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Small Talk: War stories from the garden

With the arrival of the autumnal equinox, and the nip of fall in the air, I was called to be one with nature and do some gardening.

Actually, I was called by another nasty-gram from the homeowner’s association, chastising me for a particularly unkempt corner of my yard.

It’s a small area off the driveway, where my husband planted an olive tree.

That is thriving, but all around it are the ghosts of landscapers past. When our homes were built, they threw in what I believe are wild irises. They are nice and green and they spread like hot peanut butter.

There are about three days in the spring when this plant is blooming and attractive. By fall, it gets pretty stringy looking.

I believe our original plants went dormant during the long drought, because I haven’t even thought about them for years.

But once those rains came and we could water again, they crept up and ran amok.

I prepared thoughtfully for battle. I hydrated with iced tea. I took a nap. I stretched. I put on sunscreen and I gathered my weapons/tools. I had easily dug up some smaller versions of the iris plant, as their roots are fairly shallow.

This, however, was incomplete information, sucking me into a false sense of military dominance.

That is, I thought I could just dig up the bigger plants around the olive tree.

About 30 minutes into that attack, finding the roots unmoved by my shovel and drenched in my own sweat, I realized it was time to break out the big guns, my hedge trimmer.

I went after the top two-thirds of the plants like a madwoman, leaving piles of fauna six inches deep. As I cleared around a cute little volunteer palm tree, I whispered, “Don’t worry, little tree. I’m here to save you,” at which point it stabbed me with several of its hard-to-see thorns.

“Medic,” I screamed. My husband just laughed at me. Clearly the palm is an enemy sympathizer and is not to be trusted.

Once the tall iris leaves were shorn, I grabbed my heavy-duty pruners and tidied up the battlefield. I could now see that when enough of the irises grow together, they are as thick as a tree trunk. I may have won today’s battle, but it looks like major digging and possibly detonation may be called for, before the war of the wild irises is over. I could use a little napalm or maybe weed killer. I’d have to lift my arms to dig again and I’m not sure that will happen anytime soon.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer taking back her garden, a day late and a dollar short. Contact her at [email protected].