If you’ve read here for a bit, you’ll know that I am, for all intents and purposes, the worst gardener on the planet.
I try, I really do, but the thing about plants is… they’re quiet. When the people in my house are hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, bored, or hurt, I hear about it because they expect me to do something about it. Even Louie the Wonder Pup will use a short bark or well-placed nudge to get my attention around his dinnertime or when he needs to take a turn around the backyard.
But plants wait in silence. They expect you to realize that they haven’t been watered in days. The most they muster is a guilt-inducing wilt with a sickly yellow color. As soon as I realize that they’re on the verge of collapse, I tend to overcompensate with water so that the droopy, yellowed-and-browned shadows of their former selves now must cope with a flash-flood. It’s a terrible cycle, and even though I feel horrible about it, I can’t seem to break it. It leaves me a little gun-shy when it comes to planting.
When we moved to this house ten years ago, the front was left virtually a blank slate. No flowerbed across the face of the house, no trees in the front yard. Just a tiny little wreck of a garden behind a half-wall leading to the entrance and a street lamp by the driveway.
You’d think that this would be an excellent opportunity to learn to plant, wouldn’t you? Even for the world’s worst gardener. I mean, it’s not like I could ruin anything; there wasn’t anything there except a pile of rocks and weeds.
But I couldn’t do it.
At first, I was pregnant with twins and had a 4-year-old son. I double-dog-dare you to find someone who will question a hugely pregnant woman as to why she hasn’t gotten on the ball with landscaping the front yard. After the twins were born, I was too busy chasing them in all directions to even think about planting. Again, no reasonable person in possession of all his faculties is going to ask a pale, unshowered, frazzled-looking woman trying to get twin toddlers and a 5-year-old into a minivan about the state of her flowerbeds. This code of silence worked for me.
Lately — as in the last five years or so — I’ve felt guilty about it. My daughter E is all about digging in the dirt and planting flowers, so how could I in good conscience ignore the lack of pretty across the front of our house? Answer: I really, really, really put my mind to ignoring it and gave her containers to grow plants in. I’d just kill the plants anyway, I reasoned, so what’s the point of pouring all that time and money into them?
Enter an email promising free tulip bulbs.
We live near a large community college that is beautifully landscaped. They change out their flowerbeds with the seasons, so this spring’s red, yellow and purple tulips were unceremoniously yanked from the ground as soon as they started to molt their petals. Don’t ask me why they refuse to keep the bulbs buried in the ground for next year — they simply don’t do that. I was practically spitting about this wastefulness, when we got word that the college was giving away the bulbs — thousands of them — for free. First come, first served.
Enough said. We were on the case.
My husband S brought back two paper bags full of yellowed tulip plants, and he showed E how to remove all the extra foliage to get down to the bulb. She worked on it for the better part of an afternoon and yielded us approximately 120 or so bulbs.
I suppose this means that after 10 years of dodging the inevitable, I’ve finally run out of excuses. Next time I’ll share with you the plan for all these bulbs. Oh, the power of free!