to uproot... So, armed with a weed-spudder and a hand fork, I attacked the ground-ash — to give up the task as hopeless. Only by following with my fingers, the wiry roots of the wicked weed, for what seemed to me miles and miles underground, and in so doing, disturbing the roots of, and perhaps destroying, every other flower in the bed, could I see any chance of driving out the enemy. Once in my anger and despair, I flung a long strand of ground-ash root, which had been particularly difficult to track to its lair, upon a near-by gravel path, trampling it in bull-like fury to atoms — to find a week or two after, one of the finest crops of ground-ash ever raised, and in record time, on the spot where I had supposed it had given up the last lingering breath of ground-ash ghost. Meanwhile the General-in-command of ground-ash in the flower-bed had re-collected and rallied his scattered forces — judging by the number there must have been whole regiments securely hidden away in deep-sunk and unreachable dug-outs — for a 'counter attack.' So far from being weakened by my onslaught, they seemed all the fresher and stronger for the digging which had let in light and air. Moreover, the General must have been an old hand at weed-warfare, for he had wisely engaged only one-third of his forces in action, holding back the remaining two-thirds as his Reserves, where they must have been under cover and so unseen by the enemy, myself. ~Coulson Kernahan, "A Fool and His Flowers," Begging the Moon's Pardon, 1930

Upon my lawn, I know not why, the dandelions thrive; the grass may all curl up and die, but they'll remain alive. I've tried about a million plans, to have the vile things slain; and all the schemes were also-rans, and all my efforts vain. ~Walt Mason

A good garden may have some weeds. ~Proverb

When weeding, the best way to make sure what you are pulling is a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Paul Dickson, The New Official Rules, 1989

Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
But they don't get around
Like the dandelions do.
~Slim Acres, as quoted by The Reader's Digest, 1946

How sure, also, they are to survive any war of extermination that is waged against them! In yonder fields are ten thousand and one Canada thistles. The farmer goes resolutely to work and destroys ten thousand and thinks the work is finished, but he has done nothing till he has destroyed the ten thousand and one. This one will keep up the stock and again cover his fields with thistles. ~John Burroughs (1837–1921)

Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be. Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony. It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have countered a relative's latest example of unreasonableness. ~Christopher Lloyd

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered, — every one of the two hundred thousand probably yet to be of utility in the arts. As Bacchus of the vine, Ceres of the wheat, as Arkwright and Whitney were the demi-gods of cotton, so prolific Time will yet bring an inventor to every plant. There is not a property in nature but a mind is born to seek and find it... every application being equivalent to a new material. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

      I believe that I have found, if not original sin, at least vegetable total depravity in my garden; and it was there before I went into it. It is the bunch, or joint, or snake-grass,—whatever it is called.... This grass has a slender, beautiful stalk: and when you cut it down, or pull up a long root of it, you fancy it is got rid of; but in a day or two it will come up in the same spot in half a dozen vigorous blades. Cutting down and pulling up is what it thrives on. Extermination rather helps it. If you follow a slender white root, it will be found to run under the ground until it meets another slender white root; and you will soon unearth a network of them, with a knot somewhere, sending out dozens of sharp-pointed, healthy shoots, every jointed prepared to be an independent life and plant. The only way to deal with it is to take one part hoe and two parts fingers, and carefully dig it out, not leaving a joint anywhere. It will take a little time, say all summer, to dig out thoroughly a small path; but if you once dig it out, and keep it out, you will have no further trouble.
      I have said it was total depravity. Here it is. If you attempt to pull up and root out any sin in you, which shows on the surface,—if it does not show, you do not care for it,—you may have noticed how it runs into an interior network of sins, and an ever-sprouting branch of them roots somewhere; and that you cannot pull out one without making a general internal disturbance, and rooting up your whole being. I suppose it is less trouble to quietly cut them off at the top—say once a week, on Sunday, when you put on your religious clothes and face,—so that no one will see them, and not try to eradicate the network within.
      ~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, "What I Know about Gardening: Third Week," 1870

