The garden and I are taking some space. We’re not breaking up, or anything — I just need some time to think. No, I don’t want to talk about it.
OK, fine. The first bugs have appeared. I found them yesterday, while weeding in the bottom terrace.
“So?” you say. “A bug in a garden. Big deal. For this you’re ‘taking a break?'”
But the bugs are just part of it.
OK, I admit, things have basically been going well. At least on the first terrace. The
lilac lavender plant is thriving, the ice flowers are budding wildly, and the agave attenuata is, well, at least not obviously dying. True, some of the ground cover has fizzled out, but the attrition rate has been amazingly low in view of my record. I’ve been feeling optimistic. Gardening has seemed easy. Like — dare I say it? — a honeymoon.
Then things took a turn. The second terrace, with its torturous digging, burnt cuttings, and rabid earthworms, was sort of high maintenance. Suddenly gardening did not feel so easy. Everything that felt intuitive and graceful before now felt clumsy, uncertain, stilted. Was it the giant ghost of the rose bush hovering behind to make mischief? Hard to say. Maybe it was my decision to plant nocturnally — ill-considered, in retrospect. Whatever the case, my husband’s comment upon seeing it completed, (“well, you can always move things later”) didn’t bode well.
Then yesterday, the final blow. Small, green insects on my stick plant. My initial reaction: disgust, disbelief, horror. I only planted that thing a month ago. How the hell could it already be infested? OK, we’re talking six or seven bugs max, but on a small plant — more of a twig than a stick — I’ll go with “infested.”
I went inside and Googled “green bugs on succulent.” (I had to be general. “Stick plant” is only my name for it. I can’t figure out what it’s really called.)
I doubt any of my readers will be surprised to learn that the bugs were aphids. To me, it was a shock. The only thing I know about these bugs is what I have read in “The Grouchy Ladybug,” where they are a minor plot device. So minor, in fact, that they are the only creatures in the story without a personality. Others — the eponymous ladybug, a stag beetle, a grasshopper — speak, think, have agency. But the aphids? They’re just a food source. By the end of the book they are all digested, and no one seems to care.
Now here they were, in my garden.
To make it worse, they were here to stay. At least according to my research. Ladybugs could not eradicate them. (So much for kids’ books.) Soapy water? The internet dismisses it with a toss of its digital head. Chemicals? They’d work, but with such toxicity that I’d be afraid to ever let MJ near the garden again.
Finally I found a hopeful tip: I could try dousing the plant with water, effectively washing the insects off. It might work. I tried it.
And drowned the plant.
How was I to know that the water pressure was too strong? Or that I had planted my stick plant too shallowly? Or that, after a month in the ground, for God’s sake, the thing’s roots would still be in the tiny square shape of the box they’d been in and not extended into the soil? What kind of adaptation is that? No wonder I can’t find this plant’s name anywhere. It’s probably extinct.
So my seedling is drowned, aphids lurk, and I am grossed out and discouraged. Mike tells me all gardens get bugs, that I need to deal with it if I am going to succeed. I know he’s right. But at the moment? I need to re-group. Everything’s fine. I’m not going to see other gardens. I don’t want to play the field, literally or otherwise.
I just…I really hate bugs.
But I promise I’ll call next week!