A Plague On These Plants!

THE REAL DIRT

May 23, 1993|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

Gardening should be fun. Thirty years of digging has taught me that. But some plants bring only trouble. I've learned the hard way to avoid them. Why spend your life catering to plants that don't appreciate your efforts?

For instance, in 30 years of gardening, I've yet to grow a decent radish. So I've quit trying. If radishes are so easy to grow, why do mine always taste like salsa? For decades, I've coddled radishes. They respond by burning my palate. So I've stopped growing them.

If I wanted atomic fireballs, I'd raid a candy store.

Radishes are one of 20 plants I've pledged to abandon. Magnolias are another. We have a magnolia tree. It has blossomed once in 10 years, when I was out of town. Usually the magnolia succumbs to an ill-timed frost that reduces the flowers to limp gray dishrags. Gardeners don't need this aggravation. No more magnolias, please. I'll enjoy the one in our neighbor's yard, when it blooms.

And while we're at it:

* May all gladiolas rest in peace. They make gardens look like graveyards.

* Ivy drives me up a wall. It sticks to bricks and rips the mortar out.

* What's the point of eggplant? It's tasteless, a finicky grower and prone to insect damage.

* Watermelons are out, until I learn how to test their ripeness. It's frustrating to pick unripe melons and then try to plug them back into the plant. Staples don't work, nor does Krazy Glue.

* My silver maple tree and I haven't spoken for years, since its roots invaded the vegetable patch.

* A weeping willow is even worse than a silver maple tree. It's clawing roots resemble something from a Stephen King novel.

* I'm allergic to junipers. Brushing against our juniper bush gives me hives. Naturally, this shrub is a magnet for baseballs, shuttlecocks and fighting cats.

* Once, on a lark, I grew catnip. Big mistake. The garden was overrun by the cast of an Andrew Lloyd Webber play.

* Pyracantha is a shrub with pretty white flowers and bright red berries. But its thorns would have frightened the Marquis de Sade.

* I almost bought a ginkgo tree, like the one outside my office, until I accidentally stepped on the fruit. It smelled like something the dog ralphed up. Ginkgoes have a reputation for being insect-resistant. Now I know why.

* When we bought our house, the honeysuckle in the back yard nearly killed the deal. The best I can do is contain the vine.

* Corn is better bought at a roadside market than planted alongside my road. My lone attempt at raising corn produced a half-dozen ears with five kernels apiece. The corn attracted a family of raccoons, who took one look at the sorry crop and decided to plunder the green beans instead.

* I once razed a hedge of forsythias, but the shrubs got the last laugh. The stubble pierced the tire of my pickup truck.

* Our cantaloupe crop looked great, until I tried to harvest the fruit. Each melon immediately deflated like a wounded basketball. I later learned that the cantaloupes had been attacked from within by an army of sneaky black bugs. The incident soured me on ever growing cantaloupes again.

* Ever plant a wildflower garden? "Meadow in a Can," it's called. Sow the contents and watch the flowers grow. Except all I got was weeds.

* I wanted a black walnut tree, until I learned the squirrels in our neighborhood want one, too. Let them grow their walnut tree first.

* Who would actually plant dandelions? Several garden catalogs sell the seeds. If dandelion greens are really eaten raw, then my whole front yard is a salad bar.

* When my Chia Pet died several years ago, I vowed never to replace it. Some gardeners get too attached to their pets.

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