In the gar­den

The Compass - - Editorial - Harold Wal­ters My Im­per­fect Slant

For a cou­ple of days this old English ditty looped through my nog­gin:

How many kinds of sweet flow­ers grow

In an English coun­try gar­den?

The re­frain re­peated ear­lier to­day as I sat on our deck, mug of Ten­sion Tamer in hand, and gazed at the forty shades of green­ery in our back­yard gar­den. A dozen shades were species of weedy grasses, none of which had sprouted from the sack of spe­cialty seeds I’d bought at The Spe­cialty Seed Shoppe and sown like a bib­li­cal … well, sower, I s’pose, broad­cast­ing seed in hopes of fer­tile ground.

But all the grass was some shade of green, so what odds, eh b’ys?

I con­sid­ered the sweet flow­ers grow­ing in the flower beds Dear­est Duck had so faith­fully tended in early June, crawl­ing from one to another, coax­ing peren­ni­als to stand tall and brave the node-east wind.

Hostas hardier than dan­de­lions are thriv­ing but many plants have their blos­soms squeezed shut like scrinchedup eyes atop stalks bend­ing in the wind.

Lupines — sec­ond only to dan­de­lions in my heart — stand tall, their chests stuck out de­fy­ing the wind. Of course, Dear­est Duck hadn’t planted the lupines. They blew in on a breeze at some point or were de­posited within lib­eral of­fer­ings of bird whoop­sie.

I love them, none­the­less. Back to the English coun­try gar­den.

I bet a loonie most folks who know the song think only of the flow­ers. That’s all I hummed un­til I poked through Mr. Google’s song books and found ad­di­tional lyrics —

How many in­sects come here and go

In an English coun­try gar­den?

Cute in­sects mostly — fire­flies, but­ter­flies, moths, bees.

Green Grubs are not men­tioned in the song, only in­di­rectly, con­sid­er­ing those leaf-chew­ing crit­ters are but­ter­fly lar­vae.

Those frig­gin’ grubs are stealthy.

Ev­ery day af­ter the baby goose­ber­ries form I search the goose­berry-bush for ev­i­dence of Green Grubs. Clumps of Green Grub whoop­sie the colour of turnip tops is a sure sign. Nope.


Then the first day I for­get to check — the first time I blink, so to speak — the frig­gers ap­pear overnight and chaw ev­ery leaf down to its stem.

An aside: Granny had the cure for Green Grubs — DDT! Sacks of it drifted in clouds when she shook it on her goose­berry bushes.

Con­cerned for the health of her first — and surely favourite — grand­son, Granny warned, “Don’t eat any of them berries un­til af­ter it rains.”

I must have heeded Granny be­cause I’ve never shown any ill ef­fects…hic…ill ef­fects…hic. Aside ended. Ap­par­ently no slugs come and go in an English coun­try gar­den. None men­tioned in the song, any­way, but then, a slug isn’t re­ally an in­sect.

There are slugs in our gar­den. I can see them from the deck in broad day­light with­out ben­e­fit of ad­di­tives in my Ten­sion Tamer. Truly.

The Black Slug slid into this area decades ago. From Outer Space ap­par­ently. They def­i­nitely ap­pear alien.

I’ve seen them reach up, crack off tulips and pro­ceed to slime their tops to nada. I’ve found them stretched the size of capelin in the grass. They are tough bug­gers. Some­times it takes two chops with a shovel to sever them.

Ac­tu­ally, I have a ma­chete­like knife that I carry on slug hunts.

“Harry! Been spik­ing your Ten­sion Tamer?”

“Dear­est. I thought you were at The Mall.”

Since she’s back from The Mall, I must men­tion Dear­est Duck’s Growth In­ducer, a con­coc­tion she hopes will en­cour­age her car­rots to grow as big as baloneys.

Last fall I fetched kelp from lo­cal beaches and stogged it into the largest Rub­ber Maid tub Dear­est Duck could buy at Wal­mart. I weighed down the cover with bricks and let the tub stand in the gar­den all win­ter.

And spring.

And the early days of sum­mer, steep­ing all the while.

Last week, Dear­est Duck re­moved the bricks, prised off the cover, and cap­sized among the rhubarb, over­come by the fe­cund odor that burst from the tub.

What a reek smoth­ered our out­port gar­den.

Dear­est re­vived, nipped her nose and dipped kelp juice from the tub. She poured it vo­lu­mi­nously over car­rots barely into their sec­ond leaf…

… and now our gar­den smells, not of sweet flow­ers, but as if a clow­der (Yes, clow­der, I checked.) of Kilkenny cats has been daily go­ing whoop­sie in the car­rot patch.

But look at the size of those car­rots push­ing up through the ground! Shoul­ders on ‘em like Olympic swim­mers.

Top that, English coun­try gar­den.

Thank you for read­ing.

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