The garden siege begins

Everything is coming up in the garden, and not all of it should be there.

Dean Fosdick/AP/File
Daffodils riot in New Market, VA.

It’s the first day of the year with any real warm in it, and I’m hunkered in the garden to tidy up from winter. The soil is soft from recent rain and weeds slide right out, roots and all. The sun is perfect on my back, order is being restored, and a song is vining around inside my head on a loop. It’s a boomer anthem, “For What It’s Worth”: “There’s something happenin’ here....” Buffalo Springfield was the band, and I was in high school.

Ours was a vain and restless generation then, and we talked about things like being part of an underground movement, but we didn’t mean much by it, most of us. It sounded new and dangerous and sexy. It was the springtime of our lives. So the song fits the day, I guess.

What’s happening here is new growth exploding under the leaf litter. There’s rumor of an insurrection of sedums in the parking strip. Everything’s coming up, and not all of it is authorized.

I’m evicting the forget-me-nots, wherever I find them, and the lemon balm, and an unruly mob of bulbs I might have paid good money for decades ago. Not one of them is at any risk of being eradicated: This is purely a containment operation. I come across a clump of sticks with an eruption of green at its base and squint at it. Is that the cool plant I vowed to divide in the spring so I could have more of them? Or is that the other one I swore to rip up by its little root-hairs just as soon as it poked into view?

It gets a pass, for now.

I’ve learned that when a song rattles around my mind for no reason, I can usually find the trigger for it somewhere in the lyric, so I chase it down, humming. And there it is: “There’s battle lines being drawn.” Yes, there are! You were a bad idea, sweet woodruff. This is penstemon territory, and you don’t play nice. Out you go.

I see you there, tiny little rogue euphorbia, getting ready to march. Don’t even think about it. “What’s going down?” You’re going down. I’m in charge here.
I soldier on. Well, well, phygelius, my old friend, we meet again. I loved you for a while, but there’s a limit. We’re not going to have a replay of last year, when you shot up all over the place, sending up new troops from far-flung roots. If I see one sprig of you coming up anywhere but your originally assigned location, you’re going to be sorry. Really sorry.

Phygelius is quiet for the moment. Phygelius does know the meaning of an underground movement, and Phygelius has dreams of empire. It knows it’s in an old hippie’s garden. And it knows it’s not going to be sprayed-with-poison sorry. It’s not going to be painted-with-brush-killer sorry. It’s going to bide its time, and then – “what’s that sound?” – it’s going to go off like a cluster bomb.

It will lose a few scouts to a tired woman’s overworked set of clippers, and then it will lay siege to the annual bed. It will be “oh well” sorry. It will be “I’ll get you next year” sorry.

Fine. One more season, then. As long as you’re sorry.

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