Announcing the First-Ever GardenRant Short Fiction Contest


The paper I write for just held a short fiction contest. 99 words or less. I didn't enter the contest–not only do I work for the paper, I'm sleeping with one of the judges.  But I did try my hand at a few pieces of short horticultural fiction, and it was so much fun that I've decided you should do it, too.

So.  99 words or less.  You've got a week.  Post them in the comments, and we'll run the winners next week.  Also, feel free to weigh in on the entries by posting a comment on your favorites.

And what kind of lovely prizes do we have for our winners? Rather than award first, second, and third places, we've come up with some arbitrary and capricious categories.  You don't have to tell us what category you're competing in; just put your fiction out there and we'll sort it out.

A Rose is a Rose: 
Where would literature be without the rose?  The winner in this category gets a thorny pair from Algonquin Books:  The totally lovely, brand-new A Rose by Any Name: The Little-Known Lore and Deep-Rooted History of Rose Names by Douglas Brenner and Stephen Scanniello; and Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening by Aurelia Scott.

High-Impact:  Car crash or eye-catching plant?  You can let "impact" mean whatever you want it to mean.  The winner gets this pair from Timber Press:   Plant-Driven Design by Scott and Laura Ogden and 50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants by Tracy DiSabato-Aust

Down and Dirty:  Whatever that means to you.  Or to us. Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch and 1000Gloves Gardening Questions & Answers from Workman

Good Enough to Eat:  The best culinary garden tale gets Lee Reich's Landscaping with Fruit from Storey 
and, from Algonquin, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman.

But Wait–That's Not All!  Because we know we're going to have so much trouble choosing, we're also offering three pair of West County Gloves to–well–whoever we want to bestow them upon.

So many prizes!  How can you not win?  And now, to prime the pump, I offer a few of my own horticultural micro-novels.  Get to it.  And by the way, if you decide that your 99 words just might be the beginning of that Great American Novel you've been meaning to write, go for it.  GardenRant lays no claim to your words other than the joy of posting the winners next Monday.

Enter as often as you like.  Here are four from me:


I was five when my grandmother offered to pay me to pick snails in her garden. She showed me how to pull them off the sleek blue leaves of hostas and how to crawl under the porch where they hid until nighttime. Every afternoon I would bring her my bucket and she’d count them and give me a penny per snail. She never did discover the old fish tank behind the garage where I was breeding them. I realize I’ve defrauded a lot of investors over the years, but the only person I regret cheating is my grandmother.


If Robert and Danny hadn’t decided to get married in their own backyard, and if Danny hadn’t insisted on ripping out a perfectly good juniper hedge and replacing it with Casablanca lilies at a cost of over two thousand dollars, and if Robert hadn’t demanded that they move the wedding date from August to September so his mother could have her knee surgery first, and if the Casablanca lilies had simply listened to reason and bloomed in September instead of August as they are biologically programmed to do, it would have been a beautiful wedding.


Tony’s poison garden started as a joke when a
patch of wild hemlock sprouted in the backyard.  To that he added castor bean, source of the poison ricin, and
hellebore, whose roots were used by the Greeks as an early form of chemical
warfare. But when Sarah complained about the barking dog next door and found it
dead in the driveway the next day, she realized Tony’s joke had gone too far.
Still, she couldn’t help but wonder who else might be in need of a hemlock
sandwich as long as Tony was taking orders.


“Where are you going to plant that?” he said.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“How much does it cost?” he said.

“I don’t care,” she said.

“What does it do?” he said.

“It’s a vine. It blooms,” she said.

“Why do we need it?” he said.

“We don’t,” she said.

“They why would you buy it?” he said.

“I love it,” she said.

“Do you love me?” he said.

“I’m not so sure,” she said.


  1. Oh how fun! Will there be a prize for the worst one too? A “dark and stormy night” entry? I might have a chance at that.

  2. He gave me a single rose for Mother’s Day. The first year he could drive, so he could get to the florist himself. He bought it the day before, and knew it needed to stay cool, so he placed it where I wouldn’t find it, in the freezer in the basement. On Mother’s Day he presented it to me, a perfect, half opened bud in cellophane, a pallid brown shade of some former color. As I took it from him the entire bloom shattered into fine dust, leaving me holding only the frozen stem. It was beautiful.

  3. Why yes this is part of a story I have been writing and this contest was a nice spark to get me to tap out a few more words, 99 to be exact.

    He smelled ramp and followed the powerful aroma up the mountain path to a tiny cabin nestled in the forest surrounded by gardens and orchards.

    He hadn’t had a decent meal in thirty years and pounded on the door, determined to taste what was cooking inside. She opened the door. They both gasped in horrific recognition.

    The knife in her hand trembled. He lunged in the door at the same time she placed the knife out in front of herself. That familiar growl turned to a whimper as his full weight pushed on her.

    Dinner would have to wait.

  4. Twelve garden shops, and still no luck. Clerks looked at me like I have three eyes. None of them ever heard of an Elmer Bush. Dang.

    I flipped open my cell phone and called gramps.

    “Hi, Grandpa. You know that beautiful plant you have out in your back yard? I’ve been looking all over for it, and no one has ever heard of it. You sure it’s called an Elmer bush?”

    Grandpa chucked. “Well, I reckon I don’t know its proper name. I just call it an Elmer bush ‘cause my friend Elmer gave it to me. Sorry, sonny.”

    Based on a true story. Grandpa had an Elmer bush in his back yard. His friend, Elmer, gave it to him. We propagated it by a cutting and still have “Elmer bushes” in our yard. (An old fashioned red hibiscus, by the way.)

  5. There goes the dog’s alarm bark. There is no gun to grab, better go access, even so. I have rewarded her in the past when she did in a baby ground hog. The picture at the back of the garden comes into view, she has cornered an adult, and won’t give up until members of her pack (me) shoot it, or help her take it down with my teeth.

    The creature could probably hurt the dog, or me, it has sharp teeth, looks like a big brown squirrel. It won’t do to stand and watch what happens. The closer I get, the closer that hound gets to the GH, barking her fool head off.

