Freaks of Nature

Well, I have just returned from my weekend in France, and my head is spinning with all the crazy stories I have to tell.  Regardless of where I travel, I seem to bring my own special brand of bad luck with me, and France was certainly not immune to my misadventures.

I have one small problem, though—every time I attempt to blog about my foreign foibles, my train of thought gets derailed by mental images of blossoming begonias and sprouting snapdragons.

See, I seem to have a strange affliction that hits me every spring; I become inexplicably obsessed with the overwhelming urge to plant stuff—lots of stuff.  I call it my "rooting" instinct, and after attempting to write several stalled blog posts about my disastrous plane ride overseas, I realized that I would simply not be able to write about Paris until I got some of this flower fixation out.

I suppose—if there were a term for my botanical dysfunction—I would be classified as an FSA: a Flora Shopping Addict.  My obsession begins every year in late winter when my urge to sprout overwhelms my already questionable sense of reason.  My compulsion drives me to stare endlessly at the glowing computer screen—well into the wee hours of the night—ordering seeds and consulting my flow charts to sort out critical issues like whether I should pot the lobelia with the petunias or with the impatiens.  Will that be too much sun?  Will the lobelia dry out?  Will they fail to thrive in a shady basket of impatiens? Would verbena be a more aesthetically pleasing pairing?  If so, which colors? Etc...etc...

I get a particular sense of triumph from buying hard-to-find seeds through the mail and sprouting them under grow-lights in my basement.  In fact, the rarer the plant and the more complicated the germination, the more likely I am to become absolutely obsessed with growing it.  Every spring, my basement ends up looking like Dr. Frankenstein's workshop—complete with eerie glowing lights and strange-looking, oddly-greenish living things.

But as luck would have it, there are some plants that are simply not available to grow from seed.  So it never fails that every year I become obsessed with some crazy, exotic plant that sounds like an absolutely brilliant idea on the internet but turns into a disaster once it's been installed in my home.

For example, two years ago I decided I simply could not go on living without having my very own weeping redbud tree.  What the heck is a weeping redbud? you ask.  Well, I would have asked the very same question until I stumbled upon a picture of one in some obscure forum for rabid gardeners.

I was immediately entranced.  The whimsical-looking branches and beautiful blossoms were so unique that I knew the tree would instantly become the centerpiece of my yard and the envy of my neighborhood!

Unfortunately, this is not what MINE ended up looking like.  I paid $130 for a tree about a third of this size.  Said tree nearly caused my husband and our neighbor irreparable spinal damage while being installed, and then it lived for about three weeks before drying up into a creepy pile of twisted sticks that could have starred in a Tim Burton film.

I called the nursery that sold me the plant and told them that my tree had long surpassed "weeping" and was now clearly in "inconsolable" territory.  A tree doctor made a house call.  After carefully placing a stethoscope on several spots of the trunk and holding a mirror over the various limbs to watch for condensation, the doctor confirmed that the tree was indeed not breathing.  He would not attempt mouth-to-trunk resuscitation due to the high probability of losing an eye to the sharp Edward Scissorhands-like branches that protruded haphazardly in all directions from the dead monstrosity.

Depressed over my expensive dead pile of sticks, I distracted myself by spending the rest of the summer fussing over getting my hands on an exotic breed of impatiens plant from Rwanda.  It was gorgeous, extremely rare, and I was in love.  After several months of non-stop internet searching and a few emails that bordered on stalker-ish behavior, I finally found someone who was willing to ship me one of these rare gems.

This is what the beautiful plant from Rwanda looked like when it arrived on my doorstep:

I was over the moon for my unusual little plant.  I fussed and fawned over it, moved it around for extra air flow and optimal humidity, and made sure it had a healthy level of self-esteem by telling it on a daily basis how absolutely gorgeous it was.  I ministered to its every need, experimented with different fertilizers and potting mixes when it seemed unhappy, and rehabilitated it over and over again by taking cuttings and rooting new plants when the originals drooped and shriveled.

But despite my tender care, after nearly a year of love and attention to every possible need this unique plant might have, this is what now adorns my windowsill:

 Not exactly an award-winning specimen. 

My husband's response to my heartbreak and frustration was, simply, "For God's sake, don't you think there might be a good reason it only grows in Rwanda?!"


My hubby tolerates my infatuation with bizarre and unusual plants with open distaste.  He can't possibly fathom why I'd want to get some exotic plant that requires me to worry, bother, and persistently fuss over it.  In his view, we already have two children who have those requirements, so why would we want to make our lives even more complicated?

I understand where he's coming from―I really do.  Yet for some odd reason, the weirder the plant, the more likely I am to go nuts over it.

This year I have taken a fancy to the idea of getting something called a "Three-in-One Angel Trumpet Tree."  Now, the fact that the photo on the website looks like it may have been heavily Photoshopped should be a clue that this could turn out to be a truly terrible idea—especially since I live in a zone in which said Trumpet Tree would need to be brought indoors for the winter.

But, as I said before, all rational thought goes out the window when my rooting instincts are in heat.  I mean, just look how gorgeous it is!  I want it!  I want it now!  And the website says (and I quote)... "There is no sensation more unforgettable than that of an Angel Trumpet heavy with blossoms releasing its intoxicating scent." 

I mean, heck, people...according to the internet there's a good chance this tree will be better than SEX!


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