Hope really does spring (or summer?) eternal

1:51 am Tuesday June 21

first day of summer

Tonight, at midnight, I made my first planters of the season. I know it’s June. First day of summer. But I’ve been busy. And uninspired. And nursing old wounds from laaaast season’s dismal failures. No more.

To celebrate my strange and sudden burst of energy and hope (which set upon me over the weekend when I started buying plants again, like a serial killer collecting his next victims), I decided to save my sole surviving refugees from the killing fields of last summer… two extremely raggy Dusty Miller. I would re-pot them with the bright green sweet potato vine and deep purple Coleus I bought over the weekend when I was bored at Home Depot, waiting for my husband to find the perfect weed whacker.

The DMs had been part of similar arrangements in two teal ceramic pots last summer (where they still resided)… everything in the planters thrived into fall. Until it got cold. And I brought everything inside to “live,” experimenting with whether “annual” REALLY means annual. (Yes, yes it does, in my case.) The Coleus and sweet potato vine, well that’s just a sad story for another day. But the DMs hung on, moving around the house to avoid my toddler, mostly whenever my husband complained they were dying again. (He is talented with things that grow. He hates to see anything die and can rescue plants from the garbage and grow them in a glass of water. I have personally witnessed this. This does not mean he will actually help me… it must be tough love. He’s teaching me to fish, right?)

Anyway, the poor little Dusty Miller lived for a while in the basement with no light, then moved upstairs to a very cold room with plenty of sun but no heat. (It being Massachusetts in a giant Victorian, we don’t heat the top floor in winter. And that was where the plants got to weather a looooong, cold season of discontent.) But they made it somehow. Stubborn little bastards. And when it started to warm up, I put them outside again, onto our covered sun porch. Where I proceeded to not water them and refused to move them into the light. Until my husband got tired of haranguing me and put them outside the screen door, where they had a fighting chance at getting rained on. And that was how they came to be these giant, rangy, raggy Dr. Seuss-like stems, with dead leaves curling up here and there, that in no way resembled the tight, decorative little gems I bought at the “good” local nursery a year ago. “Start over,” advised my best friend, the genius gardener and floral designer, when she saw them sulking outside the screen door. “Toss ’em!”

Dusty Miller aren't supposed to look like this, right? All Seussical...

But somehow, when it came time to make my new planters, lovingly nestling the stripy, velvety new Coleus with the hopeful little sweet potato vines in the pots, I just couldn’t uproot the poor, raggy DM still clinging to life there. They had earned their spot in whatever sad attempt at a garden I would muster in the remaining months of this fleeting New England growing season.

I cut them way back, brutally, dug them out, cut more dead leaves off and poked them back into the fresh potting soil. I contemplated a quick blast of Miracle Grow but decided that might be overkilling with kindness… “Who is this woman?” they would rightly ask. “The same tired hausfrau who tried to kill us all winter?”

One planter does not look too bad, but the DM in the other looks like it was tree-topped by a drunken logger. Not purty.

We’ll see how they fare. Live, little Dusty Miller, live!

the carnage of it all


About plantkiller

Paysha Rhone is a wife, mother, former-journalist-turned-PR-maven and bad mamajama killing plants in the Victorian splendor of Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
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