Guest opinion: New plant classifications
How? How have I failed to grow zucchini? ANYONE in Utah can (and does) grow zucchini. My mother, looking down at me from heaven, is shaking her head and wondering where she went wrong. I can feel her disapproval from here.
Somehow this must be my fault. I know any number of successful gardeners and they kindly share their tips — not about zucchini, of course, because no one has ever needed a tip before. But I might ask about roses, and they’ll say, “Just prune after the first frost and you’ll be fine.”
So, I approach the rose bush with my shears, and it instinctively shrinks away. But I gamely do my best all the while listening to what the branches have to say, (did you know each branch has its own voice? It does).
“Not there! ABOVE the bud!”
“NO! Not there! ABOVE this bud. BELOW that one!”
“Just the dead branches! OW! I’m still alive — for now!
“She’s coming closer!”
“AIIIEEE! I can’t look!”
“I’m just going to die now and save time!”
And so on. I always leave wondering if I have blood — or rather, sap — on my hands.
In my opinion, plants are too hard. The entire kingdom should be renamed “Kinder Waywardicus,” or “wayward children,” because that’s exactly how they behave. I can pour my heart and soul into a flower only to have it say, “Nope, not gonna do it.” Or I could probably cover the garden with concrete and have a fine harvest. There’s no way to know.
I’ve noticed that plants break down into the following three categories, all of them wayward.
The Prima Donna’s (Diva Starleticus). Almost all plants. Things are never just right for these plants. They want sun … no, shade … no, a little of both, but only in the morning, and then rotate the pot and, “Oh my, no, I couldn’t drink another drop,” they say, only to be wilting from thirst an hour later. It’s impossible to please these things.
Bullies (the Al Caponista family). Anything that grows crazy everywhere and takes over everything. When astronauts landed on the moon, they found weeds (and of course, zucchini). They never told anyone because they were afraid their wives would make them go back and weed and harvest and then they’d then have to plant grass and mow. So they just took pictures of the rocky parts and called it good.
This year, it’s the cucumbers that, never having grown in my garden before, have decided randomly to form a gang, move in and claim everything as their turf. They’ve crowded out the zucchini and they’re growing up the tomato cages. The cucumbers themselves are enormous, frightening thugs.
Homicidal (Serial Staburnium). Many plants, like roses, come armed. Mom used to have a big blackberry patch and she’d come at it with heavy clothes, sticks and a thick electrician’s glove on one hand while she picked and she still came away looking as though she’d been mugged. Trying to learn from her mistakes, I’ve planted the supposedly thornless variety, but that didn’t stop them from stabbing me in the neck yesterday.
So why bother? Good question. I think it’s mostly the delusion (no doubt brought on by some chemical released by last year’s plants) that I can live in a beautifully landscaped wonderland with flowering shrubs and delicious, free produce. Free meaning $49.95 per cucumber. I’d gladly share some with my new best friend, the chiropractor, but he’d probably retaliate with a wheelbarrow full of zucchini. It isn’t worth the risk.
Anneli Byrd is an academic adviser in Weber State University’s Student Success Center.