She Has a Green Thumb After All

Beginner Gardener Leah Daniels tells her gardening story.

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I love plants. When I bought my very first house three years ago, one of the things I loved the most about it was the abundant yard.

I am going to plant lots of things here, I said to myself. I am going to garden. I am going to grow things.

I was hopeful. I was optimistic. I was wrong.

Every spring I pour over gardening books and catalogs, dreaming of landscapes to be. I cruise nurseries and Home Depot the way other women cruise malls. Finally I make my selection, take it home, plant it -- and 65 percent of the time, watch it die a slow, tortuous death.

Let's face it. I am Mother Nature's worst nightmare.

This spring I took my sister and brother-in-law to a plant sale. As I walked up and down the aisles and looked and dreamed, I swear I heard leaves rustle in near-silent sighs of relief as I passed them by.

I looked and looked and I couldn't commit, because, well, I killed the tea plant that I bought at the sale the year before that I really loved. The dwarf crape myrtles seemed to be hanging on, but I wasn't really sure. Leslie was sure they were dead, but I thought they might have a little life left. (I was right, by the way. They are blooming today.) I just felt too sorry for the plants to buy any of them to take them home.

Until I found one called the Obedient Plant.

"Here's one I can't kill," I told Leslie. "All I have to do is tell it not to die and it can't. It's an obedient plant. It has to do what you tell it."

She seemed skeptical, but I picked it up. It was a sure thing. I was in love. Even Mother Nature smiled.

"Be careful with that," a woman warned as she walked by. "It will take over your garden."

Even better, I thought, although my obedient plant won't take over, because I will tell it not to. Steeped in confidence with my newfound friend, I picked up nine tomato plants, two kinds of parsley and a basil plant.

I planted everything, and every morning on my way to work I stopped by Mr. Obedient and said, "Don't die," giggled, got in my car and drove away.

Mr. Obedient didn't stage a coup in my garden. Or maybe he staged the only coup he could. By my insisting he live on a daily basis, he did the only ornery thing he could do -- he died.

But today I picked nine tomatoes from my nine tomato plants and I have at least twice that many more ripening on the vine. Both types of parsley and the basil have taken root so well, I can start clipping from them to cook with.

However, since I have planted tomatoes three times in three years and this will be the first time in those three years I will eat a home-grown tomato that I didn't have to buy at the farmer's market, I prefer to think that Mr. Obedient didn't die in vain.

I think he sacrificed his life so his fellow herbs and veggies could live. By diverting all my attention on to him, he kept my killing eye away from his fellow flora. He braved the depths of my compost heap not only to save the plants this year, but to save plants in future seasons. He threw his branches in front of the slug of death. He... well... you get the point.

To say it was a far, far better thing he did is a much nicer way of saying I loved him to death.

(Leah Daniels of the Anderson Independent-Mail in Anderson, S.C., at www.andersonsc.com.)

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