    The shovel I’m holding finds it’s way between them and the ground hog takes the opening to head over the fence into wild territory (I was unaware they could climb so high, there is plenty of evidence around here that they can tunnel).

    The touch of the dog’s soft fur between my fingers is nice. It is hard to know if I’m rewarding her, or just glad to see her safe. Doesn’t matter I guess. The broccoli breathes a sigh of relief.

  6. She went in search of the plants, not just one of course. Eighteen inches tall, pink to rose flowers, gray green foliage, well behaved. She had always impressed on others the need for Latin, not necessarily to memorize, just to have jotted down on some scrap. So many plants with similar common names. Planted and watered with care the acquisitions achieved great heights surpassing eighteen inches, thirty inches, well up to the six foot range, white flowers. A curtain in the front of the border. Obviously mislabeled and subsequently misplanted. Sheer delight! Valerian means potent and potent they were!

  7. My mother hung up the phone with a shake of her head. “She won’t give them back,” she muttered.
    “Grandma won’t give what back?” I asked.
    “The Peonies. My Peonies, the ones I asked her to hold for me during the house remodeling.”
    A deep sense of foreboding filled me. My family was famous for its feuds and vendettas. We’re still not speaking to great-aunt Louisa because of the autographed Sinatra photo incident.
    “They’re only plants,” I soothed, “Can’t you just get some new ones?”
    She just turned and reached for the shovel.

  8. Her husband argued with her about the placement of the new plants. Did she need to rethink the whole design? There was no time for that; her mother was coming next week for her son’s graduation party. She had bought several plants for the slope of their vacation home, lakeside and in the woods, anxiously planting the coneflowers and black-eyed susans around a 1 gallon-sized butterfly bush destined to grow 8 feet tall. It complimented the marigolds and petunias she kept in pots under the deep canopy of the rustic cabin. Everything looks better with flowers she thought.

  9. Oh, just one more:

    I climbed over the old iron fence to begin a garden. Its autumn, warm and I am crafting pockets with a long trowel for the scattered tulip, daffodil, and crocus bulbs.

    A young girl asks, “Are you plantin’ unyuns?”

    “No, flowers” I say, “bulbs.”

    “Oh. Can you eat those?”


    The mailman climbs the stoop and emphatically delivers “I cannot wait ‘til spring! Its gonna look good.”

    Between the foundation and fence, on my knees, I hear a couple’s rising voice. Her comments I cannot understand, but to which he responds in a thick Russian accent, “Too much ef-fort.”

  10. My mother started it. “These are cannas,” she said, placing three bulbs in my hands.

    I planted the bulbs near the garage. They grew lavishly. In the fall, I pried them up with a shovel; each bulb had multiplied wildly. I separated them and enthusiastically planted dozens the next spring. In the fall, I pried up masses of bulbs with the shovel. The next spring, I planted what the garden could hold, composted the rest. The garden was lushly tropical. In the fall, my shovel broke.

    At the next garage sale, a box: “Cannas! Free to a good home!”

  11. How she ended up naked, belly down, peering through the grass camera in hand, was a mystery to her. A little deadheading around the pool on the sultry August morning brought a bead of sweat to her brow as a trickle of moisture traced down her chest. Cool water beckoned and embraced her as she gave in to the watery indulgence. It must have been the slight movement which caught her attention and the next thing she knew the shutter was capturing the essence of life itself, the preying mantis with her headless lover locked in a deadly embrace.

  12. The seedlings leaves shivered as I pushed up on the bottom of the nursery tray. “It’s OK, you’re one of the lucky ones,” I cooed. I left the tray on the kitchen table as I carried the plant outside to the waiting spot in the garden.

    Later that night, the neighborhood was bathed in flashes of blue, white and red. There were no sirens; there was no need to rush. All of the evidence was in the compost pile out back.

  13. The door came to her quite simply. It was a late Yule gift from her mother’s friend. Eight inches tall , the door would not open for her. She took it out to the yard, and nestled it among the tropical plants, near an elm.

    At midsummer, she went looking for the door again. It had weathered, greyed, and become a part of the landscape. There was peace around the door, a silence and stillness that spoke to her of cool water. She saw a tiny red cape, discarded as behind a party guest rushing to the door, before sunrise.

  14. After the rain Eliza went into the garden, and the dank, dark smell of earth detached her dimly from the nightmare. The drops of rain still clung to the leaves of the Lady’s Mantle like pearls in a broken necklace and reflected her shattered psyche. She stopped by the arbor, shivering under the clematis vine, and in her frenzy she suddenly realized that she could not remember if it was a cleMATis or a CLEMatis. Sobbing, she threw herself into the Pachysandra, wailing like the lost soul she knew she had become.

  15. Just as the broth reached a boil, the bell rang at the gate. I knew cooking with the windows open would be an invitation to the neighbors, the savory scents reaching across the fence and tweaking their noses. Potato and garlic, onion and rosemary, all grown in the front yard. At first they were skeptical, looking askance at our former lawn full of garden beds and trellises. Now, when the wind blew the smells from my kitchen to them, they came, zombies from the supermarket yearning for organic soups and sides, serving dishes piled high with food from my garden.

  16. When heavy rains exposed Matthew Chambers’ cold, dead hand reaching out of the shallow grave in the backyard, it was only a matter of time before his wife Janet was fingered for the crime.

    “Why,” her lawyer wondered, “Did you bury the body so close to the house where it was certain to be found, instead of that remote spot at the edge of the property?”

    She looked at him in surprise. “But that’s where my Daphnes are and I couldn’t risk disturbing their roots! They’re quite fussy about that sort of thing.”

  17. Dad almost skipped a once in a lifetime trip to Switzerland because it would interfere with the planting of his spring garden. In his farmer’s soul, he knew that we are given a finite number of springs – and once a spring is gone, it and it’s potential can’t be reclaimed. And though like those springs, he is gone, that wisdom and urgency live on in me. As the springs flit by, I do my best to make each one count. I do it for me – I do it in his memory. And in my mind’s eye, I see him smile.

