Mama Says
by Laura Fratus

(Plain Press, May 2006) See that little girl on her way home from school? Pretty as a picture, isn’t she? That bright, shiny smile on her face is even more dazzling than the armful of red tulips she’s carrying home to mommy.  

Hey wait. Tulips. Didn’t you used to have tulips?

Now, control your impulse to go Gladys Kravitz on her. How was she to know that there’s no such thing as “cut and come again” tulips? She needs a little educating, that’s all.  Just gently explain to her what that pilfered bouquet cost you in materials and labor last October. I’m sure she’ll understand, and offer to make amends by helping out with some raking or something.

Okay, maybe not. I’m sorry she told you to “talk to the hand.” Talk about adding insult to petty theft.

You’re going to need to let those tulips go, I’m afraid. Que sera sera, and so on. Look on the bright side, though. The weather’s just right for planting annuals.  So let’s get out there and beautify that treelawn. Those salmon impatiens and lavender sweet alyssum you ordered from the block club fundraiser are such a tranquil combination. And with their short stems, they won’t be such a target for little flower pickers, either.

There, now. Isn’t that lovely? As soon as you finish watering in those six flats of posies, roll up that garden hose and grab yourself a nice, tall iced tea. You earned it! Your little patch of garden is contributing to a healthier, happier neighborhood.

 Shoot. Who would have thought that it would take so little time for three teenagers to  uproot all 288 baby plants and throw them onto the hot asphalt? No, don’t chase after them waving that spade; that won’t help. Look, at least the roots are still attached. Mostly. We’ll just tuck them back in and get that garden hose back out. Don’t worry — annuals can handle a little shock.

Listen, maybe annuals weren’t such a hot idea after all. Too showy. You want something that won’t attract too much attention from the vandals until the roots are well-established. Perennials — that’s the ticket. Your next door neighbor has some nice daylilies along the side of the house there that look like they need dividing. Why not be a good neighbor and offer to help?

Not home? Give him a minute. Maybe he’s got the Indians’ game turned up too loud to hear the doorbell. Say, you never really see this side of the house, do you? Doesn’t that fuschia plant in the hanging basket look familiar? It looks just like the one the kids gave you for Mother’s Day. The one that had disappeared off the front porch by the next day. Hmm. You’re right. Let’s forget about those daylilies for now.

 I can see you’re feeling frustrated, so let’s go for a refreshing little stroll, shall we? There’s a garden a couple blocks from here that might give you some ideas.  The guy who owns the place took up all the grass and put down some nice, durable artificial turf. You can get those plastic flower arrangements he sticks in the ground for just a couple bucks at Big Lots, and you only need to change them about once every other year when they get really faded or the wire stems rust out.  So maybe it’s not quite what you had in mind when you decided to garden in the city. But you’ve got to admit: no one ever swipes his flowers.


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