Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Ides of March - - - Maybe. By Mary Welk

Mary V. Welk writes the award winning “Rhodes to Murder” mystery series, including A Merry Little Murder, The Rune Stone Murders, To Kill A King, and The Scarecrow Murders. Her short stories include “Code Blue” in Chicago Blues; The Case of the Fugitive Farmer in Missing; the 2007 Lovey Award winner A Family Affair in Deadly Ink; “Murder Most Politic” in Blondes in Trouble and “Hickory, Dickory, Doc” (Amazon Kindle shorts). Her essay Emma Lathen appears in the 2007 Anthony Award winner Mystery Muses (Crum Creek Press). A member of Sisters in Crime, Mary is a former columnist and feature writer for Mystery Scene Magazine. and




The Ides of March - - - Maybe
by Mary Welk

It’s March 15—the Ides of March—and I know what you’re thinking.

Right now the unspoken words tumbling madly through your brain sound something like this:

‘Oh, please. (dramatic eye roll) Not another lecture on Julius Caesar and his good buddy Brutus. (heavy sigh) We all know Caesar was assassinated on this day back in 44 B.C. (even heavier sigh accompanied by a semi-eye roll) And thanks to Shakespeare, we’ve all heard the words “Beware the Ides of March” and “Et tu, Brute?” at least a hundred times, if not more. (VERY heavy sigh accompanied by hopeless shake of the head) And if it’s not Caesar, I suppose you’re going to tell us about the Hash House Harriers who commemorate the Ides of March each year by running around Rome in togas (snicker, snicker), or the Dagorhir Battle Games boys who dress as medieval warriors and celebrate the day by whacking away at each other with foam swords and shields (snicker, snicker, snort). Or if you’re really out to annoy us (slight growl in the voice accompanied by marked frown), you’ll explain how the Temple Hill Association holds a dinner every March 15^th to honor George Washington who, through cleverness and attention to his enemies—the main one being Continental Army General Horatio Gates; also known as “Granny” Gates for his reluctance to attack the British army (snicker, snort, giggle)—managed to quell an uprising of Continental Army officers on the Ides of March, 1783; credit must be given to the said Temple Hill Association since it manages the historic Edmonston House in New York, headquarters during the Revolutionary War to the aforementioned and rather ineffectual General Gates (scratch of the head and shrug of the shoulders). And then…”

Okay, already! You can stop now; I got the message! I will not—and I repeat, WILL NOT—mention the present month or day again, nor will I utter the words ‘I*** of M****’ at any future point in this blog. Instead, I will share with you my thoughts on spring in general and seed/bulb/plant catalogs in particular.

Spring officially begins on the 20^th of M…. er, I mean, on the 20^th day of the month following February. But it seems to me that spring actually arrives weeks earlier and comes courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service. In short, it arrives with the delivery of the first garden catalog. And this, for me, is a real problem.

You see, I have a rather large garden. It extends down one entire side of the backyard in a six-foot width, crosses the rear of the yard in a slightly narrower swath, then jumps to a ten-foot diameter circle near the pussy willow tree before edging back up toward the house next to the garage where it ends at a small pond. Another three-foot wide track follows the opposite side of the garage. Gardens also occupy three areas in front of the house, some parts of them in shade and some in sun. All this garden space makes for a great many plants, 95% of which are perennials, some of them dating back to when we moved into our house 30-plus years ago. The one thing I do not have room for is more flowers.

But the catalogs arrive, and I am tempted by the latest hybrid lily and hardy geranium. I argue with myself as I consider the “No Strings Attached!” and “Double Your Money!” coupons displayed on the catalog covers.

ME: If I divide the hosta under the birch tree, I’d have room there for a bleeding heart.

MYSELF: You planted a white one by the hosta last year and it didn’t take, remember?

ME: White ones are probably more delicate than the old fashioned pink ones. A pink bleeding heart would take under that tree.

MYSELF: Don’t kid yourself. The only thing that soil is good for is hostas. And you already have two bleeding hearts under the pussy willow. You don’t need another one.

