I probably have the best next-door neighbor in the world. He is a semi-famous painter and sculptor, a good cook, a reliable cat sitter, willing to read my manuscripts, full of philosophical conversation, and not a psycho. He also went through an intense gardening phase, during which he would truck plants around his yard in early Spring as if he were rearranging furniture, so that he could paint them when they were full-grown.
I moved in next door during his gardening phase.
My house was a “li’l-ol’-man house” when I bought it—a nothing-special farmhouse with nineteen trees on a double lot, the yard totally ignored while the li’l ol’ man faded out. I told my neighbor I wouldn’t plant anything but a few tulips the first year, just to see what came up. Once I realized that 99% of what came up was hellacious weeds, I was ready to get serious.
Did I mention my neighbor’s mischievous sense of humor?
This was my first house and garden. In my innocence, I accepted many gifts from my neighbor. Twenty-four years later, I still have most of them. In abundance.
Mints: chocolate mint, lemon balm, spearmint
Rose of Sharon
“Obedient plant” (joke)
Single and double creeping buttercups
Mind, I’m not complaining about his gifts of American ginseng (noninvasive), elderberry (invasive but managable), or plume poppy (wildly invasive but easily pulled or mowed over).
Sadly, the Rudbeckia and the buttercups actually died, which amazed me. I thought they were bombproof. The spearmint eventually croaked after brutal cutting back. The white asters seem finally subdued, but we’ll see. Ruthless weeding of evening primrose has reduced it to a few plants I keep around as Japanese beetle bait. The pokeberry, which grew to twelve feet high and fruited like some jungle monster, is gone after a two-year pogrom.
The rest are like rats or starlings or those ladybugs that hatch in your house in December, befuddledly but earnestly trying to mate with the light fixtures.
Trouble is, I kind of like them.
What have you got?
For more news about my garden, what I’m cooking, and what books are coming soon, sign up for my newsletter!