GARDENING 101 – October 2009


By Margie Harrell


mexican_gardenIt’s not from lack of trying but I just don’t seem to be able to grow anything. Plants that grow wild in the fields shrivel at my mere gaze.  Gift roses I have received that are flushed with life wilt and die overnight. I seem to have no trouble growing unwanted hairs on my chin, brown spots on my arms and warts on my legs but plant life wants nothing to do with me. I come from a family of growers but none of their talents seem to have been passed on to me.

After studying my dilemma I have come to the conclusion that it’s all in the watering. When the pansies start to float down the driveway it’s time to rethink the irrigation.  Apparently plants aren’t in need of a drink three times a day.  Who knew?  Hubby spent a fortune over the years replacing trees and shrubs I had “lovingly” tried to nurture.  I even tried talking to them but all I got back was dead silence. No pun intended.

When I moved to Mexico with its endless flora I was sure I would be able to learn the secrets of gardening.  My casa had a walled back yard with a banana tree that must have been ten feet tall.  It was beautiful but . . . it died a month after we met.  Honestly, I never laid a hand on it.  Well, maybe just a few coffee grounds on the roots once in a while.  Someone told me plants love them but apparently mine didn’t.  When the gardener asked what had happened I pointed to the cat and said, “bad gato.”

Years ago I decided to take the bulb by the root and I enrolled in a gardening class at my local college.  By the end of the course I think my instructor was on medication. As I repeatedly asked him what the difference was between peet moss and potting soil, he was reduced to just rolling his eyes.  Did you know there is a right and a wrong way to plant the lowly onion?  Mine never did sprout and at graduation I was the only one who didn’t get to take fresh vegetables home.

As a thank-you gift for their stay with me in Mexico, my family gave me a beautiful terra cotta pot for the patio. They stocked it with all sort of succulants, which is another way of saying easy-to-care-for. The highlight of my afternoon cocktail hour was to sit and take in the beauty of their gift.  It warmed my heart, for about four weeks until it bit the dust.  I’m sure those darn cacti knew the minute the gardeners in the family had left town.  As I approached them, watering can in hand, they took the easy way out.  Later I put a tray on the top of the pot and used it as a mini bar.

To someone who always thought having a green thumb meant you were loaded, I now leave the gardening to the more gifted.  Plastic flowers are just dust collectors so I have settled for enjoying my neighbors’ gardens, from a distance of course.  Still, there are days when I long for a basket of cascading blooms hung from the rafters of the patio but for now it is but a dream.  In the meantime I have joined my local Garden Club. I wonder if they have ever heard of Typhoid Mary? Wish me luck.

Ojo Del Lago
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