By Stephanie Cavanaugh
As I was just saying to My Prince, Can’t you do something about your tomato plants? They look like sh-t.
The pot of three sits on the front porch, a smallish space, as most of our spaces are. There’s enough room for a couple of chairs, a small table, and a collection of potted, mainly tropical, plants.
The camellia beside the front door is out of bloom, but is healthy and green. The sago palm has new shoots. A wintered-over pink mandevilla is spilling out of the pot near the top step—I’m wishy-washy about sticking them in the ground, the flowers are so nice to see going in and out of the house. My plumeria is entering its third year and has tossed up a spray of leaves; maybe this year it will flower. Also in the wishful-thinking column is the white bird of paradise, which is finally recovering from parakeet nibble-damage and sending out new shoots, if not flowers. Yet.
The window boxes have lots of color. I retained the valance of ivy roped up across the box fronts last winter and added sweet-potato vine to the front edge. I’m quite liking the vine over vine effect.
This is all a little crowded maybe, but eye-catching. A pretty spot to sit with a gin and tonic of an evening and spy on passersby through gaps in the forsythia foliage.
Except. For the tomatoes. These started out small, as plants generally do. Well behaved too. And then they began to grow and straggle. I nixed the wire cage out of the gate; that’s too hideous to abide. So My Prince has them throttled by their necks with metal plant hoops, those tall green metal stakes with loops at the top that theoretically hold plants erect.
This does not quite work. They still have an unpleasant droop and frizzled brownish leaves around the edges, though the plants are perfectly healthy and bearing little fruities. Enough maybe for a salad sometime next month. They also have a, let us say, yucky smell.
Unfortunately, the porch is the only place we have with sufficient sun for tomatoes. The front garden is shaded by a massive elm and the wide-spreading canopy of the red-leaf maple, which is setting up to be a future gardening mistake. Forget the backyard, which is heading into jungle mode.
I feel bad that I can’t appreciate My Prince’s effort, he’s so pleased with himself. But not so bad that I’m not sorely tempted to grab that straggly mess, toss it in a dumpster somewhere far away, blame it on rabbits, and buy some damn tomatoes at the farmers market.