Don’t Weed-eat The Daffodils

(some Sunday whimsy)

“Dinner’s ready, darling!.”
“Good-oh hun. I’ll just scrub-up after working in the garden…”
A short time later…
“Ummm, honey bun. The kids have nice towering plates of vittles, where’s mine?”
“Oh, out in the kennel. Fang is looking after it for you … I think.”

Fang may have been happy at the prospect of “minding” my dinner, but I was a little cool on the idea. His solution for keeping my dinner warm was to wrap himself around it … need I say more?

Fortunately, this scenario is just the material of a bad nightmare. I am, after all, Lord of this Manor (puffs chest out) and such treatment would not do at all, at all. But such could have been my treatment…

That joyful day when you grab the keys to the house that you’ve just bought and sashay up to the front door, “Mine. Mine. All mine!” can be somewhat tempered by the previous incumbents as they hoon off down the driveway. “Yippee!,” they shout. “Quick into the car, you lot. Full throttle, boyo.” And off they go into the sunset leaving you wondering, “What was that all about?”

No matter how hard you look and the number of ticks on the checklist, there’s always a surprise. And they don’t necessarily turn up during the first downpour causing you to rabbit about with buckets, or make you issue shrieks of “delight” as the shower head emits pellets of frozen water on your first morning.

Some things are far more subtle. Such as what grows in the garden and the lawn.

If you buy a house and find lots of bulbs in the garden beds during your first weeding, this is a hint that more might be in store. Such is my lot.

Our first summer here was pleasant. There was lots to be done in tweaking the gardens, taking trees out, planting a few native shrubs, preparing a vege plot. The bees buzzed, the birds birded, and the sun shone. Then it was winter. Wet and windy days, frantically calculating when the washing could be put out and when Mo (the lawnmower) could be put through her paces. She used to be Flymo in her earlier years, but her flying days were over a long time ago after one too many encounters with half-hidden stumps and bits of brick garden edging. Now she’s just Mo.

Our first winter deepened and, during July, a bank along the edge of the front entrance path suddenly came alive. Odd green things suddenly started poking up through the turf. We watched. We waited. Early spring onions? Triffids? Mutant grass? It was odd.

By early August, we knew. Daffodils. A whole colony of the things had been slumbering away underneath the lawn waiting for that secret sign that said, “On your marks. Set. Go!” And they did. A splendid display. Yellow ones and white ones all dodding away to each other in the winter chill.

Spring came along and the fine display withered and died. Then the owner came along wielding the weedeater. “There you are. Back to nice green turf again. All normal.” But it wasn’t to be so.

Chatting away to friends over a September dinner, conversation finally drifted to the odd things that you find growing in the garden of a house that you’ve recently bought. The “dance of the daffs” and their demise was recounted and the room became rather quiet.

“You didn’t!” “Oh, yes I did. It looks nice and tidy now. Pretty green lawn.”

Tick. tick. Indrawn breath. Averted eyes. I could suddenly sense that my next invitation to dinner would see me dining with the muttleys in the kennels, gnawing on tiny crumbs of dog biscuit that had somehow escaped their hoovering tongues.

It turns out that I had bowled over the daffs a bit early. Apparently they need to more than die off, they need to get really gnarly and withered before being bowled and carted off to the ravening compost bin. During this time, they draw down all the nutrients out of the flowers, stalks and stems and store them in the bulbs ready to feed next year’s blooms. This process takes a while, and the proud owner of a daffodil patch needs to be staunch and pretend that the heap of dead, overgrown stuff isn’t there until about the end of October.

News spread. I was shunned on the main street, hearing mutterings of “Worse than Jack the Ripper.” “… plucked them before they were ready, he did.” “Poor little mites. They’ll be ever so fragile next year.” Even the local vegetarian shunned me by staring steadfastly through the window of the local butcher at a seemingly fascinating display of ox tongues and a huge platter of kidneys as I walked past. Golly.

The following autumn was an anxious time. Had the daffs survived? Should I dig up the lawn and poke about for the bulbs? What would I learn if I found one? From what little I know, they don’t have a fuel gauge on the side with a little pointer showing whether their tummies are E for Empty or F for Full or somewhere in between.

Autumn became winter, and the cold months dragged by. I nearly pitched a tent on the lawn so that I could witness the first tentative tendril poking its way out toward the sunlight. And then, slowly and surely, up they came. There were fewer than the first winter, but the hardier ones had survived, finally bursting into bloom. Their fluted yellow or golden snouts seemed to follow me like a herd of disappointed seahorses as I slunk past on my way to and from work. “There he is,” they seemed to say. “Heartless heathen.”

And so they bloomed. They withered. They died. And still they lingered. For weeks any neighbour firing up a weed-eater in the springtime morn would find me out the front patrolling with a shotgun. “Stand back. Back I say. No weed-eaters here!”

But then visitors started making odd comments. “Nice lawn. Did you run out of petrol at the end?” “Is your weedeater broke?” “Want to borrow my hedge clippers?” Sigh. So, I gritted my teeth and bowled them (the daffodils, not the querulous friends) and the weeds that had grown up amongst them. The worms in the compost bin kept the neighbourhood awake at night as they chomped their way through the clippings.

It has now become an annual routine. The daffodils slumber for most of the year (methinks it might be better to come back as a daff instead of a pampered cat) and then they erupt during the coldest month of the year to cheer us up. Sometimes they collapse under heavy rain, but they usually stand up again a day or two later. They get a bit grumpy if a strong northerly comes along, but the nearby ruddydendrons shelter them from the chilling southerlies. They die, and I pace, twitching at the sight of the scruffy mass of dead plants while they slowly draw the nutrients down into their little fuel tanks for next year. Then they get bowled, the worms party on the foliage and harmony and the lawn is restored for another nine months.

I have been redeemed, but the village vegan still won’t talk to me. That encounter with the butcher’s window display is to blame. Gone is the toasted tofu, the mung beans and sprouts. Steak and kidney casserole, oxtail stew and tongue is on the menu.

And as I slink along the main street they still tsk. “Drove her to meat, he did.” “Really?? Well, I never!”

So, to misquote the melodious Doris Day,
“Don’t, don’t, don’t weed-eat the daffodils! Don’t weed-eat the daffodils, please, please.”
At least not until they look really, really dry and scruffy. Sometime around the end of October.

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