Pushing up daisies in May

May 10, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd

May has always been a tough month for me because of what I seem to do so often, which is kill flowers.

Begonias, mums, impatiens, geraniums -- doesn't matter. If I touch 'em, they die. It's that simple.

Pansies, zinnias, marigolds, poppies . . . you see me fooling with them in the dirt, you might as well call a priest.

Roses . . . don't even talk to me about roses.

I've killed so many roses, there should be permanent black bunting around my rose beds.

Indoor flowers, outdoor flowers, annuals, perennials -- it's all the same to me. If I plant it, it's a goner. It has absolutely no chance.

"Say your prayers," is what I whisper to the poor things as I deposit them lovingly in the moist earth.

But even prayers aren't enough to help these babies. The trail of death and destruction left behind by me in the flower world is becoming legendary; I have actually had nursery owners see me approach and hurriedly place the "Closed" sign in their window before bolting the door.

My wife learned long ago not to involve me in any flower-related matters around the house.

When we were first married, she would pull on her little gardening gloves on Saturday mornings and come to me with this earnest look on her face and say something like: "I'm going to work on the azalea bushes. Would you plant these two trays of impatiens?"

And I'd say sure, because I was young and stupid and still trying to convince her that she'd made the right move in marrying me, although there existed a great body of evidence suggesting it was a dreadful mistake.

Besides, what kind of impression would it have made if I'd taken a long pull off a Heineken and said: "Beat it, I'm watching the Knicks against the Celtics"?

So I'd go off and plant the stupid impatiens wherever she told me to plant them.

I'd dig the little holes, throw a little whatchamacallit in there, water, put the flowers in there and fill in the dirt.

Then a week or two later I'd hear this horrible shriek and my wife would come running inside screaming: "The impatiens are dead!"

Like this was news to me.

"Of course they're dead," I'd say. "I planted them."

At this, her eyes would get as wide as silver dollars. And you could see her wondering exactly what kind of animal she'd married.

Millions of eligible guys in the country, and she picked someone who wantonly murders flowers and shows absolutely no remorse.

Which, technically speaking, wasn't true.

It's not that I don't get upset. It's just that when you've killed as many flowers as I have, what's one or two more?

It's not going to keep me up at night, that's for sure.

As soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm in Dream Land. I'm not tossing and turning, or staring up at the ceiling and thinking: "Those impatiens . . . if only I'd provided better drainage!"

Fine, maybe I've become jaded. But to me, a flower's just another pistil and stamen and carpel, or whatever those parts are called.

I'll tell you something about killing flowers, too: The older you get, the better you get.

Me, I just have to look at a flower now and it starts to keel over.

Which is what happened with the Mother's Day gift now dying in one corner of my kitchen, which is another ugly story. Although I guess if you have the time, I could relate it.

If memory serves, it was my daughter who suggested that we buy my wife a hanging plant for Mother's Day. (The girl is young, only 8, and largely unaware of her dad's sordid history with flowers.)

So we went to the local nursery and picked out this trailing petunia number that looked very nice, with vivid purple flowers.

"My, isn't that a healthy-looking plant!" said the woman working the cash register.

And I thought: Yeah, well, it won't be healthy for long. Not with me buying it.

To make a long story short, my wife loved the plant and has been watering it and fussing over it ever since.

Just for laughs, though, I checked on the plant this morning. And sure enough, the flowers are starting to droop and turn brown and sickly-looking already.

I give this baby another two, three days, tops. After that it'll wind up in the trash with the coffee grinds and orange peels and old milk cartons.

Yeah, the old man still has the touch.

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