Weeds are great travelers; they are, indeed, the tramps of the vegetable world. They are going east, west, north, south; they walk; they fly; they swim; they steal a ride; they travel by rail, by flood, by wind; they go under ground, and they go above, across lots, and by the highway. ~John Burroughs (1837–1921)

Weeds —
Is there really evil in their hearts
or are they simply feisty seeds —
      ambitious verdant darts,
      proliferous garden art?
~Terri Guillemets, "Fertilize & philosophize," 2004

Plant and your spouse plants with you; weed and you weed alone. ~Author unknown

Grandam, one night, as we did sit at supper,
My uncle Rivers talk'd how I did grow
More than my brother: 'Ay,' quoth my uncle Gloucester,
'Small herbs have grace, great weeds do grow apace:'
And since, methinks, I would not grow so fast,
Because sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.
~William Shakespeare, Richard III, c.1592  [II, 4, Duke of York]

But weeds have this virtue: they are not easily discouraged; they never lose heart entirely; they die game.... in all cases they make the most of their opportunities. ~John Burroughs (1837–1921)

A rose can say I love you,
Orchids can enthrall.
But a weed bouquet in a chubby fist—
Oh my, that says it all!
~Author unknown, as quoted in Barbara Johnson, Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy!, 1990

Alack, 'tis he! Why, he was met even now
As mad as the vex'd sea, singing aloud,
Crown'd with rank fumiter and furrow weeds,
With harlocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo flow'rs,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow
In our sustaining corn. A century send forth.
Search every acre in the high-grown field
And bring him to our eye. What can man's wisdom
In the restoring his bereaved sense?
~William Shakespeare, King Lear, c.1605  [IV, 4, Cordelia]

A man in words and not in deeds,
Is like a Garden full of weeds.
~James Howell's Proverbs, 1660

A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds;
And when the weeds begin to grow,
It's like a garden full of snow...
~Nursery rhyme

I, however, believe in the intellectual, if not the moral, qualities of vegetables, and especially weeds.... have hateful moral qualities. To cut down a weed is, therefore, to do a moral action. I feel as if I were destroying sin. My hoe becomes an instrument of retributive justice. I am an apostle of Nature. The view of the matter lends a dignity to the art of hoeing which nothing else does, and lifts it into the region of ethics. Hoeing becomes, not a pastime, but a duty. And you get to regard it so, as the days and the weeds lengthen. ~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, "What I Know about Gardening: Third Week," 1870

Weed 'em and reap. ~Author unknown

Man is the only critter who feels the need to label things as flowers or weeds. ~Author unknown

A man's Nature runs either to herbs or weeds; therefore let him seasonably water the one, and destroy the other. ~Francis Bacon

Don't water your weeds. ~Proverb

A blushing little Mayflower
Turned away her head,
Too polite to let a weed
Hear a word she said.
~Adelbert Farrington Caldwell (1867–1931), "A Wise Waiting"

Most weeds have their uses; they are not wholly malevolent. ~John Burroughs (1837–1921)

      In addition to pruning you will also most likely need to do some weeding. Sometimes this feels like playing God — deciding who lives and who dies is no small matter — and sometimes it feels like war. But weeds are not the enemy, and a warlike attitude will not help us toward a peaceful culture.
      Take a moment to ponder the relationship of these plants to other living things around, now and in the future. Your weeds provide forage and habitat for insects, birds, and animals, as well as shelter for the seedlings of other plants. They cover the bare soil and bring moisture and soil life closer to the surface, where they can do their good work. Weeds should be respected for their tenacity, persistence, and versatility and looked upon more as volunteers than as invaders. Throughout its life every plant engages in a complex relationship with the ecosystem that produced it.
      We humans can benefit greatly by participating in this cycle rather than trying to dominate it. We may indeed gain much wisdom by following nature’s tendencies. ~Heather Jo Flores, "Plants and Polycultures: How to Grow Garden Guilds," Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community, 2006,

