Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Reluctant Horticulturist

I am a lazy gardener.  No, uh, wait.  Let me start again.

I'm not a gardener.  I squandered too much of my youth as an under-aged farmhand to appreciate the finer points to forcing junk to grow where it does not want to be and keeping other junk from growing where it so desperately does want to be.  Who am I to say where our green brethren and sistren should be and where they should not?  Humble; that's what I am.  Humble.  And lazy.

But there is a stretch of barren sand in front of my trailer manufactured home where nothing wholesome grows of its own volition.  My whole front yard - not really "front yard" in the classic sense, but more like "square yard located in front" - is shaded by a couple of scraggly live oaks.  Grass, or what passes for grass in Florida, hasn't a prayer of survival, let alone thrival. 

My personal aspiration for home decor - inside and out - has always been that sweet spot just south of the neighborhood median:  not so bad as to draw angry glares from neighbors, but never so fine as to prompt unsolicited praise.  I'm fine with mediocre.

I was propounding my laissez faire approach to landscaping to friends Anne and Chris recently, when they pointed out that their entire yard is overrun by low-maintenance, self-sustaining Florida flora called "bromeliads."

"Nothing to it," they promised.  "Just plant 'em and forget 'em."

It seems that bromeliads thrive on a little shade, poor soil and whatever occurs naturally for rain.  If I just blow the oak leaves off them a couple times a year, I'll be assured of lush greenery with occasional spectacular and long-lasting blooms. 

My kind of agriculture. 

Anne  and Chris pulled up a few dozen of their excess bromeliads and popped them in my trunk.  I'm still trying to get the dirt out of the trunk.

I brought them home, dutifully scooped out a bunch of divots in the sand, jammed the plants in up to their root line, covered them with sand, and went in the house to stanch the bleeding.

Did I mention that bromeliads are festooned with razor-edged leaves?  And the few specimens that don't have razors have hypodermic thorns.  The Edward Scissorhands of the plant world.

For the past two months, these no-care bastards have ruled my life.  I've been dividing those that have "pupped" and replanting them in a pattern designed to not look like a pattern.  I want the place to look as though these things crawled in and took up residence of their own accord.  It's that humility thing again.  The trouble is that all that grass that wouldn't grow before, now sprouts from every inter-bromelial gap.

Still, the place is lush, in a random, just-happened-to-sprout-there way, and the neighbors are intrigued.  "Newt," they ask, "What is that stuff with all the sharp edges?"

I mutter a few Greco-Latin names that I made up.  "Bromelius scissorhandius."

"But they make it difficult for my dogs to do their business in your yard." 

As God is my witness, this is a direct quote.

"Yes," I reply with mystic serenity.  "I noticed that.  Would you like to take home some pups."



  1. Those bromeliads really are great dog poop deterents. Just think what would happen if you added some horse pucky to them!

    1. In fact, I sprinkled them with a 1/4 strength solution of HP and they loved it.