By Sue Murphy
The Epcot Flower and Garden Show is dangerous for me. On my last visit, I saw a topiary shaped like Kermit the Frog who was riding a bicycle with a basketful of French baguettes. It was lovely and whimsical at the same time.
The danger is that I now know that creating a Kermit the Frog topiary is indeed possible, and if that is true, it follows that, with the correct amount of talent and training, I could do the same. My mind is filled with visions of me leaning against a hoe (Do you need a hoe for topiaries?), saying to my neighbors, “Oh, it was nothing, just a little water and sunshine.”
I’ve tried to file this dream away with my herb garden fantasy, where I rise early in the dew-drenched morning to snip fresh basil and oregano to use in my simple but delicious recipes. There are several problems with that scenario, not the least of which is that I am not an accomplished cook, but then I’m not an accomplished gardener, either.
Each season, I dutifully go to the garden center and buy a few flats of annuals, but I leave the rest of the yard work to licensed professionals. I do love garden centers, though. They’re serene, hopeful places. They make everything look peacefully easy. You buy their fresh, healthy plants, bring them home, put them in the dirt (green side up) and give them water as needed. And every season, I think, “This time it will work.”
Because my yard has very little direct sunlight, my makeshift herb garden is limited to a few pots on the edge of the driveway. This year, I selected three lovely specimens – one basil, one mint and one cilantro for a corn salsa recipe that is really not cooking but more cut and paste, a skill I honed back to my kindergarten teaching days.
When I got home, I discovered that, instead of cilantro, I had grabbed a citronella plant which would do a bang up job of keeping mosquitoes off of the tortilla chips but probably wouldn’t taste nearly as good. That was fine, but when I went back to the garden center to re-cilantro, I saw a display of grape vines, and thought…ah…a vineyard.
I’ve been to Napa a few times and it’s flat-out beautiful. The denim-clad winery guides speak lovingly of the “terroir” of each vineyard, a mystical combination of soil and sun and moisture unique to each location that combines to create the winery’s distinctive flavor.
My mind was racing. I could plant the half dozen grape vines they had in stock in the partial sun areas out back. I don’t know what the terroir is for my yard, but if grape vines like the same thing that poison ivy does, they’d be happy, happy plants. It wouldn’t bother my dog Dave because he’s so short he could walk right under them. Maybe that’s what I’d call my vineyard, Chateau du Dave…or maybe David (Dah-veed) if I wanted to be fancy. I could grow the grapes and pick the grapes and squish the grapes and age the juice in a barrel in my garage. If each vine produced two dozen grapes, in five years, I’d end up with half a cup.
In the meantime, I could enjoy gazing out at my vineyard, row upon row of gnarly vines. (Actually only one row. They only had six plants in stock.) And somewhere in the middle, there’d be a topiary of Kermit the Frog riding a bicycle.
What? It could happen.