Ahh...love these flowers
|Hollyhocks. W/C 964
When George went out to the garden on Monday, the hollyhocks were in full bloom. He smiled. This was a multi-year project that finally had paid off. Pops of color, glorious blooms on the tall stalks interspersed with the emerald green round leaves. He stood back, surveyed the flower bed.
“Wonderful, just as I had envisioned it.”
“Who are you talking to?” Mildred from over the fence interrupted his reverie.
“Oh hi, Mildred. No one. Myself. And now you. Just checking out the flowers.”
“You sure got a good crop of hocks this year. I’ll warrant you that.” She pushed her straw hat back, wiped her face. “What about the yellow seeds I gave you?”
“I don’t see them out yet. Maybe they didn’t make it through the winter.”
“Well, darn. Mine are blooming. Perhaps you didn’t plant them deep enough.” Mildred turned her back. She was done talking.
George felt like throwing something at her. How dare she! He babied his garden, spent every spare moment with those plants, every plant was noted and charted.
‘I planted those seeds deep enough, Mildred dear,’ he said to himself. ‘They’ll sprout. They’ll bloom.’ He went to the garden shed. Time to fertilize, time to water, time to check for bugs. Always something to do in the garden.
George walked among the flowers. Hollyhocks, coreopsis, shasta daisy, California poppy, Sweet William, Lupine, Mexican hat were all in a wonderful jumbled mix. Mary, his wife, called the flower garden a jungle. George loved the chaos and colors. The bees and birds frequented the garden every summer. But then he saw an interloper. And not just one. Another, and then two more. What!?
Grasshoppers. They had moved into the garden. When had this happened? He was just here and there were none. Now it was an invasion of the worst sort. He had an organic garden. It was against his ethos to spray or use any poisons.
George ran into the house, powered up the laptop. ‘How to kill grasshoppers’ gave him several options. Sevin dust, no to that. Roundup, no that will kill everything green, including grasshoppers and plants. Dish soap. Now that’s an idea. He gathered up some dish soap and made a solution. Soon the garden was full of bubbles. The hoppers were still jumping around the day after.
George did another search. There was a bait you could buy. ‘Great! What?’ Sold out. Seems the grasshopper invasion had covered the entire states of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. The supplier was sold out for the year. “Check back next summer” was the website blurb.
He knew who was to blame. It was Mildred. It had to be. She never mowed her grass. She like her grass long. Grasshoppers loved long grass. George marched out to the fence.
“Mildred!” He called out, a little too angrily, but didn’t really care a whole lot. She’d hear about this latest turn of events.
Soon the older woman appeared at her back door. “You called? Something wrong, George?”
“Grasshoppers! All over my garden, Mildred. And they’re coming from your grass. I know it! When’s the last time you mowed your grass? See them? I see at least ten or fifteen hopping around right now. The little buggers are coming from your yard. They’re eating all my flowers. All up and down the hollyhock stalks. Stripped them clean. Now they’re going after the daisies.”
Mary was at his back, trying to calm him down. “Now George, it’s not really Mildred’s fault. Don’t blame her for a insect invasion.”
“But I do blame her! Grasshoppers all over my flowers, Mary. And they are from her yard,” George yelled.
Mildred marched over to George at the fence.
“Stop it, George. The pesky hoppers are everywhere. Quit being a drama queen. They’ll be gone at the first hint of frost. If you don’t like my yard, you can mow it.” Mildred marched back into her house, slammed the back door.
Mary and George exchanged looks, then George ran to the shed, grabbed the mower. He proceeded to mow Mildred’s overgrown yard while Mary watched.
After an hour, Mary had found a chair, George finally finished the mowing, and Mildred was still in her house.
“Feel better?” Mary asked George. He put the mower away as he avoided the question.
“I am still mad. My flowers are a salad bar for a pest and no one cares.”
“Honey, settle down. Like she said, they’ll be gone in a few weeks. Next year we’ll be prepared.” Mary stood, gave George an embrace.
“And to add insult to injury, my yellow hollyhocks are not blooming. I don’t even know if they came up. Mildred said I hadn’t planted the seeds deep enough. I know I did. And now the hoppers are eating everything in sight! I’m at my wits end, Mary.” George sat in the chair Mary just gave up.
“Let’s go in the house. I think you’re just upset, tired and sunburnt.”
Mary led George into the house. He let the garden go for few weeks. The irrigation system kept things watered. He couldn’t bear to watch the insects eat the flowers.
One night there was a freak frost. “Too early!” said the weatherman. But George was elated! Perhaps this was the end of the grasshoppers. He rushed to the garden. The insects were indeed dead. But then, so were most of the flowers.
All except a few stalks of green hollyhocks, some late arrivals. The flowers were just getting ready to bloom.
“Hey there, where did you come from?” George touched the flowers tenderly.
In a few days he had his answer. The yellow hollyhocks were late this year. And because they were late, they had escaped the wrath of the grasshopper invasion.
George sat in the garden chair and smiled. He loved hollyhocks.