– Frank Lloyd Wright
(Advice to failed architects)
Remember all that rain we had this summer?
Remember cutting the grass twice a week? Remember not having to worry about watering your plants, because the good Lord was handling it?
Then the rain quit.
And once again the toxic patch of my flower garden did what it has been doing consistently for 20 years – it quickly and dramatically and completely killed the five little hedge bushes I had carefully planted there last year – the latest in a long line of fallen heroes.
There were the original five that came with the house when it was new. They began to die within weeks of our moving in and after repeated calls to the builder, I got them replaced.
Over the next five years, the replacements withered and waned.
I went with bigger, white azalea bushes, not because I wanted them, but because I had several in the back yard where they were growing lushly.
They hung on like stubborn Republicans for several years, but then faded. I replaced them with perky privets. This was about five years ago, and I must say I was very proud of the job I did on the installation.
I measured each hole, tended each plant. ... and watched them fade.
Because brown hedges are not an image favored by wives, I quietly went to the discount store, bought two cans of green spray paint and restored them to a suitable verdant appearance.
It looked fine for a year but after I mentioned this spray paint tip during one of my gardening columns, my wife made me dig them up and replace them with new ones.
Well, they died, too.
By now, most people had noticed that the other parts of the garden were doing great. It was just this one spot about 8 feet long and 2 feet wide. It was suggested that the soil might have some poisonous substance left there by the builders or something. I figured I could take care of that.
I dug a pit, more like a trench, actually, took all the dirt from it and replaced it with some soil from the backyard, mixing it with some store-bought super dirt.
Then I put in my brand new hedges.
And I watered them and cared for them and even named them: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Axe.
Axe was sort of a threat to the others about what would happen if they didn’t grow.
They took hint. And they took all that rain, and thrived until September.
I hadn’t really been paying much attention to them, and with all that rain, I didn’t need to.
But then, one day I noticed they were turning brown, I began watering them like crazy, two, three days.
But it was all over. They were dead. Except for Axe on the end, who seems to have a little green still going.
So I did what I do.
I got more green spray paint.
I went with a color dark and subdued. Not as bright as the green plants on either side of the dead hedge. I didn’t want it to look too good and attract attention.
Let me say from personal experience, it’s easier to spray paint dead hedge branches than you think. The leaves hold their color pretty well and the lacquer keeps everything stuck together.
Best of all, nobody noticed.
Well, until my agriculture major son came home from college on fall break after a couple of months of golf course turf science instruction. He was in the house all of five minutes when he looked at me, smirked and said, “Good job on the hedge, Dad.”
I smirked back.
“Have they taught you yet,” I asked, “where the phrase ‘green thumb’ comes from?”