Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Un-Constant Gardener

Yesterday was such a beautiful day, I thought seriously about doing an early spring survey of my flowerbeds. I've always wanted so badly to have beautiful blooms like one ones in Rebecca's Garden. In the end, I didn't do it though because I have had a conflicted attitude about my flowers ever since Terri and Tim and I opened GoodFella's Pizza in the old flower shop on Stitt Street. The flowers that grew in the cracks in the asphalt affected me like a slap in the face every time I saw them. Self-planted by falling seeds, they sprang up as festive clumps of bright red and charming bouquets of yellow and purple. They thrived, scorched by a blazing sun, dependent on the unpredictability of rain to quench their thirst. They were neither fertilized nor insect-protected and yet there they were, happily dotting the ugly black pavement.

Meanwhile, back at home, plants that were babied and coddled, mulched and watered, fed and sprayed, staked and trellised, are just as likely to wither and die as prosper. Or to do well one year, never to appear again, presumably having found something wanting in my stewardship.

Take my Clematis. The typical Clematis outdoes itself with overflowing mounds of royal purple blossoms. My Clematis, by contrast, is obviously the victim of an inferiority complex. In anticipation of its growth, I bought an out-sized trellis, five strips of wood, arcing into a fan shape. But my plant never grew beyond its original slender strand, clinging timidly to the outermost slat. Last summer, it produced a total of three small flowers.

The Peonies that blossomed abundantly when I moved here have died out completely. Peonies! Plants that soldier on for decades near the foundations of fallen-in farmhouses. What could I have possibly done wrong to cause their demise? Experts can't tell me because they've never heard of it happening before. It usually takes nuclear fall-out to kill off Peonies.

Over and over, I tried to get Poppies started. Last spring, a single Poppy leaf appeared, as if to taunt me. I hovered over it in an attempt to will it to grow but in a short time, it wilted and melted back into the earth.

I have a nine-year-old Lilac that has never bloomed and Rhododendrons that produce flowers one year out of every three. My Rambling Rose has taken its name too much to heart. Instead of confining itself to a compact area, it produces suicidal runners that wend their way up the house, trying to disappear into a hole behind the gas meter. A single strand of this rose can run along the ground for several feet as if in an attempt to physically flee to the neighbor's yard. If there were a Rose Court, it would have filed paperwork requesting to be emancipated from my custody by now.

Only the Yucca, which I have made repeated efforts to destroy, arises anew each year. Although I chop and dig and spray, a piece of root the size of a single atom must remain so that each spring, the Yucca bursts exurberantly from the earth like a Phoenix.

Sometimes I become a little bitter. I get tired of pampering spoiled brats and getting slapped in the face in return. One year, I may just decide to divorce the rose myself and to quit planting Poppies. Left alone, the Yucca would, in short order, produce enough children to completely over-run the unappreciative Lillies and Daisies. And it would be good enough for them. If they're so unhappy here, let them go down to the parking lot to live.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about Wabash and what you're doing. I didn't know yucca would grow there, I would think the cold would kill it. But it is a hearty desert plant, so it probably loves your rain and endures your winter, just waiting for the summer heat. Their roots go so deep it's impossible to dig them up, but you can try repeated applications of Round Up if you're into chemicals. L.