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Oh how fun! Will there be a prize for the worst one too? A "dark and stormy night" entry? I might have a chance at that.

He gave me a single rose for Mother’s Day. The first year he could drive, so he could get to the florist himself. He bought it the day before, and knew it needed to stay cool, so he placed it where I wouldn’t find it, in the freezer in the basement. On Mother’s Day he presented it to me, a perfect, half opened bud in cellophane, a pallid brown shade of some former color. As I took it from him the entire bloom shattered into fine dust, leaving me holding only the frozen stem. It was beautiful.

Why yes this is part of a story I have been writing and this contest was a nice spark to get me to tap out a few more words, 99 to be exact.

He smelled ramp and followed the powerful aroma up the mountain path to a tiny cabin nestled in the forest surrounded by gardens and orchards.

He hadn’t had a decent meal in thirty years and pounded on the door, determined to taste what was cooking inside. She opened the door. They both gasped in horrific recognition.

The knife in her hand trembled. He lunged in the door at the same time she placed the knife out in front of herself. That familiar growl turned to a whimper as his full weight pushed on her.

Dinner would have to wait.

Twelve garden shops, and still no luck. Clerks looked at me like I have three eyes. None of them ever heard of an Elmer Bush. Dang.

I flipped open my cell phone and called gramps.

“Hi, Grandpa. You know that beautiful plant you have out in your back yard? I’ve been looking all over for it, and no one has ever heard of it. You sure it’s called an Elmer bush?”

Grandpa chucked. “Well, I reckon I don’t know its proper name. I just call it an Elmer bush ‘cause my friend Elmer gave it to me. Sorry, sonny.”
Based on a true story. Grandpa had an Elmer bush in his back yard. His friend, Elmer, gave it to him. We propagated it by a cutting and still have "Elmer bushes" in our yard. (An old fashioned red hibiscus, by the way.)

There goes the dog’s alarm bark. There is no gun to grab, better go access, even so. I have rewarded her in the past when she did in a baby ground hog. The picture at the back of the garden comes into view, she has cornered an adult, and won’t give up until members of her pack (me) shoot it, or help her take it down with my teeth.

The creature could probably hurt the dog, or me, it has sharp teeth, looks like a big brown squirrel. It won’t do to stand and watch what happens. The closer I get, the closer that hound gets to the GH, barking her fool head off.

The shovel I’m holding finds it’s way between them and the ground hog takes the opening to head over the fence into wild territory (I was unaware they could climb so high, there is plenty of evidence around here that they can tunnel).

The touch of the dog’s soft fur between my fingers is nice. It is hard to know if I’m rewarding her, or just glad to see her safe. Doesn’t matter I guess. The broccoli breathes a sigh of relief.

She went in search of the plants, not just one of course. Eighteen inches tall, pink to rose flowers, gray green foliage, well behaved. She had always impressed on others the need for Latin, not necessarily to memorize, just to have jotted down on some scrap. So many plants with similar common names. Planted and watered with care the acquisitions achieved great heights surpassing eighteen inches, thirty inches, well up to the six foot range, white flowers. A curtain in the front of the border. Obviously mislabeled and subsequently misplanted. Sheer delight! Valerian means potent and potent they were!

My mother hung up the phone with a shake of her head. "She won't give them back," she muttered.
"Grandma won't give what back?" I asked.
"The Peonies. My Peonies, the ones I asked her to hold for me during the house remodeling."
A deep sense of foreboding filled me. My family was famous for its feuds and vendettas. We're still not speaking to great-aunt Louisa because of the autographed Sinatra photo incident.
"They're only plants," I soothed, "Can't you just get some new ones?"
She just turned and reached for the shovel.

Her husband argued with her about the placement of the new plants. Did she need to rethink the whole design? There was no time for that; her mother was coming next week for her son's graduation party. She had bought several plants for the slope of their vacation home, lakeside and in the woods, anxiously planting the coneflowers and black-eyed susans around a 1 gallon-sized butterfly bush destined to grow 8 feet tall. It complimented the marigolds and petunias she kept in pots under the deep canopy of the rustic cabin. Everything looks better with flowers she thought.

