Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Greedy Malicious Marauders

Gardening is what people should have to do if they have committed crimes or sold government secrets to enemy nations. I know there are people who claim to like gardening, but it gives me the creeps. From the time I first plunged a shovel into the ground and unknowingly performed a vivisection of dozens of worms, I’ve despised gardening. My mother used to make us go out on a Saturday afternoon and pull weeds on the banking butting up against Knowland Park Zoo’s foothills. I could never tell the difference between a weed and a plant. Now that I’ve grown up I still can’t.

The first spring in my house, I gritted my teeth and gingerly unearthed some dirt causing as little mayhem to worms and similar dirt creatures as possible. I plunked in a bunch of perennials and some annuals and pressed the dirt down around them. But the weeds completely overtook the baby plants. The next spring I noticed the officious, unwanted weeds begin their reign of terror. “Oh, ho,” I said to the cat, “I’m going to get those now before they take over.” I put on some purple flowered gardening gloves, hunkered down amid the slimy brown Washington slugs, and began pulling out all the new green. I worked along fifteen feet before it dawned on me there were no perennials peeking out of the soil. Could it be that baby perennials and baby weeds look the same? I ripped off my gloves and tossed them down, scratching my head and gazing at the bare fifteen feet I’d just cleared. The next thirty feet contained green, spindly weed-looking growth. My sigh made the cat crouch down and glance around the yard for enemy wildlife.

Off I went to the nursery, wrote out an enormous check and piled everything into my vehicle. Some of the plants the woman talked me into getting would have to be replanted the next year. That was okay because I had to replant the perennials too, but I didn’t tell her that. I didn’t want her to turn me in to the Department of Ecological Services for murdering perfectly good plants.

At home, I held my breath and hummed so I wouldn’t hear the screaming of the injured worms. I pushed a little garden shovel into the ground and spent all day pulling out spindly green stems and planting gladiola bulbs, pansies, marigolds, heather, thyme, a large Rose of Sharon and a crabapple tree. Flying insects dive-bombed to get a better look and even my cat seemed enthralled by the little holes, squatting over them until I knocked him away. It was torture. The woman at the nursery assured me it would be worth it later when the whole yard would be awash in vibrant color and birds and bees would cavort in joyous rapture.

Yeah, right.

The next afternoon I walked along the driveway to see all the baby plants and maybe speak a few kind words to them. The marigolds had vanished. A few half-eaten pansies quivered beside the bare stems of the thyme plant. The heather lorded over the ruins, curiously whole and somewhat smug. Could one plant eat the others? Taking a step back I surveyed the heather with suspicion. A trail of slime circled some of the forlorn stubs. Slugs. Fierce little beasts.

Back to the nursery for more vegetation. More planting. I sprinkled enough “Slug-Be-Gone” to bring down an elephant. I would not have put out poison if they hadn’t attacked first. Self-defense is okay, I reasoned. More needless slaughter of worms with the little shovel, as I crooned out my apologies and mindlessly replanted joyful flora already in blossom. Two hours later I rocked back on my heels and surveyed the fifty feet of happy little baby plants and tried to feel the sense of accomplishment everyone said I’d experience.


A week later I lounged under a tall brown tree with green leaves and imagined how beautiful the yard would look in a month, with the sun on my face, the fragrant scent of blooms, the warm buzz of a bee nearby and maybe a baseball game on a radio in the distance. My eyes closed and a tall glass of lemonade on a little garden table appeared in my imagination. My cat rubbed against my legs and purred. Life was good. I opened my eyes and squinted down the driveway. Something was missing.

I studied the plants. The pansies were gone and all of the new growth buds on the Rose of Sharon had been pruned off. I backed away, my hand covering my open mouth. Those dang slugs. Had they crawled through all the snail bait and clipped off all the new growth on the Rose of Sharon? What kind of monsters were they? I jogged back into the house and locked the doors.

A few days later, I drove up the dirt road to my house, rounded the corner into my driveway and slammed on the brakes. Several feet in front of me two malevolent black-tailed deer plucked the buds off the azalea bush. They ignored me as I rolled up beside them. They ignored me as my window slid down.

“Shoooo shooo, get lost, you thieving piles of venison steaks,” I said. I know. That wasn’t very nice but I was mad. One of the does turned, a blue and yellow pansy petal stuck to her upper lip, and sent me a daunting glare. The other one flipped me off with her tail. My mouth flapped open and closed. They both resumed than vandalism, ripping the buds off the gladiola. My shoulders sank and my car moved the last few feet into the garage. The automatic door grumbled down and I slunk into the house.

Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson

Gardening is a frustrating, expensive, unfruitful pursuit. It seems a perfect sentence for a repeat offender. Perhaps we should write our congressmen. If enough prisoners were forced to plant, replant, and replant the same spot every day, they’d soon tire of the experience, especially if they had to pay for the plants themselves. You’ll have to trust me on this. Punishment, thy name is gardening.


  1. Oh, I am so sorry. I know how much you hate those slugs. In fact, wasn't it my hubby that sent you a gummy or chocolate banana slug the first year you moved into that house because you hated them so....

  2. LOL, love this!

    I grew up on the rainy side of Oregon and found slugs wildly entertaining. That's before I was old enough to care that they ate all our pretty flowers. Now I live in the high desert part of the state, and though I no longer have to fret about slugs, we deal with the constant threat of freezing temps -- even in July.

    Love the blog!


  3. Kathy,

    It was a can of steamed slugs. I never, ever, ever opened the can.


    So, you are from the rainy side, huh? I like it because you hardly ever have to water the few plants the deer haven't eaten. I can't believe you get freezing temps in July. That's madness. :)

  4. First you pick on cute precious raccoons and now you are slandering Bambi.

    I'm calling a FAMILY MEETING.

  5. ps nice pictures....are any of those men single?

  6. Deer are dangerous, really they are. And those men ARE family. See the third one from the front? He's mine.

  7. You obviously have an animal problem - raccoons and Deers. Perhaps you should invest in a chicken wire fence and pop some salt on the garden for the slugs. That's what I do in NZ. Not quite sure if it kills off the plants or the weeds though....

    Advice from a gardener, who doesn't have green fingers :)

  8. Do I have an animal problem or (sinister music) do the animals have a human problem? Except for the slugs, I always thought I liked wildlife. They, however, do not care for me.

  9. Melanie,

    Grew up on the rainy side (Salem) but live on the un-rainy side (Bend) now. No slugs here!


  10. Tawna,

    Pfffffft. You aren't bragging, are you? :)

    I know there has to be a down side to Bend. I just don't know what it is.

  11. LOL! It's so nice to at last find someone with the same concern for earthworms as I have. Honestly, every time I put spade to earth, I worry. It's gotten to the point where I hardly garden at all anymore. (Really, laziness has nothing to do with it. It's the worms, darn it! My concern for the worms!)

  12. Dang it, Linda, why'd you have to bring up the part about laziness. It IS the worms. And the slugs and the deer. Honest.

  13. Oh, I believe you. Others--those less sensitive to the rights of other life forms--may not. But I'll buy any excu--er, reasonable extenuating circumstance.

  14. Well, I see I have two new followers who are both intelligent, witty and charming in Linda and Tawna. I'm very lucky.


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