How Does Your Garden Grow? No, Seriously…

dead daisy
Well, chalk up another one in the ‘Dead as a Doornail’ column for me. Daisies, hale and hearty just last summer – they never had a chance, poor bastards. They are, however, in good company. Whether perennials, annuals, succulents, shade-seekers, sun-bathers, dry climate or moisture-lovers, it matters not – I have left a trail of withered flora in my wake, stretching from the Midwest all the way to the Front Range. In gardening circles I’m known as The Defolinator. If there were a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants, I’d have been dragged off amidst outraged public excoriation long ago.

For further proof, I present you with my Russian sage – a favorite here in the Centennial State, there is hardly a yard you will pass that doesn’t feature these thick, perfectly symmetrical bushes tipped in delicate violet flowers that reach out and up toward the heavens. From the CSU Extension website: Russian Sage is a plant that was tailor-made for Colorado’s climate and growing conditions. An import from central Asia, Russian sage thrives in our high, dry climate, bright sunshine and alkaline soils.


Obviously, they don’t know who they’re dealing with. That’s mine on the right, in case there’s any confusion.

Lest you doubt my deadly powers, here are a few more examples. My euonymus is going on its third summer…

A slow starter

…impressive, no?

And this cluster of twigs…


…is all that’s left of a spirea bush that simply lost the will to live.

And while I know many of you would offer well-intentioned advice, suggestions on what I might do differently or tips that yield spectacular results in your garden, they are all for naught. After decades of spreading slow death like some botanical grim reaper, I have come to the realization that gardeners are born, not made.


Satan’s spruce

One might think that, with such a track record, I would be happy about any form of plant life that could thrive in my presence. One would be wrong.

There is a lone tree in my front yard, an evergreen of some sort, and it is the bane of every mowing day. It not only disrupts my rhythm, it openly mocks me, dropping dozens of pine cones that – if I don’t rake them up first – explode in the blades of my mower to send shrapnel spraying every which-way across the lawn. The branches extend from the trunk in great upward arcs, the lowest of them guarding the grass in a 6-foot radius at its base, while those above gleefully slap me in the face with every pass. To mow around it is, I imagine, similar to wrestling a hydra with only one hand.

flippin tree

And did I mention the great clouds of pollen that billow from it every time you brush one of those tentacle-like limbs? Or the carpet of pine needles that cover the grass after every windy day? Perhaps it’s more than mere coincidence that the tree appears to be flipping me off from the tip of every branch.

Look, I’m no lawn nazi, like those guys who cut their grass in a cross-hatch pattern – at precise 45-degree angles – so that when they’re done it looks like the outfield at Fenway Park. Me, I just want to get around the yard without slicing off a sprinkler head or stepping in a dog turd. But this foe has turned a mundane task into a WWE bout. It has to go. I’m thinking some wilted azaleas would look lovely in its place.

Photo of ‘normal’ Russian Sage compliments of


22 thoughts on “How Does Your Garden Grow? No, Seriously…

  1. Although I can handle succulents, I can’t seem to keep mint alive. This is a plant that my Sunset Western Garden book describes as “tough and unfussy, they grow almost anywhere.” And, “they can be quite invasive.” I can usually get enough to make one mojito (the whole reason, of course, to grow mint) before the plant shrivels up. That tree looks like nature’s revenge.

  2. I’m not advising this, but you might be amused by the method used by a friend of mine. She goes to the big box store, and buys ones of everything. Then, she brings them home and plops them, still in their containers, around her back yard. About one a week, she sprays everything down. Anything that’s still living after a couple of weeks, she buys more of. Since she has no interest in nurturing a perennial, it works out ok, and she has a few bits of color in her yard to keep the neighbors from too much sarcasm.

  3. This cracked me up! Particularly your Euonymus and Satan’s Spruce. LOL! Maybe your land is bad? Gah, I dunno. I was a born gardener, huh? Oh what a great post though, perfectly self-deprecating!

  4. Do you know how many hours would be sucked out of your life if you had a bountiful and beautiful garden? How many people would bother you with endless questions? Being the Grim Reaper of the Garden is probably saving your life.

  5. Why not let Satan’s Spruce spread its evil spawn (say that 3 times) and eventually you’ll be living in pine haven with no mowing necessary. 😀 and there’s always astroturf!

    Agent Orange !! 😎

  6. My lemon tree sulks, my camellia has blight, and I gave up trying to grow tomatoes years ago. And, I once threatened an avocado tree with the chop if it didn’t bear fruit. The very next season it was loaded. I can only conclude, un-PC though it might be, some plants like to be bullied. I’d keep my eye on that spruce!

  7. You are in good standing with Tom, he too has issues with Russian Sages. The two we had in our front yard he passed on to Ben and amazingly they took off and are growing like they should. Doesn’t make Tom very happy, now he is trying again with the two new ones that came with the new backyard, they are already showing him who is boss. He is just hoping that they behave enough to look good for the wedding and not like they are trying to escape his care.

  8. Gardening for me is an exercise in best of intentions. This year, we planted tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, broccoli and my wife’s favorite, beets. The result was a garden full of volunteer yellow squash. You want some squash?

    • I appreciate the offer, but I gave up on the veggie scene long ago. My crowning achievement was our pumpkin patch…3 or 4 little nubs that never got any bigger than the size of hacky sacks. It made Halloween carving kinda tough.

      • The spruce is gorgeous. I vote with Sammy D. Enjoyed both this post and the conversation. Great fun. I can definitely relate.
        You might want to check out “Manure Tea” which is both a fertilizer and a post on my blog.

  9. Pingback: Freshly Seen at Jill’s Scene during August | Jill's Scene

  10. Pingback: The Return of Agent Orange | Lies Jack Kerouac told Me

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