‘Uh, don't you think it's time the front of the house didn't look like a nuclear winter?" asked the Bombshell of the Balkans.
Actually, I was sort of getting used to having a literal zero landscaping approach. We could explain away the barren patches, the budding weeds, the quite nicely aged wood chips as a minimalist surrealist work of art, a sort a Guernica of gardening.
We live in an area of Tampa where the neighborhood association awards homeowners a "Yard of the Month" honor. We have never remotely been a contender, unless of course the association would consider handing out a plaque for "Dust Bowl of the Month."
Really now, why bother to delude ourselves? We are surrounded by neighbors with flourishing mini-Gardens of Versailles — lush flowers, perfectly trimmed hedges, grass that looks like the fairways of Augusta National. Us? There was more foliage in Lawrence of Arabia.
We have a perfectly defensible alibi for our sad, pathetic horticulture-challenged yard. The Marigold of Macy's and I are plagued with black thumbs.
When we walk into the gardening departments at Home Depot or Lowe's, the plants recoil in horror at the prospect of being purchased by the Angels of Death.
It's not that we haven't tried.
Not too long ago someone suggested planting plumbago. It's a lovely, low-maintenance plant that is supposed to bloom and grow and spread. Indeed, throughout our neighborhood one can find a literal plumbago-palooza.
And so we planted plumbago and waited for the festival of color to explode. Dead. It's all … dead. I'm here to tell you we have one of the finest displays of dead plumbago known to man.
We may have managed to kill more plants, bushes and flowers than all the Agent Orange dropped on Vietnam.
We planted daisies. Dead. We planted juniper. Dead. We planted prairie grass, which is supposed to be the Iron Man of plants. Dead.
We water. We fertilize. We trim. Dead. Dead. And dead.
It's gotten so bad that every time we put something in the ground, priests, rabbis, imams, ministers, even Scientologists start showing up to deliver last rites.
A few weeks ago, a woman in Clearwater got into some zoning trouble when she replaced her grass with artificial turf. We would probably try the same thing but it, too, would probably die.
Recently Charles Lindbergh the Elder gave us a generous gift certificate to Home Depot, which we think he figured was payback for the $12 million we spent to educate him to fly airplanes. Other kids major in history, but nooooooo …
Alas, I digress.
We probably would have been better off taking the Home Depot gift certificate out to the horse track and betting it all on Old Dobbin to win.
Instead, we paid a visit to the gardening department. We called it browsing. Others might suggest we were really looking for victims. Azaleas started rushing for the nearest exit. Hibiscus plants tried to hide behind the Bonsai. Roses wilted in fear. Geraniums pretended to be mushrooms.
We may be the only home improvement customers who are read their Miranda rights for simply looking at a fern.
The Daffodil of Dillard's had taken several photos of the front of the house on her cell phone to so that the Home Depot folks might be able to offer some landscaping advice.
I had the distinct sense this was an exercise akin to the Donner Party asking Emeril Lagasse for knife-carving tips.
"I've only worked here for a couple of months," the poor Home Depot worker shrugged after looking at the desolate pictures, which likely reminded her of a scene from Blade Runner. More likely, this was a nice way of saying, "I'm merely a first-year medical student. For this mess you're gonna need Dr. Sanjay Gupta."
In fact, so dire were our prospects of planting something that wouldn't expire as if it had been the target of a drone attack that the Home Depot employee advised us to call an 800 number for help, all the easier to stifle giggles, I suppose.
It might have been my imagination, but as we left I could swear I heard a noticeable, "Whew! That was close!" coming from somewhere around the rhododendron section.
We haven't called the 800 number yet. Sometimes we stand in the front driveway and fantasize about a veritable botanical garden in full bloom, a "Yard of the Month" sign proudly waving for all to see.
In the meantime, if they ever produce "Sanford & Son; The Movie," we have the prime location.