Sunday, April 09, 2006

Dirty Hands

For some women, it's shoes. For others, it's designer bags. For still others, it's perfume, or professional-style kitchen gadgets, or high-end scrapbooking accessories, or collectible china.

For me, the weakness, the addiction, the unwholesome obsession which, if I give it a moment's free reign, sucks away my time and drains my bank account before I even realize what I've done has become:


That's right—my postage-stamp, too-poor-for-a-real-yard patio container herb garden.

After last year's excesses, this year I promised myself (and my husband) that I would cut back. No experimenting this time with exotic finds from the county herb society sale like lovage or borage or wormwood. (Seriously. Wormwood? Was I planning on brewing bathtub absinthe?). Stick to simple, hardy culinary herbs. Maybe just some sweet basil, and oregano and sage. The old standbys. Easy to grow, frequently used. Just a few pots. No more plant explosion crowding my patio to the point that a person might have to climb over a small tree just to get out the patio door.

But then, last week, we went to the hardware store. Just to pick up some potting soil—organic potting soil—that was on sale at $2 for 40 pounds! And maybe, just maybe a small plant or two. And then—just what was that intriguing purple plant there, with the pretty semi-gloss fringed ovate leaves, arranged invitingly in flats outside the garden center next to the marigolds and pansies? A cabbage, you say? Sweet spring cabbage? Edible and ornamental. A very nutritious vegetable. And hardy! At just $1.79 for six plants. How lovely. I'd never grown cabbage before. Picture a fresh cole slaw at the end of the season, with bright purple cabbage slices plucked fresh from my own garden. Lovely fronds of purple cabbage floating in a golden vegetable soup.

Perhaps, just a single set of six?

And then, you see, once the cabbage was purchased, it suddenly occurred to me that surely it would be best to grow it in hanging pots. After all, one had to consider the previous season's terrorist garden attacks by roving gangs of thug squirrels. The squirrels, grown bold as rats and sleek as seals thanks to a hand-fed diet of fresh fruit and peanuts provided by my neighborhood's resident crazy squirrel-loving lady, would surely be tempted to take a fat bite or ten out of those lovely violet leaves.

But the shallow hanging pots we bought last year couldn't possibly be deep enough for a cabbage. And then, at Target—- what was this? A just-in shipment of elegant powder-coated cast steel hanging baskets with natural moss liners? For just $14.99? Really, a steal.

But then, once the baskets came home, it occurred to me—- won't my young cabbage plants seem so lost all alone in these big, deep, metal baskets, hanging so high? The baskets would need something else, too, at least until the cabbage matured. Some more color, perhaps. Some trailing vines down the side?

Well, how about some lavender pansies? Look! On sale at the K-Mart down the street! Such a nice compliment to the dark purple leaves of the cabbage. And while we were at the K-Mart, well, I thought, why not pick up a few pots of marigolds, too, to put on the garden wall? To keep the squirrels away, of course. (Though they didn't work last year). And these jersey gardening gloves sure do look smart! $2.99 a pair? Why not?

Hmm. That basket would still look a bit empty with nothing but cabbage and pansies, though. Still needed something trailing! "Let's take a quick trip to that nursery just down the street and see if they have creeping thyme. Just to see how much it costs. Maybe it's on sale."

Wouldn't it be lovely cascading down the sides of those baskets, growing into the moss liner? And with a shallow root system it's sure not to choke out the cabbage or pansies. What a perfect idea I'd had! Just a few sprouts of creeping thyme.

But there was no creeping thyme in yet at the nursery—- only the boring French upright kind. What a shame. Still, the nursery had ruffled purple basil! We had looked all over for that last year! And those rosemary plants—- so healthy and upright. What a heavenly scent. "One won't do, will it dear?" Why not two?

Aha! But we still needed to find that creeping thyme. Just to fill out the basket. So why not saunter on down to south city? Such a beautiful day, and the parks there are lovely. We could take the boy to a playground. And stop at this little ol' nursery down in the botanical garden district on the way.

Once there, why look! The red creeping thyme was almost gone! Only one flat left! Why not take the whole lot? Some lime thyme, too, just for a bit of variety. And really, that cilantro there—- already so full—- what a deal! Don't I cook with cilantro at least once a week? Hmm, marjoram, also somewhat tempting.

And oh yes—- I must pick up some sweet basil, oregano, and sage. After all, I promised myself and my husband I'd have those plants in my garden this year.


Andrea said...

You so sound like me with my books. I walk in for a cookbook and come out with a cookbook, plus a weight loss book, a how to book on some hobby or other, and three or four fictions, a good mix of literature, mystery, or chick lit. No wonder my shelves at home are groaning under the weight. You should post pictures of your garden in all its glory and we can ooh and aah over its lovliness and tell you that it's okay to have a healthy hobby, especially one that produces healthy food.

Jaelithe said...

Ah, you see Andrea, I am also this way with books. Lately I have been banning myself from the bookstore until I read everything my husband owns that I haven't read yet. But I did have to go pick up a book on decorating for a promotional article I was writing a couple of weeks ago. And I came out with two decorating books, a book on home repair, and three Peter rabbit books (for Isaac, for Easter! Of course).

Dawn said...

I had a wormwood plant that I had to BEAT BACK, for it was taking over a whole side of the house and beginning to grab you when you walked by...

I got some comfrey from hell too.

I limit myself to ONE trip on which I can spend no more than 200 for everything. And don't get me started on the Veronica plants I have killed.. and the Asclepias tuberosa.....

I now use big buckets for the herbs on the porch. That way I can control the spread...

MrsFortune said...

Haha, sounds like me in a knitting store. It's like this huge snowball. But your hobby sounds so productive! with the amount of money I spend on fresh herbs, those hearty kind you grow, I could pay for an herb garden if I didn't have 10 black thumbs.

Bathtub absinthe? I'm THERE.

The Adventures Of Dr. Gene and His Mate WonderMum said...

LMAO..OMG! you sound like ME with MY books! I try so hard to stay away...but LOOK! Christene Feehan has THREE new novels that I haven't seen! and away we go...and my poor husband to be is no in to me so'S to blame! not ME...Lol

Lisa said...

OH yeay! I am totally into my garden too! At our last house we had only one yucca bush in the back yard. Now there's almost 100 plants back there. And I'm thinking that once someone buys the house they will trash everything. (But on the flip side Seth can pinpoint hostas, tulips, poker plants, day lillies and what not. Even a few different kind of trees. heehee.

Also, I'm totally into Pajamas, sunglasses and watches.

Mom101 said...

When I moved from my little West Village bachelorette pad into a slightly more grown-up two-bedroom in Brooklyn, I left behind a lovely little terrace off the bedroom. While it could only fit two chairs comfortably, it was my happy place. Gardening, if only a few windowboxes of of petunias, a few herbs and some hanging lobelia, connects you to the earth. Especially important when the earth is ten stories below.

It's not an addiction, it's soul nourishment. Addiction would be like if you dried your plants then smoked them.

Jaelithe said...

Who says I don't, Mom-101?

Just kidding ;) Well, I might wind up burning some of the the sage as incense or something.

Anyway I think it qualifies as an addiction when you're down to three pairs of pants that don't have holes in them and you decide to buy a windowbox instead :)