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Spring Planting

Lucy makes a startling discovery when she plants unknown tropical flowers.

The warm days we’ve been experiencing had me reminiscing about my garden.

Since we live above our business, there’s not much room for one. A lot of our land is a parking lot. So my garden is our deck, which I cover with plants in any container I can get my hands on. I’ve planted flowers in wheelbarrows, whiskey kegs, old pitchers, and whatever else I can line with plastic, fill with dirt and plop in a plant.

I also like to go in search of rare or unusual flowers. Matt calls it my “spring quest.” Last year, I got my hands on a catalogue that carried nothing but tropical flora. As I turned the pages, I was mesmerized. I came across a plant I’d heard about, but had never seen in person - the plumeria (or frangipani) from Hawaii. The unbelievably fragrant flowers are used to make leis.

I also fell in love with a plant called brugmansias, or angels’ trumpet. It, too, was highly fragrant with foot-long flowers that resemble a trumpet. I put my order in and waited with barely contained glee for the cuttings to arrive. When they came, I handled them with loving care as I gently planted them all over the deck.

By early summer, the plants proved to be prolific and had grown to surprising sizes.

Now, here’s where reading the complete plant description comes in handy. Turns out, plumerias are actually trees and despite what one would think with a tropical plant, they don’t like a lot of water.

Or fertilizer, they really seemed to hate fertilizer.

Apparently, too much promotes growth, but not flowers. Instead of producing armfuls of heavily fragranced blossoms, they grew to almost six feet tall and produced mostly branches and limbs, which were covered with leaves. Out of three trees, I got a whopping 10 flowers.

It also turns out that those beautiful brugmansias are, in fact, shrubs. They began to branch out, fighting for space amongst the plumeria trees and my pots of petunias. Thankfully, the brugs liked water and fertilizer, as they produced beautiful foot-long flowers. The problem with them, however, was due to their size, they were keeping the sun away from the smaller plants around them.

Bees and other insects began to notice my colorful deck and decidedly different flowers. While bees are a wonderful gift to the gardener, a horde of wasps is not. It seems that wasps like tropical plants because they were everywhere. I’m petrified of wasps, and when one is in my general vicinity, I freak out. Once, while trying to get away from one, I shooed it by flinging my arms around my head, causing me to jerk wildly, and while running away, I tripped over my flip flops.

My neighbor thought I was having a seizure.

After that, and depending on the task, I didn’t venture out on the deck without a fly swatter or a pair of long grill gloves. I wanted to keep either room or padding between my arms and the wasp’s stinger.

To make matters worse, birds were noticing the bushy brugs and stately plumerias; they began to take refuge among their branches. Surprisingly, some birds build nests and lay eggs in early summer. Of course, they and their little architects found their way to my burgeoning forest and set up a thriving construction business. There were nests everywhere.

Soon, the nests were filled with baby birds that made a huge racket every time the mommy bird would come back with dinner. The birds weren’t afraid to protect their babies and would dive bomb anyone who got near to the nest, so I took to wearing protective head gear when watering.

Aside from that, I had what I thought was the most gorgeous deck on the block. Even though I only had a few plumerias, when they bloomed, I beamed with pride.

Matt, however, wasn’t as thrilled as I was because at this point, the deck was more jungle than outdoor living space. By the end of the summer, the trees and shrubs were so large, Matt needed a machete to get to his pride and joy – his Webber. He was not amused.

He began a plan for this year. He built an 8-by-4 foot wall out of lattice around his grill. He took me out to the deck and said, “See that fence around my grill? It’s lattice, because it’s lightweight. It is NOT there as an awesome place to plant vines. And while seeing you out on the deck wearing a pith helmet, heavy duty oven mitts on both hands, sporting a utility belt containing a fly swatter and a can of Raid wouldn’t surprise the kids or the neighbors, I much prefer the minimalist approach – Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and a beer. Is it too much to ask that this be my area of the deck, free of trees? In fact, can we stay away from trees this year altogether?”

Since he rarely asks for much and puts up with a lot, I actually listened and agreed. I promised zero trees in the “no plant” zone of the deck.

I just got another tropical plant catalogue today and noticed they have new brugmansias. They’re fully double, and if possible, claim to be even more fragrant than their cousins. I got out the credit card.

Hey, Matt should know by now to be very specific with me. He said zero trees, he didn’t say anything about shrubbery.

You can follow The Brunette Lucy on Facebook.

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