Adventures in Gardenland

If you’ve read very many of my previous posts, you’ve probably figured out by now that I have a few things in my life I’m passionate about.  My family, of course—which goes without saying—and my writing.  But if you look closely, you’ll see that time and time again my blog has something to do with gardening, and I’m baffled as to  where this love comes from.

No flowers grew in our yard.  My mother planted creeping flocks beside the sidewalk several times, but my dad continuously mowed them down until tiny surrender flags of white clover sprouted in their place.  And I never remember my grandmother growing anything—not even much grass in her yard with the giant maple trees that kept the sunlight blocked.  I did have a great-grandmother who grew and canned almost everything she ate.  Grandma’s tall “mater” cages and pole beans, filled with spider webs and all sorts of creepy crawling and flying insects, lined the  path to her outhouse—making both the journey and the destination terrifying for a little girl who badly needed to go potty while visiting.

But, when a garden started calling to me, I wasn’t sure where to start.  I had some railroad ties, so I formed them into a square, a modest plot of manageable size that I envisioned bursting with blooms of  color that could be picked and arranged into bouquets that would last throughout the summer.   I knew nothing about flowers either, so the sack of bulbs that promised the pretty blooms on the front seemed innocent enough.  Dinner Plate Dahlias  they were called.  Easy to grow.

I worked into my soil all the necessary ingredients suggested for the biggest, boldest display.  I planted my bulbs and watered … and waited.  Soon, sprouts started popping through the soil and then they started thickening into stems.  I weeded, not wanting even a tiny morsel of the plant food to be wasted on anything except my beautiful dahlias.

The middle of summer came, and it was time for our two-week vacation to Florida.  I checked the weather.  Even though it was July, rain was in the forecast so I knew my flowers would be fine.  They would even be blooming by the time I got home.  I bid them farewell with a kiss and promised to be back before they knew it.

Now, I can’t really say what happened while we were gone.  But I suspect that some maniacal force stole into my garden during my absence.

My garden is on the down slope of a hill, and it can’t be seen from the street in front of the house—only from the back of the driveway.  We returned from vacation, and I sat up expectantly as we turned in the drive, waiting for that first breath-taking glimpse of my dahlias, full grown.

The glimpse was indeed breath-taking.  In fact, it ripped the air right out of my lungs.

“What the hell?” my husband whispered.

Stalks had appeared where once were stems—giant stalks reminiscent of Grandma Hearon’s “maters” or something out of Alice’s wonderland (which, incidentally always terrified me as a child, also).  These stalks were twisted into a hideous mass, and atop the twisted mass were gigantic flower heads, horrifically huge—over a foot across—with petals that resembled layer upon layer of fangs.

“Stop!” I screamed as the kids piled out of the car, unaware of the danger.  Now I understood the name.  Dinner Plate Dahlias, indeed—large enough to serve up a child or a small adult—for the monster who lived in the outhouse … or on the banks of the creek as is the case with our house that has convenient indoor plumbing.

I shooed the family inside and, armed with my hedge clippers, I faced the beast alone, cutting and chopping until I was sweaty and covered with colored fangs.  Oh, those flower heads bobbed and swiped at me, trying to get a piece, but on I fought—valiantly.

My children would never have to face the terrifying plant life that shadowed my dreams.

Yes, I prevailed.

And now I always check the possible height of anything I plant in my garden, where I’m the queen.

Nothing grows taller than me or it’s “Off with their heads!”


How about you?  have you ever grown anything that turned out to be not what you expected?