O Coriolanus, Coriolanus!
Each word thou hast spoke hath weeded from my heart
A root of ancient envy...
~William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, c.1607  [IV, 5, Tullus Aufidius]

To weed this wormwood from your fruitful brain... ~William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost, c.1594  [V, 2, Rosaline]

When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles. ~Horace Walpole, letter to the Countess of Ailesbury, 1779

Weeds are pulled up by the roots to clear the fields for the growing grain. Why should not mental weeds be pulled up by the roots also, and the mind cleared for growth? ~Horace Fletcher, Menticulture, 1895

      A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.
      Just as a gardener cultivates his plot... so a man may tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts... [A] man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life. ~James Allen, "Effect of Thought on Circumstances," As a Man Thinketh, 1908

We must weed our own minds as we would weed our gardens — of overgrown fears, strangling emotions, noxious thoughts, leeching habits, and poisonous beliefs. ~Terri Guillemets, "Constant growing," 2006

A flowerless conscience, drooping amid the ripened weeds of neglect! ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
~William Shakespeare

Go, bind thou up yon dangling apricocks,
Which, like unruly children, make their sire
Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight:
Give some supportance to the bending twigs.
Go thou, and like an executioner,
Cut off the heads of too fast growing sprays,
That look too lofty in our commonwealth:
All must be even in our government.
You thus employ'd, I will go root away
The noisome weeds, which without profit suck
The soil's fertility from wholesome flowers.
~William Shakespeare, Richard II, c.1595  [III, 4, Gardener]

Why should we in the compass of a pale
Keep law and form and due proportion,
Showing, as in a model, our firm estate,
When our sea-walled garden, the whole land,
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up,
Her fruit-trees all upturned, her hedges ruin'd,
Her knots disorder'd and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars?
~William Shakespeare, Richard II, c.1595  [III, 4, Servant]

By flattery hath he won the commons' hearts,
And when he please to make commotion,
'Tis to be fear'd they all will follow him.
Now 'tis the spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now, and they'll o'ergrow the garden
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry.
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II, c.1590  [III, 1, Queen Margaret]

Dear nurse of arts and joyful births,
Should not in this best garden of the world
Our fertile France, put up her lovely visage?
Alas, she hath from France too long been chased,
And all her husbandry doth lie on heaps,
Corrupting in its own fertility.
Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart,
Unpruned dies; her hedges even-pleach'd,
Like prisoners wildly overgrown with hair,
Put forth disorder'd twigs; her fallow leas
The darnel, hemlock and rank fumitory
Doth root upon, while that the coulter rusts
That should deracinate such savagery;
The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth
The freckled cowslip, burnet and green clover,
Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank,
Conceives by idleness and nothing teems
But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burs,
Losing both beauty and utility.
And as our vineyards, fallows, meads and hedges,
Defective in their natures, grow to wildness,
Even so our houses and ourselves and children
Have lost, or do not learn for want of time,
The sciences that should become our country;
But grow like savages...
~William Shakespeare, Henry V, c.1598  [V, 2, Duke of Burgundy]

But the weeds no less than the flowers look happy
Because of the rain, sticking up their tongues.
It is good the rain falls alike on the weeds and the flowers.
The weeds look so glad. I am sure they have their art
And this is one of the moments when they feel intensely...
~Cave Outlaw, "Rain," Each Day, 1942

Try to see weeding as an act of mediation rather than expulsion, and embrace the notion that all species have equal rights to survival. Chances are, they are there for a reason. You may not be able to see this reason, but in the interests of biodiversity it is important to make at least a little bit of room for everyone. ~Heather Jo Flores, "Plants and Polycultures: How to Grow Garden Guilds," Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community, 2006,

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published 2000 Dec 23
revised 2021 Aug 2
last saved 2022 Oct 26