Opposable green thumbs

Published 9:55 am Thursday, April 28, 2016

I do not have a green thumb. I do not have a sea foam, teal, moss, or any other shade that kinda looks like a green thumb.

The extent of my horticulture related domestic chores is confined to creating the enclosures for my wife’s flower beds and mowing my lawn. I am great at turning under the soil, placing wood and stone edging as a demarcation between lawn and flowers, and all other jobs related to providing a good home for all of my wife’s blooming beauty. However, if I did not install a physical barrier between my lush, manicured lawn and my wife’s flower beds, in my oblivion, I’d probably just keep right on mowing everything to a uniform height of three inches – and take my weed whacker to any remaining stubborn clumps of flora.

It is easy for me to maintain my lush lawn. In mid-April, I dust off my broadcast spreader, pour in a small bag of weed-n-feed, and then walk around my postage stamp sized city lot until the spreader hopper is empty. Rain and a sharp blade on my lawn mower pretty much take care of the rest.

But, this gardening stuff — this intentional alignment of flowering vegetation, coordinated with the calendar in a way that provides continuous blooms from crocuses so early in the spring that snow is still on the ground, until so late in the fall that snow blankets the hardy mums — that stuff is hard to do. That takes planning, and care, and effort — and weeding!

Mowing the lawn is easy. I get up on Saturday morning, drink several cups of coffee, pour gas into the lawn mower tank, and then pull on the chord. If I change the spark plug and air filter first thing each season, that little Briggs and Stratton fires to life and all I have to do is be sober enough to walk in a straight line.

I have edged my wife’s flower gardens along lines of soft, undulated curves — not because of the way it enhances the beauty of the gardens, but because it is easier to push my lawn mower around a curve, rather than in and out of sharp corners. More often than not, the lazy way is the smarter way.

This past weekend was the epitome of springtime at the Center of the Universe. The sky was clear, the temperatures were warm, and it was the perfect time for my wife to begin her annual awakening of the flower beds. This requires removing all the things that should not be there, while carefully protecting everything that is supposed to be there — knowing the difference between those two things requires true genius. I am not that genius.

Like the loving (read idiotic and clueless) husband that I am, I offered to help. I had other projects that I could have been doing, but they all required varying degrees of physicality—– and I just wasn’t feeling it. I figured I could earn a few “Good Husband” points by sitting on my butt in the grass and pulling a few weeds. Hah!

Did you know there are flowers that look like weeds and weeds that look like flowers? I didn’t — now I do. I learned that the stuff with purple blooms were all weeds and needed to be unceremoniously yanked up by its roots. When I asked why the plants with purple blooms were bad and the ones with blue flowers were good, my loving and patient wife replied, “Because this is the shade garden and I only planted blue flowers, here.”

I also discovered that any plant that is easy to pull out of the ground, should stay planted — and the ones with deep, embedded, and stubbornly resistive root systems are the ones that should get yanked. After an hour and a half, I had only successfully hacked and cleared away less than a quarter of the shade garden. This was the “easy” quarter — the part where I could sit on my butt on the soft grass. The rest was going to require standing up, bending over, and probably a few well-muffled swear words.

It was at this point that I decided to relinquish my “Good Husband” points and take up some of that physical labor that I earlier thought I wanted to avoid. There is physical labor and there is weeding — next time, I’ll remember which one was easier.


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com.