Despite best intentions, blossoms elude Bob By Bob Karolevitz The title of one of my books is Everything's Green But My Thumb and it's all too true, especially when it comes to flowers.
Without half trying, I can change the most colorful Peonies into a clump of brown sticks. I'm especially good at turning a potful of blooming Shamrocks into something no self-respecting Irishman would acknowledge.
I don't know who messed up the following verse, but I can sure understand it:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And one d—-d Petunia!
My Johnny-Jump Ups just lie there. My Baby's Breath gasps for air. Daisies droop when I plant them, and even my Bleeding Hearts don't bleed.
I'm impatient with my Impatiens. I've got Creeping Phlox which hasn't crept an inch and Red-Hot Pokers that look like the fire has gone out.
Apparently horticulture isn't my calling. Phyllis won't let me touch her Geraniums or her Marigolds for fear I'll pass my curse onto them. I'm a Pansy Pariah, that's what I am!
Anybody can raise Zinnias, Carnations and Hollyhocks, but not me. Actually I'm surprised that the Dandelions do so well in our lawn and Creeping Jenny thrives in our road ditches.
I marvel at those whose bulbs burst forth into triumphant Tulips and dazzling Daffodills while mine rot in the ground. And people who know all the Latin names never fail to impress me. I have enough trouble just saying Coreopsis and Delphinium without taking a language lesson.
I keep trying, though. Maybe next year my Gold Alyssum and Climbing Clematis will fool me and blossom profusely. I've given up on Begonias and Azaleas, incidentally.
In jest, I told Phyllis that I'd like to arrange a wedding between Black-Eyed Susan and Sweet William, with Forget-Me-Not vows and Canterbury Bells chiming. We might even have Blue Bugles tooting. However, she jesteth not when she said I should go back to my typewriter and quit my floral match-making. Besides that, she thought I might just end up with a Mourning Bride, which is another name for the Pin-Cushion Flower.
I might not do so well in the green-thumb department, but at least I've tried to learn something about the flowers I can't grow. For instance, I was fascinated by the story of the Camas Lily and how the Indians in Idaho fed the sweet bulbs to members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Today we admire the Camas flowers which Luther Burbank developed, but we forget the bulbs which he thought would be as important a food source as potatoes.
I know that all the states have an official flower and that South Dakota's is the Pasque. Dahlias were discovered in the mountains of Mexico by a Spanish physician but were named in honor of a Swedish botanist, Andreas Dahl.
They say a single Poppy � which has a lousy reputation these days because of its drug connotations � can produce as many as 30,000 seeds a year for Poppy-seed rolls. The hardy Iris was named after the Greek god of the rainbow, and the French called it the fleur-de-lis.
I never did mention the Rose because growing them is too much trouble, but stories about them abound. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington grew them. They're mentioned in the Bible; and in England the Houses of York and Lancaster fought the 30-year War of the Roses in the mid-15th century.
It is also said that Cleopatra slept on a mattress stuffed with Rose petals, and she once had her throne room filled knee-deep in them as a greeting to Marc Anthony. She would have been unpleasantly surprised if he'd been allergic to attar.
Frankly, I'll never get enough petals from my Moss Roses to stuff a stocking, let alone a mattress. And Phyllis will never be greeted by them knee-deep in the kitchen.
Maybe I'd better do as she says and stick to my writing and leave the flowers to somebody else. At least I don't have to fertilize my columns. Or did she mutter something unladylike about a barnyard aroma as she walked away?
© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz