So, here’s a weird thing that happened.
It began when I bought some new plants for my “garden” in Virginia. (I put “garden” in quotes because most of what grows in this spot are weeds, which I’ve taken to calling “native plants” to make myself feel less inept.)
These were the kinds of plants you pay good money for (and by good I mean A LOT), and I’d decided prices be damned, go for three of everything because sets of three look best.
I got them at the nursery part of the gift shop at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s old digs. Most of the plants sold there are species that have been thriving on the property since Jeffersonian times, so there’s a sort of botanical history that comes with them—and, as they’re tried and true in his yard, theoretically they should survive less than 10 miles down the road in mine.
The plants, the day, both so filled with promise.
Before I get to the weird thing, I want to mention that there’s more to planting than digging a hole and dropping a bulb in it. It’s really important to make the soil just so, especially in a place like central Virginia—where you get a chunky and weathered red clay that’s like a concrete wall to those spindly little roots trying to make their way.
My husband calls the necessary effort Proper Soil Preparation, or PSP. Of course, no one likes dragging around those weighty bags that fall like a dead body when you flop them on the ground. But I did what I had to do, big-time PSP, to give my new kids a chance. I lugged bag after bag from the woodshed, sliced each open with a jab of the shovel (Tip 1: Don’t do this in flip-flops), broke up the garden soil clumps with my bare hands (because it feels so good) and mixed in sphagnum and humus (Tip 2: Don’t use hummus). I dug the holes bigger around and deeper than I really felt like doing (also not a flip-flops job), lined them with the good dirt, carefully rolled the plants out of their plastic pots and popped them in, added more delicious soil to fill the gaps around them, and even raked mulch and leaves over the whole area to blend the new plants in with the old. Then I watered the heck out of everything. I did a good job, I swear.
I was going to be away for a while (Tip 3: Don’t plant new plants when you aren’t going to be there to watch over them) so I filled up buckets with water that my neighbor could splash around if it didn’t rain. And as I’m not good at remembering what I planted where, or the name of anything, anything at all, I stuck the little purple ID tabs from Monticello at the base of each plant.
A few days later my neighbor cut through the woods between our houses and arrived at the garden to dump the water buckets.
He surveyed the scene. Saw the weird thing. He called me.
“Were you maybe drunk or high when you planted the plants?” he asked. It was a reasonable question. Because while the holes were dug and the plants were out of their plastic tubs, none was in the ground. The greens and flowers hadn’t been eaten or ripped up. The root balls were basically intact. The things were just lifted neatly out of the holes and left next to them. Every single one of them was perfectly unplanted. As if they’d never been planted in the first place. As if the gardener had been drunk or high. (Tip 4: Do I really have to say it?)
And, of course, several days of exposure to that fireball in the sky meant they were pretty much dead.
One more thing. The big buckets that I’d filled with water? OVERTURNED.
Think about it:
ONLY SOMETHING VERY STRONG COULD HAVE DUMPED THE BUCKETS.
ONLY SOMETHING SELFISH OR MAD AT THE HUMAN RACE WOULD HAVE PULLED UP MY PLANTS AND LEFT THEM TO DIE WITHOUT EVEN TASTING THEM.
Perhaps my thought process was a bit melodramatic. But I was pissed. So, who/what is responsible? I mean, there are lots of self-serving animals out there. Just watch the blue jays dive-bomb the little song birds at the feeder and you’ll see what I mean. And squirrels. Well, squirrels can be such assholes.
It didn’t look like a squirrel job, though, despite them being persistent little bastards. Raccoons, maybe? Raccoons are damn smart and might even know that purple tabs from the Monticello nursery mean easy pickings (grubs under loose plants). (More likely disturbed soil would be the first clue, but never underestimate raccoons’ detective skills.) Skunks might also yank out plants for critters beneath, no? A friend who has written about skunks said they might. So, maybe. Groundhog? I guess. A real jerk of a groundhog. As if there’s any other kind.
Other possibilities? It seemed like more than a worm-seeking bird could handle—the plants being sizable, the plants being so neatly lifted up and out—although I guess a meaty crow might be able to do the job. Deer? Would have munched or at least nibbled the greens, and the greens weren’t munched or nibbled. Wilted and sad, yes, but intact. Black bear? Could do, but there haven’t been any bear sightings around our place. No prints. No musky smell in the air. No missing Chihuahuas.
And hey, something tipped those water buckets, which were almost more than I could lurch into place, sloshing all the way. No little woodland creature without a red cape could manage that one.
I really wanted to solve the mystery of the unplanted flora…not so I could get revenge (deep breaths, put away the crossbow, repeat mantra I’m an animal lover) but because I’m curious that way. So I did a little research, made some calls. Contacted a few plant nurseries, including the one at Monticello. And I found out that NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING, or at least they weren’t willing to snitch. The expert gardeners’ came up with guesses no better than mine. One even asked if my neighbor was just messing with me.
Which leads me to the only truly logical explanation. Think about it: What is cold and calculating, brute enough to turn over heavy buckets aimed away from thirsty greens? A human-race hater mean enough to leave everything exposed and withering in the sun and then maybe shriek in glee about it? It’s the answer a friend suggested on Facebook that I initially dismissed but that, on reflection and with a glance toward the eerie night sky aglow over my wreck of a garden, makes perfect sense.
No, not Trump, though decent guess.
You know the answer. You know.
All photos via VisualHunt
(Alien by Anderson Mancini)