Oh, just one more:

I climbed over the old iron fence to begin a garden. Its autumn, warm and I am crafting pockets with a long trowel for the scattered tulip, daffodil, and crocus bulbs.

A young girl asks, “Are you plantin’ unyuns?”

“No, flowers” I say, “bulbs.”

“Oh. Can you eat those?”


The mailman climbs the stoop and emphatically delivers “I cannot wait ‘til spring! Its gonna look good.”

Between the foundation and fence, on my knees, I hear a couple’s rising voice. Her comments I cannot understand, but to which he responds in a thick Russian accent, “Too much ef-fort.”

My mother started it. "These are cannas," she said, placing three bulbs in my hands.

I planted the bulbs near the garage. They grew lavishly. In the fall, I pried them up with a shovel; each bulb had multiplied wildly. I separated them and enthusiastically planted dozens the next spring. In the fall, I pried up masses of bulbs with the shovel. The next spring, I planted what the garden could hold, composted the rest. The garden was lushly tropical. In the fall, my shovel broke.

At the next garage sale, a box: "Cannas! Free to a good home!"

How she ended up naked, belly down, peering through the grass camera in hand, was a mystery to her. A little deadheading around the pool on the sultry August morning brought a bead of sweat to her brow as a trickle of moisture traced down her chest. Cool water beckoned and embraced her as she gave in to the watery indulgence. It must have been the slight movement which caught her attention and the next thing she knew the shutter was capturing the essence of life itself, the preying mantis with her headless lover locked in a deadly embrace.

The seedlings leaves shivered as I pushed up on the bottom of the nursery tray. "It's OK, you're one of the lucky ones," I cooed. I left the tray on the kitchen table as I carried the plant outside to the waiting spot in the garden.

Later that night, the neighborhood was bathed in flashes of blue, white and red. There were no sirens; there was no need to rush. All of the evidence was in the compost pile out back.

The door came to her quite simply. It was a late Yule gift from her mother's friend. Eight inches tall , the door would not open for her. She took it out to the yard, and nestled it among the tropical plants, near an elm.

At midsummer, she went looking for the door again. It had weathered, greyed, and become a part of the landscape. There was peace around the door, a silence and stillness that spoke to her of cool water. She saw a tiny red cape, discarded as behind a party guest rushing to the door, before sunrise.

After the rain Eliza went into the garden, and the dank, dark smell of earth detached her dimly from the nightmare. The drops of rain still clung to the leaves of the Lady's Mantle like pearls in a broken necklace and reflected her shattered psyche. She stopped by the arbor, shivering under the clematis vine, and in her frenzy she suddenly realized that she could not remember if it was a cleMATis or a CLEMatis. Sobbing, she threw herself into the Pachysandra, wailing like the lost soul she knew she had become.

Just as the broth reached a boil, the bell rang at the gate. I knew cooking with the windows open would be an invitation to the neighbors, the savory scents reaching across the fence and tweaking their noses. Potato and garlic, onion and rosemary, all grown in the front yard. At first they were skeptical, looking askance at our former lawn full of garden beds and trellises. Now, when the wind blew the smells from my kitchen to them, they came, zombies from the supermarket yearning for organic soups and sides, serving dishes piled high with food from my garden.

When heavy rains exposed Matthew Chambers' cold, dead hand reaching out of the shallow grave in the backyard, it was only a matter of time before his wife Janet was fingered for the crime.

"Why," her lawyer wondered, "Did you bury the body so close to the house where it was certain to be found, instead of that remote spot at the edge of the property?"

She looked at him in surprise. "But that's where my Daphnes are and I couldn't risk disturbing their roots! They're quite fussy about that sort of thing."

