Last week I set myself the challenge of photographing weeds. Yes, weeds! I can guess what you’re thinking; weeds are ugly, pointless, perennially-annoying things that we try to rid from our lawns and borders every year! Think again. Believe it or not, weeds can often be much more photogenic close-up than a flower, because I find their structure is more striking and intricate when magnified.
So, what’s the difference between a weed and a flower? Well, not a lot actually. Simply put, a weed is defined as “a plant growing out of place”, so any plant could be considered a weed if it’s not where you want it. Think a poppy growing in your lawn – maybe you don’t want it there. Maybe you do. It’s simply a matter of opinion. But enough with the science, let’s get to the artistic stuff.
I decided to photograph some weeds around the local area, and I have to say, I much prefer delving deep into a weed’s structural beauty than that of a traditional flower. I think it’s because a weed surprises you with its fragile beauty, something that we rarely see as we’re only too keen to remove them from our gardens. I myself have been guilty of mowing over buttercups, dandelions and daisies, but now I see them differently, and maybe in the future I won’t be too quick to rid them from my garden. Through a macro lens, a weed is suddenly transformed into a graceful-looking and delicate structure. Its rough and unrefined texture instantly changing into an ethereal form, or at least, that’s what I see anyway.
Without weeds, our ecosystem would disappear because the array of animals and insects that rely on them would no longer be supported and able to survive, their habitat destroyed. That’s why wildflower meadows are so important, but sadly they’re in decline.
It was only when I was photographing weeds last week that I actually stopped to notice the number of fauna that depend on weeds and wildflowers, as the bees and butterflies nonchalantly went about their business, hovering above me. And as I held my camera, ready to take my next snap, it occurred to me that I’ve seen a distinct lack of butterflies this summer, but as soon as I walked into a wildflower meadow just a mile away from my house, there it was, a menagerie of butterflies and bees, floating on the summer breeze.
Butterflies love weeds, so manicuring our lawns to perfection and introducing non-native species of plants is actually doing more harm than good, to wildlife that is. So if you have time next spring, sow some seeds and leave a section of your garden to become a little overgrown, and simply let nature do its thing. You won’t be disappointed with the result, especially when nature takes hold once more, and if you’re a keen photographer like me, what a sight it will be!