  18. My Twin Brother

    You could smell the chainsaw fumes. The aftermath covered our entire backyard. Taking a break from picking up limbs I run my hands over the tree’s wounded trunk. I count fifty one rings; the same age as me. Where I used to live trees struggled to survive the prairie wind, staying short and hunched over. Here they soar out of the ground and attain phenomenal heights. My neighbor is amazed to see me crying over a white oak. A tree that blocked the way for vegetables for Christ’s sake. No one else gets it. Those tomatoes better taste good.

  19. The Hunter
    Though she was certain, from the trampled Hepatica, that her husband had passed this way, she climbed the hill above the creek where she photographed the Trillium in spring with graceful speed. She noticed bright red poking up through the decaying detritus, it was Silene. Though beautiful, it was a bad sign today. She moved East until she spotted a patch of Xanthorhiza amid clumps of Arisaema. Soon she saw the mysterious plant that had brought her to this stand of Quercus and Carya and gasped at its beauty and elegance. What plant, you ask. She’ll never tell.

  20. “Twelve hour days soon,” she said.”Shouldn’t you start dirtying up my basement with your little pots of weeds?”
    “Hmmmm.” he said as he savored his kale.
    She would never understand his esteem for the Vernal Equinox. She celebrated Christmas with letters, cards and gifts. She forced him to subdue his animosity towards vinegar so the grandchildren could dye eggs. He got her those disgusting candies (he was allergic) every Valentine’s Day. Would she ever understand the call of Dionysus in Spring that stirred, in him, such ancient feelings?
    “I always clean it up after.” was all he said.

  21. My fictional heroine Eliza has some more angst to share:

    Consumed with guilt over her refusal to divide her prize “On Stage” hosta with her best friend Eileen, Eliza replayed the conversation in her mind again and again. Could she have been more truthful? Could there have been a kinder refusal than her brusque, “Don’t be silly, Eileen – you know there’s too much sun in your garden for this plant.” But of course Eileen would discover the light requirements of “On Stage” and when Eileen realized that Eliza had lied, would she suspect that Eliza was that most despicable of all creatures: a selfish gardener? “So be it,” thought Eliza with a shudder.

  22. He met his wife because she saw that corn in the graduate co-op garden and asked him what his secret was. He missed the birth of his son because he insisted that there was one perfect day to plant this family “heirloom”. He wouldn’t be one of those pacing types anyway. His daughter had been married in their backyard and he was certain it was pollen from this corn that made her new in-laws sneeze throughout the ceremony. Only appropriate then, he thought, when he gasped for his last breathe staring up at the sky between those emerald leaves.

  23. The Christmas Cottontail arrived to sow the seeds and plant the bulbs for the spring display to attract the Easter Bunny. Flowers bloomed in the spring and the Easter Bunny left extra candy throughout the garden, in hopes some would remain hidden until fall to appease the Halloween Hare. Fall came, the leaves turned, and the Halloween Hare arrived under a full moon, ready to wreak havoc on a candy-less garden. But the gardener had been warned and left extra candy amongst the fading blooms. The garden was saved, ready for the next visit of the Christmas Cottontail.

  24. Helen stepped out into the garden for the first time since Reba died two weeks ago. Those days had been full of funeral plans, shock and a buzzing fog that wouldn’t leave her brain.

    She remembered all the little bouquets that Reba would make just for her in the four-inch vase, full of nasturtium, tiny cosmos, daisies, and zinnias. She hadn’t been able to empty out the last one, now shriveled, vase dry, stems drooping.

    She held the small shears Reba had used for cutting and headed out towards the flowers.

  25. We were having dinner together, a few friends, and he was describing his battles with the local groundhogs. How he finally lured it into a trap. How he tried to drown it. How it refused to die. As words like “gasping” “blood” and “stomp” worked their way into the story, people pushed away their plates, disgusted.

    All I could think was: Where can I get one of those traps?

  26. Her roses are magnificent — gold and red, white and cream, pink, blushed, scented and quartered, golden stamens and silken petals, no blemish anywhere. No blackspot, no mildew, no Japanese beetles, nothing but perfection of leaf and stem and flower.

    Her husband tended these plants devotedly for years, but they never grew so well for him. After his mysterious disappearance last summer she moved the rose plants, saying that they needed more sun and a more fertile soil. They grow now in a slightly raised bed. She must have some special magic in her hands, some secret that she has discovered in her widowhood.

    She hums contentedly as she tends her husband’s roses.

  27. “Thorn Goblinfly, don’t you dare steal those garden gloves. We aren’t that kind of garden fairy!”

    “What kind are we, Mama?”

    “We are the kind who sneak up behind gardeners and gently poke them so they lose their balance and fall over.”

    “Okay, Mama. Can I poke that gardener over there?”

    “Yes, go ahead, but be careful so you don’t get caught.”

    And just then, as the gardener knelt to pull a few weeds, she lost her balance and fell forward into a patch of strawberries. “How did that happen”, she wondered?

  28. Her name was Hope. She spent her life surrounding herself with beauty. The beauty of family, friends and flowers. She taught me to love the notes of the music box, the toile of the ballerina’s skirt, the names of the stars in the sky and the beautiful mystery and power of life. Emerging from the bowels of the church for that last ride, my sister and I witnessed it together. There on the polished ebony surface of the limo, a single red rose petal. A final and inexplicable tribute to the beauty of her well lived life.

  29. Skippy the squirrel bounded out of her nest into the bright spring sunshine. She barked, “Wake up!” to her squirrel friend, Crabapple. Skippy hopped happily through the tender young plants, clipping off blossoms as she went. It was such a fun game to see if she could snip off more shoots and buds than Crabapple. The birds were singing and the bees were buzzing in the Daffodils. Skippy spied a stalk with pretty lobed leaves and just had to bite it off. Poor Skippy couldn’t read. The tag in front of the plant spelled out M-O-N-K-S-H-O-O-D.

  30. An old timer comes in looking for castor bean seeds. He can’t find them on local seed racks. Swears they kill moles. I was trying to be helpful and searched a dozen catalogues to find what he wanted. Pine Tree Gardens had them and I sent him away with their catalogue. He calls me a couple of hours later all flustered because he couldn’t find the listing. I spelled out ricinus and said to look on right hand pages. Hope I made him happy.
    I made his day unstead of saying what I thought.

