ON MY MIND: Green thumb? Try black thumb …

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

Lies, lies, nothing but lies.

Okay, I’m probably naive. Some would say I’m ignorant. And I am, ignorant of lots of things, that is. I prefer to think I have faith — faith in people, faith in our country . . . and faith in fertilizer companies.

Ah, you didn’t expect to see country and fertilizer companies together in that sentence, did you?
Kathy Jo VanderLaan and I just took a class together at Aquinas College. In it, we had to list our core values. My top one was honesty. Obviously lying doesn’t fit into that category.

So — and I know you are wondering where this is going — when I go to fertilize my beautiful flower pots, I believe. I believe what the label on the fertilizer says. Call me naive. Call me ignorant. Just don’t call me late for dinner. Oops, I digress.

Let me backspace here a bit. My flowering pots have been so beautiful this year, you would swear they could not possibly be mine. Mine never look this good. Because of their beauty, I have been basking in the glow of their blooms and loving the praise I’ve been getting from people walking by.

Because I am wiser than I used to be, I know it is important and time to fertilize my flowers. I learned this lesson the hard way. I also know that fertilizer is easy to use. Just add to water and pour. Oh, be sure to take that foil off the end of the spout. The first year I didn’t remove it and had some humiliating and sad experiences. Suffice it to say, I fertilized forever and with gusto and never got any results. If you don’t count the guffaws from my fertilizing smarty pants friends who figured out I had never taken off the spout foil. In my defense, I don’t think there were any directions to do so. I need to be told every single detail when it comes to this gardening stuff.

One should never ever assume that I will figure this stuff out on my own.

In preparation for my simple task, I purchased the fertilizer. I won’t say the name because that would not be nice. I’ll just say it rhymes with lyrical moe.

I read the label and I thought I read that it said, “No danger of over fertilizing”. I loved that idea. I cheered to myself. Now when I think of it, I say to myself, “Hah!” I also say, “Liars!”

Because I hate gardening, I decided to do it in one fell shot. I fertilized all my flowers way more than I ever had before — way, way more. Why not, I thought? Why not make my already beautiful blooms more beautiful-er? I know that isn’t a real word, but it was how I was thinking, slightly off base.
After the hearty dose of fertilizer, I added some new dirt, some water and presto, I felt proud. I’d done good, real good.

I left for three days and when I returned, half of my beautiful posies looked like someone had sucked the life out of them. They laid their limp. No more perky blooms. Their green leaves had turned yellow, some even brown. Some had turned crisp, which I didn’t think was even an option. They had lost their pizzazz and, basically, given up the fight.

What’s a gardener to do? Oh, you think I use that term lightly? Maybe so.

Now, if you can’t believe what you read on product labels, what is next? Is someone going to rock my boat further by telling me political ads aren’t 100 percent truthful?

Clearly, though, even I realize the fertilizer label and I had a major communication gap. Either I read it wrong or they printed lies. I am guessing it was them. You keep your guesses to yourself, please.

I have a wonderful woman who comes a bit to help with our unpotted flowers. She is a master gardener and full of exuberance and gusto about gardening. She is my hero. She examined the remains of my catastrophe and told me not to worry. “You haven’t actually killed all of them. You just need to have patience and they will come back.”

“For heaven’s sake,” I exclaimed to her, “I’m already 65. I don’t have that much time left.”
No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t come up with her kind of optimism. I decided to toss the suckers and go buy new. And then I remembered all the money I had spent on the ones I had killed. Oh, man, that wasn’t in my original plan. I needed a new plan, one with a heavy dose of rationalization.

So, in the end (can it be the end if it is only the week of July 4th?), I got rid of all evidence and bought new blooms. Things look lovely again, though not as good as before. I am sad about all the extra money I had to spend, though. But then I remember and am comforted by the fact that I personally gave birth to an attorney. I am thinking and hoping that for a large fee, he might just sue that fertilizer company for me.

If I can get some coin back, then I can go buy more plants and continue my great gardening saga. What is that famous bit of wisdom? Try, try, try again. Maybe that wasn’t meant for me and my black thumbs.

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

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