ME: Well, I love this pink Razzmartazz coneflower. You have to agree, it’s beautiful.

MYSELF: Beautiful, smeautiful. You’ve already got three patches of coneflowers.

ME: None like this. All mine are purple, while this one…

MYSELF: …is too pricey. Besides, there’s no room for it in the garden. Chuck the catalog and save your money.

ME: But the coupon…

MYSELF: Don’t talk to me about coupons! They never cover the cost of the plants, and by the time you pay the shipping…

ME: You’re an old grouch. An old, CHEAP grouch.

MYSELF: I prefer to think of myself as ‘thrifty’. You, on the other hand…

And thus my mental argument continues until the day when I pick up the catalog and discover I’ve missed the coupon’s cut-off date by twenty-four hours. By then the snowdrops and crocuses are in full bloom, the tulips and daffodils are several inches above ground, and there’s a hint of green where the Virginia bluebells are just now returning to life. I look at the yard and realize I couldn’t squeeze one more plant into my already overcrowded garden. And that really doesn’t bother me because I love it just the way it is.

And if I didn’t, there’s always another catalog on the way.


Thanks to Kaye for giving me this opportunity to be silly in print. It must be spring fever catching up with me. Since I can’t mention the dreaded I*** of M****, I’ll simply wish you a happy two days before St. Patrick’s Day!


Anonymous said...

There is nothing like poring through those catalogs and knowing that there will be a spring! Even if it doesn't seem like it at the moment. And all those wonderful gardens you can build..even if they are just castles in the air!

I envy those of you who can have those wonderful gardens. I have deer, they find gardens to be a wonderful buffet put on for their dining pleasure. Gimpy, in particular, shows great delight in eating any plant I put out.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, those tempting catalogues! And then the plants arrive when you're out of town or the weather is impossible. But that Razzamatazz coneflower, hmmm, might be worth a try!

Anonymous said...

Loved your post. I used to go through the same process when I had room to plant things. Now I have a small strip outside my apartment door that accommodates a few pots, but -- my miniature yellow rose bush is actually putting out leaves after a brutal winter when it just sat there looking like a stick.

I've been nursing my small sweet basil plant inside all winter so I'm sure it will be happy when the weather is such that I can put it outdoors.

All best,
Pat Browning

Mason Canyon said...

Enjoyed the post. I get carried away looking at those catalogs and wishing I could grow any and everything. I basically have a brown (almost black) thumb. A few herbs are about all I can get to grow. But I do love trying anyway. :)

Mary Welk said...

Hey, Jaz! I can commiserate with you re the deer. My plants fall victim to animals also, although in my case it's rabbits, not deer, who eat the flowers. Last year they massacred my asters which, for some reason, attracted them more than any other plant in the garden. Having read that mothballs emit an odor that repels rabbits, I scattered a boxful around the base of the asters. Less than an hour after doing so, I looked out the kitchen window and actually saw a rabbit sitting in the garden contentedly munching away on one of the mothballs. Unbelievable.

Mary Welk said...

Vicki, the catalog price for the Razzamatazz coneflower was $17.99 per plant. I had no problem deciding against buying one when I saw the cost!

Pat, I blew it with my basil: I forgot to bring it in before the first really bad frost hit. After that, all the CPR in the world wouldn't revive that plant!

Mason, herbs are cool plants to grow, especially if you enjoy cooking and you use them in your recipes. I only had the one pot of basil last summer, but I always added some to the sauce when I made spagetti, and I think it improved the taste. Good luck with your herbs this year!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Spring - it is coming - you promise, Mary?

Great post and I thank you for coming.

Today's mail brought the Burpee's Catalog - one of my faves!!

We have deer come through the yard, but oddly enough they never really seem to eat anything - even the rhododendron which everyone else says is a grand little snack for the deer.

The bunnies, however, will eat anything and aren't the least bit intimidated by us walking up to them while they're doing it. They're especially fond of geraniums; blooms, leaves and even the stalks.