  31. Should it really be four feet square? The discount lumber comes in ten-foot lengths so we’ll cut them in half and make five foot square gardens; should be okay. Is twelve inches deep too deep? Can’t wait! We need soil. Do we use the one-third mixture? Will there be room for my thirty-eight tomato seedlings? I think I went over-board. Do we need a trellis? Wait! You can only plant one tomato plant per square foot? Now what do I do with all of my seedlings? Why did I plant so many? I have so much to learn…

  32. I grew up in a city surrounded by urban sprawl. When I was 10 years old, my mother took me to Ireland to spend the summer on my grandparent’s farm. When we arrived in Ireland, I was dazzled! Growing up in a city, I had never seen so many different colors of green. That summer, I followed my grandmother around learning about the flowers in her garden. Kneeling by her side, I learned how to plant vegetables. She taught me to love nature. All these years later, my Grandma Annie is by my side every day in my garden.

  33. Covered as it was by old vines and broken limbs, the structure had gone for years completely unnoticed.
    She pulled at the door and it opened a little. In a shower of falling leaves she stepped inside.
    The greenhouse was what she had dreamed of: glass, with a potting bench down one side. The floor was paved with bricks, and, improbably, the coiled fiddlehead of a fern had pushed up beside the bench.
    She pushed at the door to let in more light. A limb shifted, the greenhouse imploded, and her blood flowed between the bricks around the fern.

  34. “I’ll get you yet, my pretty!” she exclaimed to Mr. Rabbit in her garden eating the freshly planted tulip bulbs. This was an annual event that needed to stop.

    A fellow gardener told her that red pepper flakes worked really well at keeping critters away. She tried it and sprinkled some on the top layer of soil for good measure.

    Next time Mr. Rabbit came by for a snack, she watched him from the window. A couple of mouthfuls were all that was needed.

    Have you ever seen a rabbit dancing the Bunny Hop?

  35. One summer day when my son was four, we were playing wiffleball in the yard. He began swinging his plastic bat into the leaves on a low branch of an overhanging oak.

    When I told him, “Stop! the tree needs it leaves,” he lowered the bat and asked me why.

    So, me being a teaching type and him being a cosmically comprehending type, I explained photosynthesis to a four-year-old…..

    He was quiet for a moment, and then he looked up, face glowing.

    “So,” he said, in a hushed, reverent tone, “the tree….eats…the light!”

  36. The ancients argue at their centennial Vernal Equinox Con-grass.

    Ilex started the old debate. “We’ve created plagues, set off planet quakes with our harmonic efforts, and stopped releasing the gas people need for respiration. Thanks to Digitaria for that idea—that C4 pathway for food production was a rush.” A great murmuring arose. Some leaves fluttered.

    “Yes,” replied Quercus, “but people served our purposes so much better than those disastrous dinosaurs. That was an experiment gone awry. Humans freed the essence of our ancestors, increased our vital gases, and warmed the whole planet with amazing speed.”

    Carya got to the crux of an issue. “We can’t start again—we don’t know what will happen next time. Select only those who don’t abuse the planet. Let the gardeners survive.”

  37. My mother’s screams brought me racing to the backyard.

    “Stop him! Buddy’s killing the baby bunnies!”

    Reluctantly, I restrained the panting terrier. I thought it was outstanding vermin control. But though the vegetable garden was mine, the yard was Mom’s.

    Three kits were left in that ridiculous burrow, dead center in her manicured yard. Mom set up camp, stroking the naked babies and pounding in flagged stakes to warn the mowing crew.

    Those darling babies grew fat on my seedlings. Mom bought me organic produce. She never once let me serve barbecued bunny alongside.

    I moved out that fall.

  38. It was one of those shy spring days, mud-spattered, chill breeze whispering a thousand deep-green promises. He met me out back, stepping carefully in his treasured Italian loafers.

    I knew what he wanted. I’d seen the receipts. I knew her glossy blonde name.

    “I need someone who suits my lifestyle,” he said, “someone who maybe gets a manicure once in a while.”

    I clasped my dirty fingers and sighed. This man had given me a vermicomposter for our anniversary. Returning to my shovel, I was comforted. Alimony buys a lot of perennials. Italian loafers make excellent compost.

  39. Sorry I don’t have any fictional story but:

    When I built my house my mother brought me a sapling from her beloved Lilac tree. I planted it in the back of my property. Over the years the area became overgrown and the tree grew but never had any flowers. Several years ago I cleared out the area and installed a shed where the lilac stood. The clearing of the trees and brush allowed it to get more sun and it flourished.

    My mother suffered for years with Alzheimer’s and finally succumbed on one year ago January 25th 2008 on my grandson’s second birthday. Last spring her lilac bloomed.

  40. When I was 10 years old, I spent the summer at my grandmother’s farm learning how to garden. It was a thrill for me! When I returned home to the big city, I was determined to put my learning into practice. But where? We lived in an apartment. We didn’t have a garden or any green space. At our concrete, city park, I happened upon a patch of untended dirt. I adopted it. In retrospect, this may have been an early venture into the world of guerilla gardening!

  41. I don’t consider myself a writer. So instead of writing 99 words to order, I present the shortest bit of decent garden lit I’ve ever written. I tried to whittle it down to 99 but I kept thinking that left important nuances out. So I’ve busted the rules but here it is:

    The other day I plucked the very first Royal (Blenheim) apricot from my
    tree. Unlike fruit even in the best farmers’ market, it was unbruised. I
    could smell the sweet tangy aroma as I lifted it to my mouth. I should
    have waited. I should have brought it inside and cut slivers from it and
    consumed them as if they were the Host. But I hadn’t had dinner yet and
    was famished. That scent was too much.

