Joco Opinion

May 13, 2014

Denise Snodell — My dreams of gardening may yet be a nightmare

I had no idea down-to-earth meant down on the earth.

I had no business buying the kind of bulbs you plant in the dirt.

The mistake took root when I went to Costco on a hopelessly chilly day. That’s where I found a large bag of the tuber-y things in the forced-spring section. Seems when you get anything seasonal at that store, it’s always too early to face the reality of dealing with it. Worse, nothing there is ever as tiny as my “enthusiasm” for gardening.

What I truly enjoy is the result of outdoor effort. Pretty views soothe the soul. Plus, when something is growing in my yard — most likely because it was there when we bought the house — I try to learn its identity. I feel snobby blurting garden stuff with confidence: “That’s a rhododendron. This is a floribunda rose bush. Junipers are native to the area.”

But I’m just a faux botanist with cherry-picked knowledge. The actual process of DIY gardening doesn’t match up with the things I prefer in life, like gadgets with chargers, coffee, wine, walls, ceilings and floors.

So really, on that fateful day, I was the victim of an impulse purchase. Totally drunk on toothpick-stabbed cheese cube samples, I staggered over to the massive bulb display. The picture on a large bag caught my eye. It was a billboard for beautiful tri-colored caladium plants. My entire life, I never knew what these leafy things were called until I read the packaging. Before that moment, I probably would have guessed “CALADIUM” was a city in Greece, or an STD.

I sensed a fun project. “Shade Lover,” it said. I had shade! “Twelve weeks of color from early summer to first frost,” the package boasted. I like color! I was swept away. Plunk — the behemoth bag o’ bulbs landed in my SUV-sized cart.

Too many weeks after that moment of stupid optimism, I came back down to earth. My husband, who does more than his share of yard work, started asking, “So, when are you going to plant your bulbs?” The whole idea of doing the actual work, out there with the worms and bees and zero electrical outlets, didn’t seem so appealing. I put it off.

It kept getting warmer. The redbud trees and the dogwoods were finishing their peacock acts. The bulb stash kept taunting me, along with my better half.

Finally, one warm day, I dragged out the big supply. I was armed with dirt-caked canvas gloves, an earth back-scratcher and a shovel. Still, I was not enthused. I was about to toil on the edge of a tree line that had a history of poison ivy sightings.

This was fertile ground for worry, paranoia and flashbacks, because a similar escapade 10 years ago introduced me to why “leaves of three” inspired Paul McCartney to write that one song about letting things be. Back then, I landed a horrible case of weeping skin. On both legs. It took so long to heal; I spent a month wearing ankle-length linen skirts. I refer to that time as My Amish Summer.

Once I pushed back the bad memories and the fear, I opened the bag of bulbs. The things looked so knobby. I had no idea which way was up. Back into the house I went, straight to the computer. My turf. I Googled “how to plant caladium bulbs,” which led me to an instructional YouTube video. The guy on it was named Hans. Hans! No better moniker for a bulb expert.

I watched Hans do his caladium magic. Then I spent an hour falling through other YouTube wormholes — ones that had nothing to do with gardening. Cats, monkeys, bad dancing. The good things in life.

By the time I got back outside to tackle the big planting project, I wasn’t quite sure if I had placed the bulbs right side up. Will they sprout? Only time will tell.

If nothing happens, I guess this is what people mean by “burying your mistakes.”

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