Mary Mary Quite Contrary:

They all tell me the same story, “Mrs. Lawlis was always workin’ in her yard now!” I hear it from the ninety year old neighbors that surround me, I hear it from strangers that peddle up on a bike, I hear it from the grocer. “She kept that yard in pristine condition you know?” I hate hearing it. I’m beginning to hate strangers. I hate my grocer.

Mrs. Lawlis was the former owner of my estate and in particular she was the former horticulturalist who singlehandedly cultivated the botanical wonderland that comprises my ‘grounds’. I’m beginning to hate her too. Lest you think that I have been lax in my landscaping duty let me reassure that is not the case. The yard is gorgeous. It’s just that...well I’m not her. “She was always outside till midnight skewering magnolia leaves with this stick thing that had a pick on the end of it...” Enough!

(Gloriosa Superba)

Yes, yes, yes, I am grateful to the old gal for leaving me such a grand legacy to work with BUT (and that’s an awfully big BUT) I’ve been in a constant state of conservancy where my lawn is concerned. It all started with hurricane Ivan, that bastard dumped enormous amounts of salt onto the Bermuda grass, he effectively killed the lawn. Katrina did her fair share of killing the following year plus the dozen or so tropical storms full of salt.

I affectionately refer to my homestead as Grey Gardens. The place was in dire shape when I purchased it but the the garden was the prize and six months after signing on the dotted line and Mrs. Lawlis was carted off to the Old Lady Home, we had hurricane Ivan. So I invariably receive the gasps that really when translated mean, “What the Hell happened here Edith Bouvier Beale?”

This Spring has been spectacular and the first year that has seen the fruits of my labor...literally. Everything is peeking out to see if it is safe to return. Easter lilies, Day lilies, Gloriosa Lilies, just all sorts of lilies really. The pecan trees have finally leafed out, “They’re always the last to do so, you know?” The huge scuppernong muscadine vineyard is going for the gold this year. I like to hang in the hammock underneath the vineyard on hot days and let the misting sprays work their magic, it’s like a cheap spa.

Oh and incidentally and totally unrelated but, Is there anyone left alive that was born in the 1800’s? In another year or so there won’t be and most of my wonderful old neighbors will be gone also. That should cut down on the helpful comments about my lawn and gardens.


  1. “She was always outside till midnight skewering magnolia leaves with this stick thing ...”

    Tell them you’re busy skewering other things besides magnolia leaves with your stick.

    That’ll shut them up.

  2. Ha - we had the same situation with our first home. Even when the 94 year old across the street began having psychotic breaks and running through the neighborhood being chased by her caregivers, everyone still held her up as THE gardening icon.

    In fact, when we first moved there from San Francisco, we - of course - did not have a lawnmower.

    Less than a week after we moved in - we were "pity mowed."

    The shame...

  3. Gloriosa! So are the yards of any of these helpful neighbors in better shape than yours? If not, ignore them. If they are, pity them.

  4. to quote Little Edie:
    "Mother thinks it's artistic this way, like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Don't you love the overgrown Louisiana Bayou look?"

  5. Flowers and shrubs are far superior forms of life than my bleeding nosy neighbours. I use to be quite a mild mannered individual before I moved into this house five years ago, but with a garden to upkeep I've changed my character and I've become a serial killer, slugs and snails mainly, however, I overheard my elderly next door neighbour Irene, discussing what I had done to Reg's Koi Karp pond, Reginald being the previous owner of the house, I heard her telling Liz from next door but one that I had drained the pond and filled it in with soil burying the fish alive! "How Cruel! and Poor things" I couldn't keep my silence no longer and standing on a stool looking over the fence I called her a foul minded moralising old bitch! always ready to wag the finger and spread juicy gossip I told her that the window cleaner had bought the fish off me for a fiver a piece. She couldn't take anymore and had to go inside for a pill "Why not take the whole bottle Irene and wash em down with a bottle of gin then turn the gas on. It was the floods of 2007 before we spoke again and we became quite friendly after that.

  6. Luckily, I've only ever owned houses where the gardens were utter crap before I moved in. So I putter away and all the neighbors think I'm a wonder. After reading this, I am planning never to move into a well-gardened home!

  7. I love those flowers they look like aliens or at least like they come from a place aliens come from and then they bloom right before the pod people pop out.