    In my head, I know I picked it a little too soon. It was a little *too*
    firm. And though I prefer tangy apricots to sub-acid ones, it had just a
    bit too much bite. But you couldn’t tell my heart that. There is
    something special about something you grew yourself. Something you
    nurtured from its infancy into tempting flirtatious maturity. You may
    have tasted better once at Frog Hollow Farms’ booth at the farmers’
    market. Or maybe that tree that grew in the easement that ran through
    your childhood neighborhood. But no! None of them could surpass this
    apricot, this supernal exemplar of all things Prunus armeniaca, child of
    your labor, boon of your backyard hamadryads. Feeling its sun-warmed
    flannel skin in my palm, smelling its paradisical scent, I dined on it
    with all the finesse of a lycanthrope at harvest moon.

  42. Eliza poured through the list of missing husbands, garden fairies, and mysterious rabbits. “Hm,” she said, “I can only win this contest by a big, bold move. I must reveal the secret of success with delphiniums.” “But Eliza,” simpered Eileen, cowed into subservient submission by the gift of an “On Stage” off-shoot, “You don’t grow delphiniums.” “No,” said Eliza, “but I could if I wanted to.”

  43. “But it was in Martha Stewart,” she told her new husband.

    “Nobody who eats would think a puree of lettuce would make good soup.”

    “Well, what was I supposed to do with thirty five heads of lettuce that were ripe at the same time? Wanna order a pizza?”

    “Yep, and let’s stop by the bookstore and get you a Square Foot Gardening Book on the way home.”

    “You’re a social worker, what do you know about gardening?”

    “After the beet fiasco, I started researching ways out.”

  44. “Mom please don’t go! You’re always gone too long and you never carry your phone. The dinner will be late and nothing will get done on anything else. You’re like a person obsessed and possessed …you’re boring. You can’t just go out there and come right back. Every time you go it’s as though you enter a time warp and hours later you emerge. Unless I come and find you in your world I don’t see you. All I have to say to your friends is she’s gone out and they know where you are and that you won’t be back til dark. It’s ridiculous. I don’t care about your silly flowers and veggies and bees and birds. Why won’t you come in?!!”

  45. Skipper emerges from between the woody phlox stems and the clump of powder blue eupatorium. Plopping down and rolling on his back he demands attention. He likes to lounge beside me while I pull weeds and deadhead perennials. He is the garden king and, as such, determines who will live and die in his realm. Mr.Green lives in the knautia tangle and sometimes serenades me while I work. I am hoping that the king will not find out that this interloper has taken up residence in his kingdom. I’m sure there is nothing Skipper would like more than to catch a beautiful, large green bullfrog. What a present that would make left on our doorstep! Even though I entreat him, all the time, not to catch birds, frogs or snakes he continues to ignore my supplications. I pray Mr. Green will remain silent. I know, however, how proud he is of his voice and how he likes to show it off. He is looking for a girlfriend but, I’m afraid, all he will find is furry death.

  46. Poison ivy blisters wept through her shirt. Determined not to go the cortisone shot route she toughed it out. “You should have washed in bleach, you should have used fels naptha soap, here have some homeopathic tablets, swim in the ocean or in a chlorinated pool, use calamine, use hydrocortisone cream, so many pre-creams you could have used, how does this keep happening to you? You look horrible.” All I know is that after the agony my new skin is, albeit a little red, smoother and softer than ever. Could poison ivy be the natural plastic surgery alternative to the chemical peal? This could explain why I have the skin of a fifteen-year-old.

  47. This mad eme laugh outloud! Like any social worker worth his salt, he assessed the situation and recommended action!

  48. “Ragweed, Mugwort and Cocklebur”

    “I had a new set of tests done,” I tell my sister, somewhat proudly. “I’m allergic to ragweed, mugwort and cocklebur.”

    “I am too!” she says.

    We suddenly feel very close. It’s like discovering a friend with the same birthday, a fact that links you, gives you a past, present and future together, makes you allies in a world full of enemies, enemies hidden in the very air we breathe. Satisfied, we say good-bye quickly, aware of the subtle oncoming of a sneeze. “Gesundheit,” we both say, then hang up and reach for a tissue.

  49. The matchmaker software didn’t include any gardening questions, but on her first visit to his house, with his beautiful houseplants reaching to the ceiling and his Scan dining room table with the fern tiles down the middle, she was hooked.

    They sold their houses on tiny lots before the market sank and moved farther south into a house on a large lot. He set up their seven rain barrels, cares for their indoor and porch plants, and shovels a neighbor’s horse manure for the vegetables.

    They are a perfect match for green living and all because of the Internet…

  50. It was our most perfect garden. We’d been together less than a year, renting our first house. “Let’s plant flowers and vegetables,” Sam said. We turned over the soil, and in every trip to the grocery store we’d buy seeds. I sowed them before going to work, and he planted in the evenings. We watered. When everything germinated, we saw that we’d each planted in the same rows. Morning glories grew up the corn stalks, radishes ringed sunflowers and beans tumbled among zucchini and zinnias. Now, we always made a plan and our garden hasn’t been so glorious since.

  51. When I was a pre-teen, my father taught me how to prune his prize roses; a large grouping of” Mr. Lincoln” which I loved. Dad and I reveled over their amazing scent and red petals which reminded us of velvet they were so soft.

    When I became a teenager, my Dad died quite suddenly at age 46. I remember spending an entire summer staring at his roses; imagining his hand guiding mine while I alone pruned and tended the flowers named after a great man while thinking that another great man had helped give me the gift of gardening.

  52. As a young woman, I married a man who beat me. Solace was found that spring at a local garden center where I bought every flowering perennial they had. I built my first garden in the sun and every day I tended it with love.

    As the garden grew, so did I. By the time fall had come, I realized the garden had healed me and I was strong.

    When he raised his hand again, I ran from the house; barefoot, penniless, and friendless to start my life over. And I did – happily – you can too.

  53. Okay last story – – –

    Three years ago after a long and grueling day at the office I came home to find a rather perplexed woman literally standing in middle of the front perennial garden.

    “I used to live here and want to know what you have done to my house?!” She shouted as I got out of my car.

    Eyebrows raised high on my forehead I asked her what she meant.

    Stretching her arms out from her sides to encompass the gardens she replied, “It’s beautiful!”

