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The gardener's gamble
By Michelle McCormick
It’s springtime, and those of us who like to garden have been gazing wistfully at our barren landscapes, anticipating the reappearance of the perennials, and dreaming about what new annuals the nurseries might have concocted in their mad plant labs while we hibernated over the winter.
Gardeners in rural Nebraska face a unique set of challenges that those in the more temperate sections of the country couldn’t possibly fathom. As the portable greenhouses start popping up in parking lots, and the established brick and mortar facilities open their doors, we find ourselves in a predictable spring conundrum. TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY???
As everyone in Nebraska knows, our weather turns on a dime. The 80 degrees you enjoy on Monday can plummet to 30 on Tuesday. Our rural gardening experts tell us we’re safe if we wait until after Mother’s Day to buy plants, but gardening is like garage saleing…. the best stuff goes fast! So once more I, along with my fellow gardening gamblers, roll the dice and tempt fate.
The best intentions
I start with a creep-by of one of our local garden centers. My intention is to just look and see what flowers are out. “Not gonna buy anything,” I remind myself sternly. But as I’m casing the joint, I’m overcome with dangerous thoughts:
Is that a lavender rose? Look at the size of those zinnias!
I can’t bear it. I give into my craving and pull over. Maybe, I think, it would be ok to buy just ONE plant. I pick up a gorgeous yellow tea rose with the intention of paying and leaving immediately, when a movement in the petunia section startles me. Someone else has arrived.
Early spring garden centers are like undiscovered bird feeders. Once one bird stops to nibble, it’s not long before a dozen or more gather. The woman looks up at me. She smiles in greeting, but I can see the uncertainty in her eyes. She knows it’s too early too. I smile back. We are kindred renegade spirits, makers of green life, whatever the weather. She turns her attention back to the corner I had not yet wandered by. The acid taste of competition creeps into my mouth: What is she looking at? She looks REALLY interested, whatever it is. Maybe I should go take a look. No, just pay and leave — that was the plan. Now she’s putting a bunch of them in a tray! Is she taking ALL OF THEM?! Not on my watch, lady.
I rip around, resisting the urge to run over to her. Instead, I saunter over casually. In her arms rests a tray of black velvet petunias. I try to look nonchalant as relief courses through me. I hate black flowers and wouldn’t have bought those anyway. I tell myself sternly “Enough already.” I pay for my plant; it’s a pricey one: $10. I don’t care, though, because I know how lovely it will look all summer long.
A chilly lesson
That night in bed, my thoughts turn to my new purchase sitting outside in the cold. I look at the clock: 11:45. I rack my brain trying to remember the forecast. Eyes open, staring at the ceiling in the dark, I give free range to the nightmare of finding my beautiful rose shriveled in the morning (and me out ten bucks). Tossing off the covers, I creep downstairs and out the back door. An icy blast of wind cuts straight through me as I retrieve my rose. A movement catches my eye. I look up to find my neighbor bringing in a pot as well. Our eyes lock with the same sentiment: “We are stupid.”
I crawl back into bed, extremities frozen, and think, “Let that be a lesson to you not to buy so early.”
The next day in the grocery checkout line, I overhear the customer in front of me tell the cashier she just heard that one of our local, family-owned greenhouses had opened its doors for the season. I inwardly shrug. I’d learned my lesson last night not to buy too early. As I pull out of the parking lot, though, my car turns of its own accord west….towards the newly opened greenhouse.
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