In the garden, he's readily known as Dr. Death

April 21, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

IT'S SPRING, and once again the smell of death is everywhere in my back yard.

You can't help noticing the carnage.

I plant roses. They die.

I plant hydrangeas. They go belly-up in days.

I plant pansies. You can almost hear them wheezing before the last trowelful of soil is tamped down.

I plant pachysandra. You might as well call a priest right then and there.

(Think about that for a moment. Who kills pachysandra? Pachysandra is about the hardiest ground cover known to man.

Hannibal Lecter couldn't kill pachysandra. But I can. In a heartbeat.)

The forsythia aren't dead, but that's only because of a technicality, the technicality being that I didn't plant them.

The previous owner of the house planted them.

Therefore, they're still lush and vibrant, in stark contrast to the brown, barren landscape demarcating where I've planted.

You know how spring is the season of renewed life?

There is no life if I touch it.

With me, it's like I creep up behind these flowers and plants and slip a plastic bag over their heads.

Over the years, I've killed annuals, perennials, fruits, vegetables, shrubs, bushes - just about everything you can grow in and around a garden, really.

Killed 'em in just about every way imaginable, too.

Sometimes I don't water them enough.

Or else I water them too much.

Other times I don't give them enough fertilizer.

Or else I give them so much fertilizer there are nitrogen clouds rolling through my yard.

Anyway, what difference does it make how they die?

What are you going to do, call a coroner?

The point is, they die, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

You should see my tomatoes.

No, check that. They never get big enough to actually see.

You know how, come August, you see all these fat, juicy tomatoes ripening in people's gardens?

And suddenly everyone is pushing their tomatoes on you - your neighbors, the mailman, people at work?

Until you're so sick of tomatoes you just want to scream?

Well, you don't ever have to worry about getting tomatoes from me.

Nope, no one's ever gotten tomatoes from me.

With me, tomatoes are like everything else.

I plant 'em, they die, and that's the end of it.

By the middle of the summer, what you see in my garden is a bunch of stakes with what appear to be brown, lifeless vines wrapped around them.

The tomatoes themselves are the size of peas - if you can find them.

The point is, not only won't you ever taste one of my tomatoes.

I'll never taste one, either.

One thing I've noticed over the years is that people don't want you around their gardens when you cause green things to die. There's a real prejudice out there in that regard.

If my wife is digging in the flower beds and sees me approaching with a trowel and a flat of flowers, she turns pale.

"Uh, why don't you let me take care of those," she'll say, snatching the flowers and hurrying them into the ground, before I drain the life out of them.

The neighbors, they don't even want me walking on their lawns, never mind touching their flowers and plants.

It's isolating - I don't mind admitting that.

You look out the window and the sun is shining and the sky is blue, and you think: Spring is here.

I should be outdoors.

I should be on my hands and knees in the rich, thick soil, planting something, renewing the cycle of life.

I should be one with nature, getting some exercise, beautifying the outside of my house.

And then it hits you: There is no beauty in what you do with flowers and plants.

There is only darkness and despair.

A man who can kill pachysandra - that man can't be allowed around garden tools.

No, the best thing you can do for the outside of your house is stay inside.

Put your feet up.

Turn on the TV.

Look at the beautiful roses your wife has planted outside.

Smell them even.

Just don't touch.

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