John Carlson: Dirt Strip Becoming a Blooming Miracle

The wide world of plants includes more than any guy can be expected to remember. Photo by: Nancy CarlsonThe wide world of plants includes more than any guy can be expected to remember. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

The dirt strip bordering the fence in our small back yard is now heartily sprouting plants.

You ask, what kind of plants?

Well, you know. Plants. Green ones.

We had a few out there before, some with stalks and some, like, without stalks. But then one day, during an overcast afternoon when the storm clouds were roiling and lightning flashes visible in the distance, our personal professional gardener, Mary Beth Lambert, swung into action.

As an un-fit, decrepit person, I am always amazed to watch a fit, non-decrepit person hard at work. For instance, the day before, I had nearly popped myself a brand new hernia moving a front yard birdbath half a foot so I could mow around it. Next time I looked it was in our back garden, Mary Beth having casually slung it over a shoulder and carried it there while also hoisting an armload of plants to plant  –  green ones, with stalks.

At least, that’s how I pictured she did it. This much I do know.  She then dropped those plants into the ground like a powered post-hole digger while I, wishing to help without actually getting up, called out the locations of lightning strikes I spotted from my deck chair.

Working together, we finished in no time!

Now that the plants are thriving back there, my proprietary feelings for them are also growing. While I still can’t tell you their names – except for a pair of milkweeds I call Frankie and Gidget – allow me to make introductions.

There are four kinds of distinct spindly ones, their flowers being pink, red, yellow and orange. If it’ll help you identify them, they also have green leaves. Then there are two spiky ones that would look perfect poking from pineapples. There are also several that hug the ground, including one that, come to think of it, I do know, since somebody stuck a little white plastic sign in it marked “thyme.”

You know, it strikes me this would make a neat topic for a folk song, if you just added lyrics about parsley, sage and some woman name Rosemary.

No, wait. My wife says it’s already been done.

Anyway, there are three other bushy ground huggers back there, too, but with flowery magenta protuberances sprouting from them, as if they are conflicted about their herbaceous identity. Plants for our times.

Finally, there’s Frankie and Gidget. They are our coolest plants, sort of like aging beach-movie stars that, in craving one more shot at big-time fame, seem just a little droopy and downtrodden. The reason, I think, is that every time I look out there, our dog Toby is standing alongside them, balanced in a perfect three-point stance with his left rear leg held high, “watering” them.

Years ago I read a book speculating that plants experience a certain level of consciousness, so who knows? Even if that consciousness exists on only an amoeba-type level, you’ve got to think that after a while, being peed on day in and day out would get depressing, even for a plant.

But happily, Mary Beth says other garden owners have encountered that same problem and survived, and I’m certain she’s right. I mean, you can’t tell me that even civilized, upper-class pooches like Queen Elizabeth’s royal corgis don’t get a kick out of whizzing on her roses every now and then. The point is this: It’s not going to do Her Majesty’s plants any harm, nor mine.

Garden-wise, I’d say things are definitely looking up.



A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.