After gym class this morning MJ and I stopped at the Sunset Nursery — a place I’d heard much of but not seen. I realize that just yesterday I was promising not to spend any more money on plants until the new year, but we were so close — to the nursery, not to having disposable funds — that, if it weren’t L.A., I could almost say we just stumbled in.
I had in mind to buy something big to put in the hole in the lower terrace — maybe an Agave Americana, or maybe just some tall grasses. I don’t know why the latter seemed like a good idea, but it did. To me.
The succulent department at SN is beautifully stocked, but, according to Sally, the uber-knowledgable woman who helped me, they were out of the Agave plant I wanted. At least in a medium size. I toyed with the idea of adding another Lilliput to my collection of miniatures, but resisted.
“OK, so what about grasses?” I asked.
“Yeah, you know, tall ones.” I made a gesture with my hands way up in the sky. Then I remembered Sally was not a two-year-old.
She nodded and started to lead me off.
I followed. “For my succulent garden,” I added, trying to be helpful.
Sally stopped, turned, and shot me a look of cool disapproval. “I’m sorry?”
Whoops. I checked quickly to see how far away Myra-Jean was. God forbid she should hear her mother asking idiotic questions. She had found a low palm tree and was petting its fronds like a cat. Fine.
I turned back to Sally and lowered my voice. “Do you not do that?”
Sally looked subtly pained, as if we were at Sur La Table and I’d just asked about a good hot sauce for creme brulee. “Succulents and tall grasses? Ah, not usually.”
I felt the need to apologize, and did. I explained I was new at gardening (she seemed to guess this), that we had just bought a house, that there were “a million terraces,” that we had no money for a gardener. I mentioned “crash courses” and “steep learning curves.” I explained I was just looking for “some height” after laying out a first level of somewhat diminuitive, OK, paltry dimensions.
Sally’s eyebrows floated up: twin, slender Cirque Du Soleil acrobats. I hate Cirque Du Soleil.
She took a breath. “Let me show you some things that might work. They’re not grasses, per se, but…”
I ended up with a Flax plant that should grow to about four feet high.
I think it’ll work nicely. And my reputation has been saved through the assiduous eyebrow-efforts of my esteemed salesperson. No grass in this succulent garden! Horrors, no! Just a bunch of midget cuttings, a scattering of gypsum, paperwhite corpses aplenty, and a big, dark, Not-Grass plant, towering over them all.
Oh, and its actual name?
How appropriate. The price alone would bring on a foul mood.
I think next time I’ll try out a different nursery. I should’ve known that in Silverlake the plants — and the people selling them — would be a bit above my paygrade.