My friend Alexandra Heep (you know her, she's into NASCAR and has a really nice blog to make you think, a sunflower patch for her cat Gracie to make you wish for summer and another blog to acquaint you with the obsurdities of life. Yes, you should check them out) wrote this story for a magazine in the hope of getting the prize offered. Well, much to my bewilderment, it wasn't accepted. So, she asked if I'd like to feature it here. Well, yeah, baby!Unlike that stupid magazine, I loved it. I guess that means I should pay her. We'll see about that.
My true gardening horror story by Alexandra Heep
Having grown up with a mother who had a green thumb and let me have
my own garden plot, I have always longed to duplicate my childhood
experience. Not only do I remember home-grown vegetables fondly (yes, I
ate my vegetables), but of course also the beautiful flowers which
attracted colorful butterflies.
I moved around a lot, so I
always blamed my adult brown thumb on external circumstances, like
climate and soil. Alas, my friends did not have these problems. So as
the years went by, my determination grew. Unfortunately, my gardening
spaces also shrunk - a reflection of economic times.
found myself in a cookie-cutter townhouse apartment with a
concrete-slab patio, located in old suburbia in a humid city in the Mid
Atlantic. Each patio had a white, wooden fence about 6-feet tall for a
simulation of privacy. But, the only green to be seen was the strip of
grass that ran between the building rows. It was rigorously and
unceremoniously cut down on a regular basis by maintenance personnel to
maintain an outward semblance of order in a disheveled community.
writer friend of mine who heard of my plight suggested containers for
gardening. I browsed some of his articles for a crash-course on
container gardening and set out to plant flowers and vegetables in
vessels of all sizes and shapes. For good measure, I kept some outdoors
and some indoors. Regardless, after an initial growth spurt they all
joined their unfortunate predecessors in plant-heaven.
willing to give up, I perused my 10x10 patio, wheels turning inside my
head. I just had to have some greenery! I needed something to spruce up
this area. That is when I noticed that there was about a six-inch strip
between the patio and the edge of the fence that the vicious, motorized
lawn-eating monsters from management could not touch … and an idea began
to take shape.
Off I went to the local gardening store and came
back armed with several bags of soil. I proceeded to spread the soil on
that six-inch grassy strip. “So far, so good,” I thought as I stood back
and admired my handy-work. However, what to plant?
Back to the
store I went, looking at flower seeds since I did not trust myself to
transplant live plants. I was smart and read all the soil and
temperature requirements on the back of the packet, since my patio faced
the south and was really hot. Plus, we were in the midst of a drought
so the plants had to be hardy. While some plant requirements sounded
promising, the flowers were too short. I wanted tall flowers, nothing
else would do.
“…thrives in full sun and any type of soil,
especially if it is not moist or fertile. Height: 6 to 10 feet.” That
sounded perfect. I turned the seed packet over to see what kind of
flower this was, and even the name was pretty: Morning Glory. I was
At home, I planted them mostly according to instructions
but added some extra seeds because of my prior failures. Since I sowed
them close to the fence, I omitted the suggested twine. To my delight,
only a few days later I observed tender but healthy looking shoots.
Every day they noticeably became taller and I grew happier. Could this
be the time I finally managed to grow something and make it last?
almost two months, they had grown to the top of the fence and provided
me with the home-grown greenery I had craved for so many years. Even
though they had not yet bloomed, looking at the abundant flora that
enveloped the formerly white fence made me feel quite accomplished. I
had done it, nothing could mar this accomplishment!
At the height
of my success, I had to go away for about two weeks. I was concerned of
course how my sweet morning glories might fare, but all in all hoped
they would be fine since they had survived the heat this long. I needn’t
have worried; instead I should have been afraid, very afraid …
I came back and rushed to check on my little oasis in the concrete
jungle, instead of death and destruction, the foliage had turned into
lush vines worthy of a habitat for monkeys. Vines had not only encircled
my patio table and all four chairs, rendering my little outdoor refuge
useless, but grown over the concrete floor towards the patio door,
trying to snake their way in to my living room.
It was creepy ...
the Stephen King-kind of creepy. What was worse, this sweet-sounding
plant had even grown to the side and over the partition on the
neighbor’s patio to put a stranglehold on his potted cacti. There was
absolutely no doubt in my mind that my morning glory vines had a master
plan to take over the neighborhood!
I knew I needed to stop this
invasion, but was not sure how as I lacked the proper tools. Like a
ruler threatened by the subjects of her unruly kingdom, I hid. I kept
the blinds closed to the glass patio door, avoided my neighbors and
hoped management would not knock on my door to slap me with a fine - or
worse, oust me - all while visions of sinister vines coming into my home
haunted me. At last, I called up a male friend, explained the
situation, and asked if he could come over and help me. He laughed and said, “Don’t exaggerate, it can’t be that bad!”
my friend showed up with simple garden shears in hand he took one look,
and after some unprintable comments went home to get more powerful
arsenal. In stifling 100-degree temperatures, he spent several hours
hacking and slashing his way around the monkey retreat. Among plenty of
sweat, some blood, and perhaps a few tears punctuated by the occasional
burst of colorful language, he managed to eventually take all the vines
out by the roots, but not before making me promise to never try to grow
Thanks so much, Alex. You're such a hoot! The check's in the mail! ;-)