Green thumb sprouts late

Debra Moore
Staff Writer

One by one my friends grew green thumbs. They eagerly anticipated the spring’s first shipment of annual color and would spend hours planting, watering, weeding and rhapsodizing about the results.

I didn’t get it. I tried. Each year I would make the annual trek to buy blooms, feigning interest. I struggled to recall the names of flowers. Anything beyond a daisy or a rose confounded me. I couldn’t even accurately name a pansy from a petunia.

My friends at work would give me a gift certificate to the local nursery for my birthday, which always falls around Memorial Day. They also accompanied me on the shopping spree knowing how shrub-challenged I was. But then the bets would be on to see how long it would take me to kill my plants.

No matter how I augmented my soil or watered or weeded, they slowly withered. Thankfully, the growing season in the mountains is mercifully short and my humiliation was soon covered in snow.

But something changed this year. And it was totally unexpected.

My good friend Sandy Condon picked me up and took me to Gray’s for my annual spring fling. Our goal — find plants to fill two backyard containers and the mailbox barrel.

I can navigate the seven floors of Harrods Department Store in London, but the aisles of the local nursery make me dizzy. Too many plants; too little knowledge.

I know I like perennials. The more perennials I can buy, the fewer floral forays await me in subsequent years. But the annuals are always so cheery.

We bought a nice assortment — I’d like to tell you what they are, but despite my best intentions, I tossed the little plastic spiked tags that contain all of the pertinent information. That means next spring, I will be scratching my head and wondering if that green bud is a weed or a blossom.

Sandy has made more than one trip to my house as the season progressed, assuring me that the plants I have been dutifully nurturing are actually weeds. (I can identify a dandelion, but that’s about my limit.)

Then something strange happened. I felt the urge to return to the nursery. It was vaguely unsettling.

Not wanting to infringe on my friend, the gardener, yet again, I set off on my own. I tried to exude an air of confidence as I strode through the door, but I felt like an interloper.

I wandered around — but the plants that we purchased during the first trip were no longer in evidence. As the minutes inched toward closing time, I asked for help.

I returned home with a carload of plants and not a clue as to where to put them. I had no choice, I called Sandy.

“I went to Gray’s,” I said.

Long pause. “By yourself?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

Another pause. “Really?”

“Yes, really.” You would think that I told her I had walked into an operating room to perform brain surgery.

Still, I couldn’t be too insulted. After all, I was the one with $100 worth of plants and no idea what to do with them.

What I really need at this point is a plan. I have a large, terraced back yard in desperate need of direction. Randomly interjecting bits of color is fun, but can’t hide the fact that both the yard and I need serious help.

The front yard is easier — most of it is consumed by mutating, overgrown junipers. Various passersby have suggested that I tear out what they consider to be offensive plants. But why would I want to rid my yard of something that is perpetually green and maintenance free?

However, I could trim them back. The path between the plants and the front of the house had become so thin that one had to shimmy to get by. I haven’t been home to watch the Amerigas delivery guy try it, but it might be fun to watch.

I began trimming and quickly uncovered in no particular order: a fire extinguisher, assorted golf and tennis balls, a caulking gun, beverage bottles, darts and a faded hair ribbon. I am sure that more treasures await, but the deeper I go, the thicker the bushes. I need a stronger tool for the job.

I can’t imagine what I would use if I actually took them all out. And then, what would I put in their place — certainly not annuals.

No, for now, my focus will be on the backyard. Isn’t it time for snow?


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