My thumb is brown, not green

Here is another column, this one from June 2005.  I’ve actually had some success since this was first published.  Some day I’ll get a post written on my successful butterfly gardening.


I really admire homeowners that are good at landscaping and gardening. But my thumb is brown, not green.

Oh, I try.  I really do.  We were lucky to inherit a beautiful rose garden from the former owners of one house.  I worked the garden, pruning and feeding the roses. In those pre-Internet days I hung out at the library and bookstores and around the local nurseries trying to glean information on raising roses.

Darn that Black Spot. After all that special food and loving pruning, who knew a fungus could destroy everything?

The previous owner of our current house apparently was quite a horticulturist.  Empty gardens and beds surrounded the house…empty because previous tenants had allowed everything to die out during the summer droughts.

This time I used the word “xeriscape” in my advice searches and planned to fill the beds with plants that didn’t require a lot of pampering. I found a couple clerks at the local nurseries who provided good advice (and had an absolutely awful experience with a nursery promoting its “experts” who come design your gardens). I’m continuing to educate myself on what appeals to butterflies and hummingbirds, and hope to see some around our yard someday.

The previous owner also left an extensive vegetable garden plot, so one spring my daughter and I planned a nice summer vegetable garden. Sadly, our plans always seem to correspond with the summers we have water rationing.  That year we plucked sweet, cherry-size tomatoes off our Beefmaster and Big Boy tomato plants!

Worried about the influx of insects I was seeing everywhere in the garden, I decided to purchase ladybugs from a local nursery. We released the ladybugs, which enthusiastically descended into the garden.  Apparently word of the bugs also spread to the local purple martin apartments and soon swallows, martins and other birds were visiting the household ladybug smorgasbord.  Of the 500 ladybugs we supposedly released, about 5 were still around the next day.

Later in the summer, some of the melon vines produced lots of blossoms. We actually had a beautiful cannon-ball-sized cantaloupe nestled among the vines. I watered it regularly and waited for the opportune moment to pick that little beauty.  The whole family was anticipating that first bite of our home-grown cantaloupe, when I went to the garden to pick it.  It was gone!  Plucked gently from its stem! Nowhere in the garden or yard!

Something with “hands” stole our melon from the garden. For a long time I figured it must have been a raccoon raiding the garden, but this winter I noticed the local squirrels were pretty capable with their “hands,” so maybe a squirrel plucked that fragrant, ripe melon and took it home for a family treat.

Recently my dad, who has a great green thumb when it comes to raising vegetables, offered to foster some tomato plants for me.  I heard my husband whisper to my dad, as they traveled out of earshot, “It’s probably just as well that you raise them for her. For anything that goes into the back yard, it’s pretty much a death sentence.”

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