Dad almost skipped a once in a lifetime trip to Switzerland because it would interfere with the planting of his spring garden. In his farmer's soul, he knew that we are given a finite number of springs – and once a spring is gone, it and it’s potential can’t be reclaimed. And though like those springs, he is gone, that wisdom and urgency live on in me. As the springs flit by, I do my best to make each one count. I do it for me – I do it in his memory. And in my mind’s eye, I see him smile.

My Twin Brother

You could smell the chainsaw fumes. The aftermath covered our entire backyard. Taking a break from picking up limbs I run my hands over the tree’s wounded trunk. I count fifty one rings; the same age as me. Where I used to live trees struggled to survive the prairie wind, staying short and hunched over. Here they soar out of the ground and attain phenomenal heights. My neighbor is amazed to see me crying over a white oak. A tree that blocked the way for vegetables for Christ’s sake. No one else gets it. Those tomatoes better taste good.

The Hunter
Though she was certain, from the trampled Hepatica, that her husband had passed this way, she climbed the hill above the creek where she photographed the Trillium in spring with graceful speed. She noticed bright red poking up through the decaying detritus, it was Silene. Though beautiful, it was a bad sign today. She moved East until she spotted a patch of Xanthorhiza amid clumps of Arisaema. Soon she saw the mysterious plant that had brought her to this stand of Quercus and Carya and gasped at its beauty and elegance. What plant, you ask. She'll never tell.

"Twelve hour days soon," she said."Shouldn't you start dirtying up my basement with your little pots of weeds?"
"Hmmmm." he said as he savored his kale.
She would never understand his esteem for the Vernal Equinox. She celebrated Christmas with letters, cards and gifts. She forced him to subdue his animosity towards vinegar so the grandchildren could dye eggs. He got her those disgusting candies (he was allergic) every Valentine's Day. Would she ever understand the call of Dionysus in Spring that stirred, in him, such ancient feelings?
"I always clean it up after." was all he said.

My fictional heroine Eliza has some more angst to share:

Consumed with guilt over her refusal to divide her prize "On Stage" hosta with her best friend Eileen, Eliza replayed the conversation in her mind again and again. Could she have been more truthful? Could there have been a kinder refusal than her brusque, "Don't be silly, Eileen – you know there's too much sun in your garden for this plant." But of course Eileen would discover the light requirements of "On Stage" and when Eileen realized that Eliza had lied, would she suspect that Eliza was that most despicable of all creatures: a selfish gardener? "So be it," thought Eliza with a shudder.

He met his wife because she saw that corn in the graduate co-op garden and asked him what his secret was. He missed the birth of his son because he insisted that there was one perfect day to plant this family "heirloom". He wouldn't be one of those pacing types anyway. His daughter had been married in their backyard and he was certain it was pollen from this corn that made her new in-laws sneeze throughout the ceremony. Only appropriate then, he thought, when he gasped for his last breathe staring up at the sky between those emerald leaves.

My favorite. so far.

The Christmas Cottontail arrived to sow the seeds and plant the bulbs for the spring display to attract the Easter Bunny. Flowers bloomed in the spring and the Easter Bunny left extra candy throughout the garden, in hopes some would remain hidden until fall to appease the Halloween Hare. Fall came, the leaves turned, and the Halloween Hare arrived under a full moon, ready to wreak havoc on a candy-less garden. But the gardener had been warned and left extra candy amongst the fading blooms. The garden was saved, ready for the next visit of the Christmas Cottontail.

Helen stepped out into the garden for the first time since Reba died two weeks ago. Those days had been full of funeral plans, shock and a buzzing fog that wouldn't leave her brain.

She remembered all the little bouquets that Reba would make just for her in the four-inch vase, full of nasturtium, tiny cosmos, daisies, and zinnias. She hadn't been able to empty out the last one, now shriveled, vase dry, stems drooping.

She held the small shears Reba had used for cutting and headed out towards the flowers.

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