    I smiled.


  54. Nature’s Way – Simplified

    Life abounds, all around. As I journey down the garden path, I see holes in the leaves, but butterflies in the trees.

    In Nature, one life balances the other; there’s no need to interfere.

    The ladybug hungers for the sweet taste of aphids, thwarting the sapping of life from a rose. A bird spies a bug, a cat spies a bird, a fox chomps a cat. Flowers send scent through trumpets of red, ablaze for hummingbirds to spread. A frog feasts on slugs, then croaks with pride. Attracting a mate, to procreate. So it goes, all around, life abounds.

  55. Well at least you got the vermicomposter! This fine young man needs a swift kick in the ass if you ask me.

    Of course… he wouldn’t like me either – my nails are far from beautiful, my knees are worn and dirty most of the summer, and my idea of fun includes worms and a margarita.

    Good job Kim!

    Shawna Coronado

  56. Any gardener should’ve been able to see what was going on, the seasoned ones anyhow. But some’ll take green no matter how it comes. Thought they were growing some kind of victory garden then, but all we got now is weeds claimin’ victory. Takes a whole lot more than lookin’ the other way to grow a garden. I don’t know what we’ll do now, knowing those seeds’ll sprout for years to come, affects us all. Gardens come and go maybe, but it’s up to us to take the long path, fix it right, do the hard work, get growing again.

  57. In a box canyon southeast of Tonopah slouches a charming hovel of rough stone capped with tin. The old man residing reveres the desert differently than the garden that clings to his home, for like all the relics around him, the plants once belonged to someone else. This cold bright day he sits in the warmth of a sunny window with Lottie, a red geranium descended from a slip brought in a prostitute’s trunk, and in his lap rests a bowl of home canned fruit from the espalier trees on the south wall, since Chet was indeed a peach.

  58. Jake bragged his Blooming Idiots Landscaping was growing like a weed. But Gordon, his best employee, was eccentric. He’d refused to trim certain trees, for example. “I don’t ever lift the skirts of a magnolia,” he said.
    Now, Gordon was drawing a crowd at the country club, spooning clumps of compost into fishnet pantyhose.
    “What in Pete’s name are you doing?” Jake asked.
    “Making tea,” Gordon said. He dunked a stuffed stocking in the watering can. “Not for you, either.”
    “Well, that’s a relief. Whose legs did you peel those things off of?”
    Gordon laughed.
    “Anybody I know?”
    Gordon glanced over at the cosmos and cone flowers. “Compost tea. They’re gonna soak it right up.”

  59. ~ Forever a Flower ~

    Attention to detail
    no longer matters.
    Eyesight is fading,
    so is the bladder.
    Touching and feeling
    sensations are numb.
    Teeth are decaying,
    so is the gum.
    Walking becoming
    terribly slow,
    hurrying nowhere,
    nowhere to go.
    Listening closely
    nothing to hear
    (why are there hairs
    growing out of my ears?).

    There used to be weeds
    but now I’m not sure
    if what’s being pulled
    is dandelions or larkspur.
    Sunlight is darkening,
    wilting my dreams.
    Leaves of yesterday,
    tomorrow’s means.
    I guess I should choose
    a spot to lie down,
    beneath lavender’s aroma,
    enshrined and rootbound.
    Dissolving, transcending,
    becoming complete.
    Forever a flower,
    never a seed.

  60. Here’s an entry from Wendy Tweten, who was not allowed by Typepad to post it herself (Typepad’s in transition, folks, so please bear with us):
    In the spring Brad moved next door, and Daisy’s thoughts turned lightly to love. In the bed by his lawn she planted kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate; she sowed love-in-a-mist. She erected an arbor and smothered it with passion vine and virgin’s bower. But summer came, and she saw Brad only atop his mower, crew-cutting his grass. Her impatiens took over. She grew ‘Brazen Hussy’ and threw in a ‘Strip Tease’. At last, throwing in the trowel, she gave the garden over to love-lies-bleeding and a broken, bleeding heart. Brad had no interest in her bed. He continued mowing – mowing his wild oats.

  61. “Let’s plant a garden,” she said.

    “You mean in the dirt?” he responded.

    “Well, yeah…that’s usually where things grow.”

    “What’s involved, other than digging,” he asked.

    “Buying seeds and small plants at the garden center,” she answered, “planting them, pulling up the weeds and watering.”

    “I don’t think I’m a gardening kind of guy,” he said.

    “What kind of guy are you?” she asked.

    “The kind that will cook dinner, make a martini and give you a massage after you’ve spent all day working in the garden,” he replied.

    She smiled, and went out to buy a new shovel.

  62. I’ve been growing veg for nigh on sixty years and you kids were no help: picking the flower buds off my peonies, eating the strawberries still green. Some years I didn’t see a raspberry. And if it wasn’t you it were the grandkids or the neighbour kids. I’d catch ‘em stealing me peas or eating me carrots, dirt and all.
    Just us old folks these days. I give some veg to Mrs. Melnichuk but it doesn’t seem worth bothering with really. Still a young couple moved in where the Browns used to live. They look like the family type.

  63. “Where’re you off to?” the mother asked.

    “Me and Megan are going to the garden center,” Crystal replied.

    “The garden center? Do you think I was born yesterday?”

    “Mom!” Crystal said, “There’s a talk about organic vegetable gardening.”

    “Since when are you interested in gardening?”

    “Everybody’s into it, Mom,” Crystal said. “It’s local, it’s safe food, it’s sustainable, you know?”

    “As a matter of fact I do know. Did I ever tell you about living with Seth, and how we used Ruth Stout’s methods to raise vegetables for the co-op?”

    Crystal stopped and came back into the room. “What?”

  64. I peer through the window at the man walking his dog past my house. He ambles along without looking. It must be a seeing-eye-dog. I wait.

    Two women power walk by without one glance. Inconceivable! Is it invisible to the naked eye?

    I hurry outside. Walking past my own house, I imagine I am a casual passer-by. I see four hundred sparkly golden daffodils and fifty perfumed purple hyacinths. Breathtaking.

