The garden centre that sucked me in to their clearance sale the other day had a sign out yesterday saying LAST CHANCE SALE. Last chance? Who are they fooling? These places will do anything to coax and con nutty gardeners into buying one more plant. Can’t fool me, I said to myself, but I stopped in anyway. Hey, I enjoy the atmosphere, even if it isn’t a real nursery — only a tent they stick up in the parking lot at the local plaza.
Of course, I did buy something; it doesn't seem right to hang around and not do so. And you can't beat the prices. I picked up perennials at four for a buck — amazing! They were seven dollars each a month ago.
There are no tags on them, so I'm not sure what they are, and I can't identify them by their foliage, either, because it's kinda shriveled, but there are some green bits sticking up which means there’s life still in them.
Hah! The price slashers at this particular garden centre don't seem to realize that in the hands of a mad gardener these tiny scraps of green will become huge luxurious plants by next season. What a challenge! And if they don't survive, I'll have lost nothing because I'll still own the pots (not that I need more pots when the shed is knee deep in them, but I can always use the premium potting soil).
As I was paying for my purchases, I asked the person at the cash register what they did with the leftovers when they finally do close for the season. She told me they toss them all in the garbage. Being a curious type, I naturally asked where. She just smiled and took my money.
I returned to the plaza the following day — I had to. I was determined to see what they would do with the leftover plants when they closed up and took the tent down. I couldn't believe they'd throw them in the garbage, but if they did I was going to be there to rescue them. It didn't look as though it was going to happen, though, because when I arrived the following day, they’d changed the sign again. It now read LAST CHANCE SALE EXTENDED!
I hung around anyway, just in case, browsing until they began to give me the subtle looks that told me it was time to leave, even though I'd bought a limp lupine from the bargain table. Too bad it's in rough shape, but if I can nurse it back to health, I'll keep it potted up and use it to intimidate some of the poor performers I planted a month ago.
After that, I spent an hour or two casually wandering around the parking lot, keeping one eye on the tent and the other on the mall security guard. Earlier, he'd asked me what I was doing and I'd told him I was an agent from the S.P.C.P. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants). I don't think he believed me, so I said I was only joking and was actually trying to find my car, which meant I had to keep moving to maintain the pretence of looking for it.
The parking lot is huge, and I walked an awful long way. At first it was fun trying to lose the security guard, but at four o'clock his shift ended and a fresh guy took over — he could run too. By then the garden place was closing for the day and it didn't look as though the tent would be coming down, so I figured I'd better get out of there before I was arrested. I went back to the garden centre this morning, but instead of being chased around the parking lot again, I sat in the car to watch — all day. Was it ever hot in there! I learned that I never want to be a greenhouse worker.
But my patience paid off; I had a perfect view of the garden tent. At four o'clock, they took all the benches and equipment out, including the trays of annuals that were still not sold. They set them off to one side where I was able to keep an eye on them. No way were they going into the dumpster if I could help it. Shortly afterwards a truck arrived with a bunch of guys who began to dismantle the tent. I felt awfully melancholy. It was like watching the circus leave town.
They crammed everything onto the truck except for the plants. My hopes shot up. I was ready. As soon as those plants went into the dumpster, I'd swoop to the rescue. But then, at the last moment, one of the guys picked up the trays and, instead of taking them to the dumpster, he shoved them into the back of the truck. Then they drove away. I was wild; a whole afternoon wasted getting a free sauna that I didn't need. I took off after that truck. If they were planning to dump the plants someplace else, I was going to be there.
I tailed that truck all the way across town. I never let them get more than half a block ahead of me. It wasn't easy; they were in a real hurry and I had to run red lights to keep up. I could barely stay with them.
It was crazy. We were tearing along the expressway when it happened. Disaster! It was terrible. As the truck swung onto the exit ramp, the rear door flew open and a tray of petunias flew out. I hit the brakes, but it was too late. I'll never forget the horrible sound and sickening crunch as I ran over that plastic tray.
I stopped the car, leapt out, and raced back to find soil and plants scattered across two lanes of heavy traffic. Botanical road kill! It was hopeless, every bit of vegetation crushed beyond recognition. I felt so sad, especially since I felt partially responsible. If I hadn't been chasing the truck, it might not have happened. But when I remembered the plants were probably headed for the garbage dump, I felt much better.
Regardless, I had tears in my eyes as I returned to my car thinking what an awful waste. That was when I spotted it — almost buried in the flotsam of the hard shoulder — one little petunia. My heart leapt! A miracle. Except for a little shredding around the edges it had survived the crash unharmed. I carefully picked it up and placed it in a discarded coffee cup and for once, I actually blessed someone for littering. I took the cup and reverently set it in the cup holder, then drove home slowly and safely — a little too slowly; I got a ticket for obstructing traffic, but it was worth it. I saved a life.
I have Patty here now (that's her name — Patty), beside me as I write. Today I'm going to find the perfect place in the garden where she'll grow and thrive. Patty the luckiest petunia in the city.
From Diary of a Mad Gardener, available on Amazon