Flower Floozy


LilacThere is a little hall monitor inside my head whose job it is to keep me from overindulging. No, the hall monitor says, I should not go downstairs and open a bottle of Champagne for no reason at all. If I had accomplished something terribly important or difficult today, maybe.  If we have company coming over and I’d spent all day cleaning the house and cooking something impressive, all right. If some crisp cream-colored envelope had arrived bearing wonderful news, fine. Just this once.

But no, the hall monitor tells me, I cannot pop a cork on an ordinary Sunday evening for no reason at all.  Especially given the way I’ve already frittered away the day in the garden when I knew perfectly well I had work to do.

Other things the hall monitor will not allow me to do:

1. Sit around on the couch reading New York magazine’s feature on why Gossip Girl is the Best Show Ever when there is very serious, important reading material stacked, unread, on my desk.

2.  Eat truffle-infused goat cheese and kalamata olive ciabatta for dinner when there is perfectly good broccoli that would otherwise go to waste.

3. Book another trip to Manhattan when I have not come anywhere close to paying for the last one.

4.  Spend $27 on a jar of organic citrus lavender hand cream, even though it smells way, way better than the cheap stuff at Target.

I hate the hall monitor in my head.  She’s a mean and miserable person who doesn’t ever let me have any fun.

But when it came time to go cut some lilac, I sent her to her room.

"Twenty stems of lilac all at once?" she said.  "You don’t need that much lilac! Cut one or two and leave the rest on the shrub!"

A-ha!  The hall monitor is not a gardener.  "Shut up!" I said.  "If I don’t cut these branches, it won’t bloom next year.  This is actually a practical and necessary task!"

"Oh, OK then," she said, and shuffled off to some dark little corner to finish composing her list of reasons why I shouldn’t pre-order 100 fragrant daffodil bulbs from Old House Gardens. And I placed upon my desk a lilac bouquet worthy of a Jane Austen heroine.

The hall monitor’s probably right. It wouldn’t do to go around popping open Champagne bottles on a whim. Next thing you know I’ll be lounging around in some inappropriately-revealing floral robe trimmed in red feathers, smoking a non-medicinal quantity of Humboldt’s finest, reading trashy magazines, and popping canapes in my mouth.  Someone’s got to keep me in line, and I have grudging respect for the hall monitor for keeping me employed and out of rehab all these years.

But when it comes to cutting flowers from the garden, I’m a total floozy. And there is nothing the hall monitor can do about it.

So there.


  1. Oh man (or woman?), I just found you guys, and it’s wonderful. Your manifesto is humming though me. No maintenance! I design gardens in NYC and I cannot TELL you how many times I have been asked for a No Maintenance garden, where clients later find themselves appalled when plants have the temerity to grow…The term Landcaping also makes me shudder, as it conjures up visions of seas of red mulch.

    I can’t wait to read more.

  2. Thank you for the link to the NY Magazine article on Gossip Girl. I’m one of those 90210-era high schoolers who loved the O.C. and have watched GG religiously since the beginning. Great article!

    Beautiful lilacs. This is the time of year when I envy those of you who can actually plant trees and bushes in your garden, unlike those of us in rentals who are trying not to put too much money in someone else’s ground.

  3. Wait, I’m still picturing you around in some inappropriately-revealing floral robe trimmed in red feathers.

    Okay now. Your hall monitor’s bitch.

    Nice article you wrote for Garden Design magazine on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House’s conservatory restoration. I didn’t know there was such contention between architect and owner over its construction!

  4. Adorable post. I love champagne, lilacs, and you.

    Plus Gossip Girl! At 48, I am approximately 30 years too old for it–but I’ve been watching it religiously on my computer all season. Even a middle-aged gardener can’t resist a show with such good-looking people in such good-looking clothes.

  5. Amy, this post was wonderful! I bring in huge armfuls of lilacs each spring and put them all over the house. Thanks for reminding me that this time will soon come. (If it ever stops snowing in Minnesota.)

  6. I also overindulge in lilacs ever year. My mom and I joke that its the only time of year we would actually commit a crime – stealing lilacs from the local college or other public places- to feed our obsession. There is nothing as good as a house filled with lilacs – heavenly!
    I particularly loved the reasons for opening champagne that were acceptable to your hall monitor. I might send myself a cream colored envelope with the message “Have some Champagne” in it just to be able to open some champagne!

  7. Do you really need a better reason to have champagne than it’s already chilled in your fridge? Come on. (And I guess that’s why I don’t have any in my fridge right now…) I suppose cut lilacs are a better source of intoxication. Even if you don’t know your limits, you’re not as likely to drive into a ditch.

  8. I sent my hall monitor on a vacation after a particular unpleasant surgery.
    I’m so glad I did.
    Less work, more fun gardening time, a slightly less tidy house and more champagne any time I want.
    Still haven’t found a feather boa to match my PJ’s yet.

    I don’t have a lilac to cut but I’m inspired to go out and cut a couple dozen Leucospermum ( pincushion shrub ) stems and plop them in a vase.
    Thanks for the inspiration to pick up the shears .

  9. Hall monitor? Oh, I know that voice. Fortunately, I’ve rediscovered a childhood skill: plugging my ears and trilling, “lalalalala, I can’t hear you!”

    I am so envious of your lilac bouquet! This is the only time of year I yearn for one in my garden. Their sight and smell bring forth sweet memories of gardens I played in as a child.

    Wonderful post!

  10. Amy, since you’re right there in famous Humboldt County, how about a post about those growers of Humboldt’s finest? Who ARE these people? Not by name and address, of course, but generally. Old hippies? Young farmers? Pro-pot activists or hard-nosed businessspeople? I can’t be the only Rant reader who’d admit to being curious.

  11. Amy, this has made me laugh out loud! I don’t listen to my hall monitor when she wags her finger at me and tells me not to spend so much time on Garden Rant instead of working.

  12. As you say, hall monitors are necessary, but in their place. And their place is often in the hall closet. Isn’t it wonderful that picking lilacs is good for the plant?

  13. I think I deserve at least one big beautiful flower arrangement in the house at all times … even in the winter! It’s good for the soul. And if it can be lilacs, so much the better!

  14. Thank you Amy.I just timetraveled back to 1956 when my mom used to plop a humongous Lilac bouquet in the middle of the kitchen.I wonder how she got her hallmonitor to shut up,she used to be a very responsible lady.

  15. I love those flowers! so pretty and I also have lilac in my garden. Flowers are really great. Anyway, I’m been looking for topics as interesting as this. Looking forward to your next post.


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