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Green Acre #105: Tiny Alice

The hydrangea named Alice. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

I HAVE a new hydrangea. I think I’ll call her Alice.

I didn’t need another hydrangea; we already have two: Phyllis and Margot, whom I’ve discussed before. Then Baby gave me three more this spring, from her own garden in Raleigh, North Carolina, Home of the Deep Fried HoHo. These I haven’t bothered to name because, technically, they’re still hers and will be returned to her when she and her Personal Prince Pete move to their new house in the fall. In reality, this is probably not going to happen, returning the hydrangeas I mean, as they appear quite happy in the front yard and I’m certain Baby will agree to leave them once she sees how content and perky they are.

The Prince and I were visiting friends Alice and Robert at their weekend place overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. Alice is the mother of Baby’s first boyfriend; after so many years I suppose we’re unlaws. Robert, a multilingual classics professor, who can be intimidating at times, is Alice’s permanent live-in beau.

Anyway, Alice and I were tootling around on Saturday afternoon, visiting an antiques mall where I avoided buying a stained-glass lampshade and a bronze monkey lamp. I already have one of those. I did buy a zip-lock package of gold-metal hoop earrings that were $2, less 25%, plus tax, because the person who had the stall was running a sale. I didn’t need the earrings—there are singles of hoops lying all over the house—but rather than matching them with their mates it seemed easier to buy two that were still in sets. You know?

As we were leaving the mall we tripped across this produce stand that also sold plants and flowers, or vice versa. It could have been a garden stand with tomatoes, you know?

So there I was, squishing about in the rain-soggy ground, examining the this and the that, when I came across this lone hydrangea, a particularly large one with many white flowers that resembled snowballs. In fact I thought it was a snowball, something I’ve pined for but somehow never bought. But the young woman in charge, who did not strike me as particularly trustworthy, although that is neither here nor there, said it was a hydrangea. When I asked her, “How much?” she said $25, and calculating in my head what a garden center closer to town might charge and mentally tripling that number, I said: “I’ll take it. Can you carry it to the car for me?” This because I was feeling especially limp from the damp.

She, being very young, and assuming I was very old and incapable (don’t push me, honey), lifted it to schlep across the marshy field and deposited it beside the car.

Overall, it was a calming trip. There was no newspaper and we did not discuss politics until Sunday brunch, which just does not happen in the city. Instead we discussed cheerier subjects such as lung cancer (but she was cured!) and lasering eyeballs.

After we ate, we packed our bags and hoisted Alice, the hydrangea not the person, into the back of the truck and drove home.

This morning I was looking at Alice, sitting in the path to the garage (aka the carriage house, or vice versa), and wondered where the hell I was going to put her. This garden is the sort one measures in square feet, with a ruler, not in fractions of an acre. Where does one put six hydrangeas and still leave space for, among other things, the jasmines, a soon-to-be 30-foot white bird of paradise, the lemon and hibiscus, and seven elephant ears that managed to survive the winter despite, or perhaps because of, my neglect.  I just do not know anymore.

I am done buying plants, really. I am done.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” cultivates her garden and reports back every Thursday. We doubt very much that she’s done buying plants. 

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