Caution, Sunflowers

August 14, 2010


A couple of  years ago we acquired a garden plot next to the hundred-year-old house that momentary insanity prompted us to purchase. We discovered, under the thick mats of weeds, old stone walks, bases of fountains, lush growths of wonderful garlic, and something that we believe is a cow’s skull although it looks suspiciously like the remains of an alien, according to the oldest child of a friend of ours.

Once cleared by an industrious lady who was trying to start a yard-care business and needed a good reference, we found promising looking garden plots laid out with old timbers and a mysterious pond that didn’t seem to dry up even when I didn’t add water during hot weather. Things were looking up. We planned the installation of some scarecrow art to lend interest and we were ambitious enough to arrange for the delivery of a truck load of garden soil when spring came around.

And then these fleshy plant stems appeared overnight. A friend identified them  as giant sunflowers, a pronouncement that proved at least partially true. How neat, we thought, since we always feed the neighborhood birds and are blessed with wrens, titmice, jays, buntings, finches, hummingbirds, and all the other kinds of ordinary birds that infest the Texas landscape.

During the next few weeks these sunflowers,  73 of them to be exact, grew eight feet tall. However, instead of the large flower heads with their lush rows of seeds that we expected, we were treated to a canopy of small, yellow blossoms with wiry centers. So? Interesting, in a sticky sort of way. Clouds of insect life settled in. The birds were happy even though our hard-won clear space was turning into a jungle of menacing-looking plants with trunks over an inch in diameter. I was reminded of the book I read as a boy, The Day of the Triffids, in which terrifying, lethal plants killed the people of earth. Could these be cousins? I imagined the stalks quivering and bending in my direction each time I approached.

I know how the last people on earth must have felt, losing a war to plants. Loppers which could shear off the most stubborn privet hedge were barely able to dent these tough, woody stalks. Pushing through this forest was getting to be an act of desperation. I considered renting a chain saw to trim the flowers back, an approach that was sure to label me as an eco terrorist by the local garden club.

Finally, using a large, heavy grubbing tool, we were able to attack the most vulnerable portion of the plant, the soil beneath their roots which turned out to be nice and loamy. Now stacks of the enemy bodies are awaiting their final journey to the side of the street where the city will risk their trucks in an effort to pick up the remains. All I’ve got to say is that if those plants disappear before Wednesday, the day for bulk trash pickup, I’m not leaving my house.

About charles frenzel

I've been writing all my life. I've also painted, composed, sculpted, contributed to molecular research, advanced some mathematical concepts, lived on a sailboat, and worked for a Nobel Prize winner. Nothing in my life has pleased me more than to share my life with my wife and friend of over forty years.

View all posts by charles frenzel

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