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Who said a rose is a rose!?

WHO SAID A ROSE IS ROSE!?

"Your best chance of having agreen thumb," observed my dear wife, looking at the rosebushes, my latest disaster is green thumbery, "is for a gangrene to set in."

She needn't have observed that. I'mwilling to admit I'm no Luther Burbank when it comes to this sort of thing. But who is she to criticize? Every year her peonies molt before their time. Her four o'clocks run on Pacific time. He experiment to cross morning-glories with nightshade to get evening-glories went sour. And the mountain-olive "hedge" she planted, already 20 feet high and still growing, has made it necessary to relocate the driveway. So I got involved in this flora business only to conceal the damage that you-know-who, our two dogs, and a summer-long convention of moles and had done to our--well, let's call it a yard.

A yard, according to Mr. Webster,is "the ground around or next to the house." A lawn, on the other hand, he describes as "land covered with grass kept closely mowed, especially around the house." So we have a yard.

Around and next to our housewe don't have grass. What we have is ground. Nor do I refer to topsoil, which, because our ground is atop a hill, probably headed for the valley soon after creation. What we have left is clay. Not clay, clay; this is the type of clay from which billiard balls are made. Indigenous to this clay are such florae as dandelions, wild onions, wilder grapevines, and sassafras and black locust shoots hoping to become trees. I won't embarrass my dear wife by mentioning her rock gardens gone to weeds, or the weeds gone to seed. I will mention the moles; I don't have to sleep with them. Not yet, anyway.

"Get rid of thegrubs and you'll be shed of the moles," one neighbor told me. How to get rid of the grubs he didn't say. I shot $12.95 for a mole trap, the type the prey is supposed to trip, skewering itself on a battery of tines jabbing into the mole's thoroughfare. It didn't work. By the time those prongs penetrated the clay, the mole was probably home eating dinner. The smoke bomb was equally unsuccessful. It was one of those things you ignite and stick in the moles' tunnel, which you cover with a rock to keep the smoke from escaping. This scheme resulted in three new tunnels by moles seeking the no-smoking section of our yard.

Not only do we have moles, wehave two dogs, who compete for the honor of pleasing their master by bagging one of those furry little suckers. Brutus, our old dog, using his senses of smell and hearing, can locate a mole, and with his common sense, he will dig as little as necessary.

Pepper, our littleblack dog, will attack a mole tunnel that hasn't been u sed in a year, and he won't give up until only his tail is sticking out above ground. My dear wife picked up Pepper running along the blacktop near New Hope. The dog was running, that is. My wife doesn't run, much less carry a dog. "It's like picking up a ball on the golf course while it's still rolling," I pointed out.

"Someone dropped him," she rebutted. Andthat settled it. (I'm getting to the roses; just hang on.)

It was Pepper's last series of foxholesin the no man's land of our yard that I decided to camouflage with an equal series of rosebushes so that visitors (that'll be the day) wouldn't notice them--or notice that our yard has about as much grass as Telly Savalas' head has hair.

I had delayed for only one reason. Ourclosest neighbor is one of those irritating persons who could grow an amaryllis in a salmon can in dirt he knocked off the spikes of his golf shoes. And this show-off had been bringing roses to my dear wife that could easily be mistaken for red cabbages. Thanks to her enthusiastic reception, old Cabbage Head in vited us over to shove his whole blooming rose garden down my throat before a live audience.

"Yeah, but bushes like that mustcost a small fortune," I sour-graped as he was climbing a stepladder to reach a choice blooom. "And take most of your time getting them started," I graped further, as he pinned the rose to the shoulder of my dear wife's blouse and sent her to her knees.

"Got them on sale at K mart theday after Mother's Day," he said, chortling, with all the irritation he could muster. "A buck-29 each. And the kids stuck them in the ground when I was down with a bad back from foolishly trying to bring one of my Hubbard squashes up from the cellar without help."

"Do you think you could train oneof those bushes to come over to our place?" my dear wife interjected. "It's the only way we'll get one."

This was good for a laugh allaround--around to me, that is. I was already vowing a mighty vow to grow roses that would make old Green Thumb's red cabbages look like boutonnieres. I didn't care if it meant getting a second mortgage on the house, refinancing the car, and spending my weekends gripping a hoe handle instead of a golf club. I'd give him competition that would make the War of the Roses seem like a game of Drop the Hanky.

Not even the $5.95 per bush (nodiscount for six) the arrogant nursery person quoted me the next day would spare my opponent his come-uppance. Or comedownnance, to be precise. Had I any doubts, they were quickly dispelled by the huge red blossoms, about the size of a foot tub, iillustrated on the tags. The tags also boasted, "EVERBEARING" and "Unconditionally guaranteed." I bought six bushes.

"Does your flower garden haveroses now?" inquired the snooty salesperson.

"None to speak of," was myhonest reply. We did have one scraggly bush of 90 percent thorns hugging the line fence, but I certainly wasn't going to speak of it.

"Then you'll want rose food, ofcourse." The salesperson placed a ten-pound sack alongside my six bushes. "And dusting powder," he added, which he happened to have convenient to the cash register.

"They can eat what we eat," Isaid, holding up my hand. He looked at me incredulously the full length of his nose. "I mean table scraps, popcorn grannies, coffee grounds, stuff like that." I could see he wasn't impressed. "And my wife has this big can of dusting powder she got for Christmas...."

"...and trimmers," the salespersonmused, "and alcohol for disinfecting the blades."

"I don't need any of that,either," I protested. "I have a hacksaw for trimming and at least half a fifth of Jack Daniel's I can use for disinfecting. All I want is your 'EVERBEARING, fully guaranteed' bushes."

To make sure that my everbearerswould come as a complete surprise to old Red Cabbage when I shoved the first blossom under his nose, I planted them at night on the lee side of our house. I poured a cup of water into each hole and packed around their burlap diapers the smallest lumps of clay I could find. I only hoped they wouldn't shoot up above the roof and give me away before the blossoms burst forth.

No sweat. Come blooming time, Iwas looking for one of those beautifully illustrated tags to see if an "N" could possibly have been folded over in front of the EVER in EVERBEARING. My entire crop of roses consisted of three sickly blossoms that looked no more like those gorgeous illustrations than my dear wife resembles Christie Brinkley. The bees ignored them.

By this time old Red Cabbage'sbackyard had become a 40-foot color page from Gurney's catalog. So I jerked my six sicklies our of the ground by the scruff of their prickly canes and drove back to the nursery. By luck, the same smug salesperson was on duty.

Tossing my bunch of brush ontothe counter, I came subtly to the point: "I want my money back!"

Faking astonishment, he picked apiece of rotted burlap from the roots of a flora corpse and stared at me.

"You planted these bushes intheir sawdust packing!"

"They were fully guaranteed," Isaid, hoping to change the subject.

"You actually planted them in thesawdust jackets they wer shipped in!" Then, turning toward the door at the back of the nursery, he holered, "Charlie--listen to this!"

After Charlie's laughter had fadedto a point where conversation again was possible, the salesman said the best he could do was to let me have six more plants at half price-$5.95. He said the price had doubled since my original purchase. He even warmed to the point of removing the burlap packing before turning the plants over to me.

"I would strongly advise that youget some help with the planting," he strongly advised me. I said I would.

I'm waiting now for old Red Cabbage'skids to come home from school.
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Title Annotation:gardening humor
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1987
Words:1504
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