Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Ten years ago, I was a Silicon Valley attorney living in an 840-square-foot apartment.  My only responsibilities were to my husband, my employers and clients, and my houseplants.  Once a week, I watered the few houseplants.

Five years ago, I was a stay-at-home mother of two in a Chicago condominium with a couple planter boxes of geraniums on our patio overlooking the alley.  My sleep and my houseplants suffered.  Frankly, the geraniums didn't fare that well either.

Today, I am a stay-at-home mother of two school-age children with a house and yard in the suburbs.   In addition to tending to the husband and children, I clean, maintain and seek to improve the greater-than-840-square-foot house and the lovely but larger-than-necessary yard.  

The yard is both a blessing and a curse to me.  Fortunately, a previous owner must have spent a fortune on perennials, because our yard is splendid when cared for (except for the grass--don't look closely at the "grass").  The down side is that it requires a lot of care.  I have surprised myself by learning a few things about gardening, and I now do everything except mulch.  I edge, weed, plant and prune.  Boy, do I prune....but I digress.

We have traveled quite a bit this summer, and my yard maintenance has been sub par.  I try to keep up, but some of the pruning that already should have been completed will be put off until fall.  There is only one thing that I have remained vigilant about this summer--the wisteria.  Summer 2012:  Me vs. The Wisteria.  I've won a few battles, but I fear I might lose the war on this one.

To explain:  we have a pergola in the backyard that is covered with wisteria.  When in bloom, it is positively gorgeous.

I had an initial love affair with the wisteria.  My non-gardening self didn't understand why everyone said it was a weed or, as one of my gardening books says, "vigorous and fast-growing."  It was pretty.  It grew.  What was there not to like?

The reason I didn't understand the wisteria's need to propagate was this:

Apparently, that guy who was so willing to spend money on landscaping spent his savings before hiring the contractor who built the pergola.  Slightly over a year after we moved in, a strong wind caught it and pulled down the pergola and the four wisteria trees that were attached to it.  We severely cut back the trees (and lost one entirely), insurance paid to rebuild the pergola, and I fussed for a few years about getting the wisteria to grow up and around the pergola.  The wisteria was so busy recovering from the trauma, it really wasn't dropping seeds everywhere and trying to propagate.

That has changed.  This summer, I can walk outside and new seedlings will have sprouted in the three hours since I lasted walked by.  Since the wisteria is "vigorous," I consider it imperative to pull up every stray seedling the minute I see it, before it can really take hold.  Like Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince and his baobabs, I must remain vigilant against the wisteria every single day.

Back in college, my friends and I played far too much Tetris, and I used to see Tetris pieces falling every time I closed my eyes.  Now I see wisteria leaves.   Sometimes, I wonder if all this upward (and outward to the 'burbs) progress was a step in the right direction.  Those few houseplants in my tiny apartment in California were healthy and unobtrusive--like I wish for in my pets, they were wonderfully underwhelming. After another afternoon spent sweating in the backyard, pulling wisteria from every nook and cranny, I'm starting to miss that little apartment and its houseplants.


"It is a question of discipline," the little prince said to me later on. "When you've finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rosebushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work," the little prince added, "but very easy."... Sometimes," he added, "there is no harm in putting off a piece of work until another day. But when it is a matter of baobabs, that always means a catastrophe."  -- Antoine Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Or, to paraphrase Dan Patrick, you can't stop it, you can only hope to contain it.

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