    A woman passes by pushing a stroller, eyes fixed on the horizon. “What is your problem?” I scream. She reaches frantically for her cell phone and dials three numbers…

  65. Jimmy twirled his baton and recited the words, “Crocosmia… Lychnis… Myosotis” His dad overheard him from the porch. “Son what are you doing?”
    “Mom is a sorceress, Dad. Last summer she was in the backyard and used all these magic words, and next thing you know we have all these flowers…which I can’t step on. So I am doing an undo-incantation to wipe out the garden. But don’t tell Mom!”
    Jimmy’s dad thought for a moment, reflected on the credit card statement, which was usually high right before summer…and began to recite the incantation with Jimmy.

  66. Eve enjoyed eating many apples by herself in the quiet green places. With the knowledge she gained, she began to gather seed from Eden’s garden. Adam and his seed were simply the last things she took from the garden……..

  67. She lived, she died, she skidded up to the Pearly Gates out of breath. St. Peter was not impressed.
    “What are your sins?” He got right to the point.
    “Oh yes. I lusted after the Japanese maple that grew at my favorite nursery.”
    “I ordered far more bulbs from catalogs than I had room for.”
    “You should see my soil! Rich, dark, crumbly…”
    “O.K. Attachment?”
    “Hey, those were Corona clippers. Nobody shoulda…”
    “What about about anger?”
    “Are you kidding? NOW you take me? It’s Spring, for Heaven’s sake! I have things to do!”

  68. Dad was a member of that ‘Greatest Generation’. Devotion to family, work and community were hallmarks of his steadfastness. Dad was also a great vegetable gardener and the garden reflected his organization skills with military precision. My fondest memories of childhood include running through the rows of sweet smelling corn emerging from the green depths with pollen in my hair. Years later I showed my Dad the raised beds I had meticulously crafted in my own vegetable garden. He walked slowly between the rows and finally turned to me and asked, “So, who did you bury”?

  69. “Freeze thaw freeze thaw freeze thaw!”

    It was the naked eye socket with scragled bits of fur around its edges that had sent me screaming into Gran’s arms even though I’m eight and too old to do that anymore.

    “How many times do I have to tell you?”

    Gramps just stood there as Gran shoveled the cold April soil into a neat pile beside the hole where Gramps had buried Spot last fall. The tiny Redbud he had planted over Spot was on its side, roots exposed, but Gran had to dig a deeper hole this time.

  70. After her husband ran off with the pool boy, Ellen found comfort in gardening. Then she discovered Japanese Beetles had infested her New Dawn roses. A disconcerting sight: shiny green beetles, their spurred legs clasped together in insect ecstasy. Curling themselves up in the pink petals, like sultans in silk.

    “Fornicating!” she told her friend, Sue, “on my best climbing roses!”

    “I know just the trick,” Sue said. “I’m sending over my yard man. He’s got quite a six-pack.”

    “I don’t drink,” Ellen said. Sue laughed.

    When the Happy Ending Landscaping truck arrived, the shirtless, muscular man in tight jeans strode over to Ellen, her infestation worries already forgotten.

  71. Lila had never been so embarrassed. She’d arranged for this speaker for the Senior Center’s luncheon having no idea he was a coarse man.

    “They are so fierce and clever,” the speaker said now from the podium. “All that finery to entice pollinators! Flowers are scented, glowing, magnificent reproductive organs.”

    Lila, shocked, stood adruptly. She attempted to bring the talk to a close, but the audience would have none of it.

    “The perfume, the nectar, the colors, the mimicry, the trickery. The lips on orchid! Exploding seed pods. I’ve seen pleated downy petals fragrant as a woman’s–“

    Lila fled the room. She’d resign from the entertainment committee, and go back to finance.

  72. She unlaced her black heeled shoes, took them off and lined them up perfectly beside her bed. It was the kind of footwear worn by grandmothers in the 50’s and nuns when they still wore habits. She went out the side screen door – used only when the weather was finally warm, past the small coop with the mother duck and her babies, headed toward her garden with its abundant vegetables – and one riotous row of zinnias.

    The black soil was warm under her bunioned bare feet, the ropey, varicose veins evident below her dress and old fashioned apron. Women of that age and time never wore pants or garden clogs.

  73. She dreamed about her garden. The fence was painted bright blue. Peach Collette roses were in full bloom on the arbor, under planted with white alyssum.

    The paths were paved with pebbles and broken china, tiny pieces of rose, yellow and blue willow patterns placed among round rocks.

    Some beds were edged with cabbages, others by blue fescue tufts, these ringing exuberant mixtures of flowers or neat rows of vegetables. In one, purple Verbena blossomed above pink dahlias and orange zinnias.

    Her eyes opened, she saw the colorless nursing home walls and sighed, waiting to be wheeled to dinner.

  74. Wild lightning slashed the night, striking the highest parapet of Krankenpflanze Castle, where the mad botanist, Doctor Krankenpflanze worked feverishly in his laboratory. “At last,” he said, “I shall rule the gardens of the world! Tonight I bring to life my ultimate creation, the Super Plant, which will hold dominion over all other plants, and bring the world’s so-called master gardeners begging to my door!” Then, high above, the ceiling of his laboratory opened to the night sky allowing the lightning to charge a gigantic capacitor and, cackling madly he screamed, “IGOR, PULL THE SWITCH!”

  75. A small, wiry man with wild, white hair ran and stumbled frantically through the night across garden plots and plowed fields, pursued by a fiery-eyed mob of men and women bearing torches, pitchforks, hoes, shovels, and the occasional Garden Weasel. His hubris had brought him to this predicament. He had vastly underestimated the master gardeners of the world, thinking them to be mild-mannered milquetoast types, who would beg him to control his creation, the Super Plant. Instead, they had banded together, stormed the castle, and would now put an end to his madness … poooor Doctor Krankenpflanze.

  76. Thinning

    Coming upon her like that after so many months made his heart drop into his belly. Jim had just finished thinning the new beet crop.

    She’d come around the corner while he wiped his hands into the soil, carefully returning the crumbs of compost laid last April. It would be Sarah that found him sitting on the edge of the bed, a rueful grimace on his face.

