AMY IS THE Asian plant vendor we check in with each time we visit the Raleigh, North Carolina, Farmers Market, in this case last Saturday.
Can I say Asian? She may well have deeper American roots than I, despite the curious rice-paddy baggy pants and straw hat that swamp her tiny frame. Perhaps I should call her “Asian inspired.” Yes, that will do.
Amy loves My Prince. She pretty much ignores me. They chat. She strokes his arm, Oooh cashmere, she says, gazing up, way up, adoringly. She says he looks like a professor; I consider this code for he needs a haircut. But he’s happy.
She thinks I look like a professor, he preens. The nuns stuck me in with the dummies in the fourth grade.
I didn’t say dummies, he did.
He does not observe “custody of the tongue”; it’s a phrase I picked up from Mary McCarthy or maybe Muriel Spark—whose book was it? Something about a nunnery. I’ve read it so many times, too. There’s something so appealing about convents, at times. The hush and chants and such. It’s on my fantasy getaway list along with a Swiss sanitarium where they wheel me out in a clean white bed, muffled in blankets, to stare at the Alps as I brave a lengthy recovery from something dramatic. The sanitarium has the advantage that I don’t have to do anything, like scrub floors, but I don’t expect the food is terribly good at either place. A drawback.
My Prince was unfamiliar with the phrase the first of many times I trotted it out when he went off the rails PC-wise. Such a nice way of saying shut up, I think. He’s always surprised at what Jews know about Catholics when Catholics know so little about Jews. Can I say that?
This is all neither here nor there.
We were in Raleigh for Passover. Baby did the Seder again this year, a heroic task I am thrilled to yield. She’s brilliant at it—chopped liver, matzo ball soup, brisket, apple sauce. From my mother’s recipes to me to her, it’s soul satisfying. She went us one better, making her own matzo, for god’s sake, you should pardon the expression.
On Saturday we went plant shopping. From Amy we got vinca and creeping fig and some tall things to replace some unexpectedly deceased rosemary. I’ve forgotten the name already, but they’re quite charming, like a flock of ladybugs nesting among feathery branches.
While The Prince continued schmoozing with Amy, I snuck away to other vendors. She doesn’t offer everything we (meaning I) want, though she seems to think she has everything we need, so this has to be done surreptitiously. She’s easily offended.
One stand had Cuban Oregano, though it may be Mexican, with these large fat leaves and powerful flavor.
Another had potato vines. I always buy them, one centered in each of the window boxes; three upstairs and two down. By August they cascade down the front of the house, the bottoms of the plants on the upper boxes visible from the living room windows, the ones in the lower boxes spilling onto the porch floor. I was thinking of growing them from actual potatoes this year—one can do this! But then I saw these sweet little numbers, a lovely acid green with the slimmest line of purple around the edges, and said: nah, easier to buy.
In any case, we didn’t buy much. Baby and her Personal Prince Pete have sold their house and are moving, in a few months, to a place that’s being built for them. In preparation for the sale of the house, the real estate agent insisted that the three hydrangeas out front be replaced with evergreens. The hydrangeas were in bud, not bloom, and looked spindly, deadish, I suppose, to anyone who doesn’t understand them.
It’s interesting, this real estate tidbit, that homes built in the last decade, quickly lose resale value. There’s always something newer and shinier coming out of the ground. Their house is three years old this summer, so time to move on.
As they’ve gotten into the development business, the new place will be more or less custom, a template design modified at the outset for their wants. One such is a rooftop deck with a view of the Raleigh skyline, such as it is. It is not Manhattan, but it’s nice enough, I suppose. Pretty lights anyway.
So we hauled the hydrangeas home to Washington DC, two purple, one green, along with a jasmine and several other plants that didn’t make the real estate agent’s cut. In theory we’ll hold them until holes can be dug in their new yard. In practice they are ours. This is why we always tootle down with the truck, like hayseeds. Can I say that?
It’s lovely and rainy and cool today and tomorrow, perfect planting weather. Of course, there’s the possibility of a late frost, in which case we will toss blankets on everything.
In a few weeks I’ll buy some flower seeds, zinnias and cosmos and moonflowers and such, because I always do, though little ever comes of it, and maybe something else—fuchsia is always a fine thing for me to kill. But really, I’m done.
Yeah, I know, that’s what I always say.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” shares her musings about plants and gardens and, goodness knows, other things every Thursday.