    Her hourglass had shown briefly before her final prey—half out of spite at his own stupidity, and half out of fear—sent her to her next life. She would not be forgotten.

  77. Black Snake Corn

    Mister Graves stamped a boot on the front stoop. “That black snake that’s been bothering my corn is hanging there on the fence. He’ll not dig round my sweet corn again.”

    Dead black snake emanates the odor of every crunching rat, baby mouse or misguided bat ever to pulse through its belly, plus the results of these gastric spasms.

    Joining last week’s ladybugs, dispatched for eating the butter beans, the wronged predator mutely flicked her tongue and eyed the celebrating vermin as they burrowed beneath the melon leaves. One bite at a time, boys, one bite at a time.

  78. Michelia

    It was the trees that kept her here after the move from Ames. Classes would soon start again, and she had fallen asleep with the Sunset Book in her hand.

    The chainsaw whine drew Mary out the door in two leaps. The crusty gardener had proudly ripped through five of the lower limbs.

    Barefoot in panties and a far too small green t-shirt, she threw down her challenge. “If you can tell me the name of this tree, you can go ahead and cut it down.” The gardener squinted at her soft belly.

    “This ain’t yer f*in tree, lady.”

  79. With excitement he viewed the recipe that called for Rose Sugar and Rose Petals – it would be perfect for Valentine’s Day. He shook his rose petal sugar jar every other day and dried rose petals. On Valentine’s Day, he cooked all day, preparing a lovely feast for his beautiful wife. A rack of fresh lamb with rose syrup, salad garnished with sugared rose petals, and his “piece de resistance” – the rose tart, made with rose sugar and dried, chopped rose petals. It’s too bad he didn’t know the florist treated the roses with chemicals to guarantee blemish-free flowers.

  80. The obsession was two fold. The mother gardened, constantly tended a dazzling bed of roses. They flourished and bloomed. The daughter stood there for hours; a rare bird, they called her. She would study the roses, each bloom frozen in growth and time, held captive by a Canon 75-300mm. Petals were caught just so, dewdrops were examined, buds were investigated and watched by both of them. Obsession or not, people wondered at their talent, for the mother won coveted awards for her roses, while the daughter won prestigious awards for her portrayal of her mother’s pride and joy.

  81. Alternately

    “I’ve been waiting forever for this gate to open,” she sighed.
    “And leave this garden oasis?” he asked, puzzled.

  82. Heather, I love it! I live on a corner, and you have described EXACTLY what I see all the time. Just who ARE these people? From what planet did they fall?

  83. Thank goodness for the dog – she should have gotten one a long time ago. The neighbors used to think she was strange – wandering around the rose garden at all hours of the day – and even night – muttering to herself: need to move this, that needs trimming, ought to get more of those. But now she had a dog – now she wasn’t crazy – she was a pet owner. The neighbors didn’t realize that while she “walked the dog” and “talked to the dog” she was really saying: need to fertilize, there’s a patch of aphids, time to weed.

  84. She doesn’t “do” Halloween but the grandkids want her to decorate. Won’t scarecrows and pumpkins work? No, the boys insist there must be witches and ghosts and bats. “I’ll think about it,” she promises. The next day she waits in anticipation for them to get home from school. She has decorated the porch for Halloween – pots of Ghost Fern and ‘Goblin’ Gaillardia set next to a Witch Hazel bush. Other pots hold Devil’s Backbone, Skullcap and Deadnettle. A Devil’s Trumpet and a Voodoo Lily tower over the other plants. And the final touch – a completely black kitten named Midnight.

  85. “I’m going to check the mail,” I told my husband. I started towards the mailbox. The roses needed pruning; I got the pruners and trimmed them. As I took the pruners back, I spotted weeds in the perennials; I stopped to pull them. After I put up the pruners, I saw some annuals I needed to pot. I found some planters and took them to the patio. The furniture was dirty; I got a rag and cleaned it. All that work made me thirsty; I went in the house for a drink. “Where’s the mail,” my husband asked.

  86. Her garden was the pettiest around. What was her secret – how did she grow such lush roses? She had lost three husbands and two stepchildren – you’d think she couldn’t dwell on roses with so much death in her life.

    Dang!!! I really like where this is going. Five dead people under a gorgeous bed of roses. See, that’s the problem with seeing other people’s entries in a contest you plan to participate in. They addle your brain and you can’t remember if the idea was yours or someone else’s. Unfortunately, dead bodies beneath roses belonged to someone else.

  87. “I feel like you’re my soul mate.”

    “I feel that way too, and it’s only been an hour since we met.”

    “I want to know every marvelous detail about you. Where do you live, my darling?”

    “I have a Tudor house in Montford–”

    “My favorite neighborhood!”

    “And I grow a lot of shade plants–”

    “I do too!”

    “Especially rhododendrons.”

    “Native rhododendrons?”

    “Oh, all kinds, you know, there are so many pretty hybrids and I–”

    “This won’t work.”

    “What? What do you mean?”

    “I can’t possibly be in a relationship with someone who grows non-native plants.”

  88. “Where the hell are they?!” the one with the nose hollered, kicking the little round man square in the chest.

    “I told ya I don’t know! Honest”

    “That’s the problem right there, I talked to Ms. Hyacinth, and she’s was pretty set on lettin’ me know that you sold em drugs to her. Correct me if I’m wrong, but yous the only one in all Crocker County under 5 foot that’s about as round as one of Lou Ann Humphrey’s pies. Now tell me what you did with those rose seeds or I have ya diggin’ your own grave.”

  89. There was something about Steve. As Mary gazed at him, she noticed several ‘somethings’ about him, but the one that stood out was not that he was gorgeous in a bronzed, dark, mysterious way. It wasn’t that his full lips seemed ready to curve into a guileless, breathtaking smile. It most certainly wasn’t that his eyes looked like buttery taffy, quite literally ‘good enough to eat’, nor was it the fact that he was dressed in fabulously cut clothing that defined his lithe shape. No, decided Mary, the something about Steve was undeniably this fact: Steve was dead.

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