Home & Design

Green Acre #434: Space Invaders

Look carefully: This may be the only blossom ever from this trumpet vine. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

IS IT TIME once again to discuss the judicious use of spray paint and fake flowers in the garden? 

Why, yes, it is!

Heat and lack of rain have been killers for some things (I wish, at the moment, it would kill the young mother across the alley cooing to her baby in the little blow-up pool; I hate baby talk). My two lower window boxes have been doing fine; the three upstairs are struggling. They’re under the house eaves so don’t get much rain, when rain there is. They also get too much sun, hard to believe when I spend so much time cursing the shade.

Oh, shut up, little mama, I will have to muzzle you. She sounds like a horse. A high-pitched whinny Huhuhuhuhuhhhhha every five seconds, I swear. 

We’ll save the fake plants and spray paint until next week because. . . . Suddenly breaking news . . .

Dateline: Washington DC, July 9, 2023, 8 am:

There is a flower on the orange trumpet vine. 

So far, this plant has been a supreme waste of invasive space. One flower in the decade since it was planted. Oh, it’s a lovely shade, though. I spent many minutes admiring it. Even getting my glasses so I could admire it more closely, dangling above the pond. Then I took a photo. It may be the only one we get, so memorializing it seems appropriate. 

I am queen of the invasives—arm-wrestle me for the title if you wish. There’s the trumpet and the white flower vine and the rose of Sharon and the vinca and honeysuckle and the never blooming wisteria, my prize, which flounces across the garage roof, and to which I’ve devoted a great deal of cyberspace in the 40—FORTY—years since it was planted. Stupid thing. My Prince was on the roof—the garage is freestanding and at the end of the garden—thwacking away at it the other day: The Kwanzan cherry’s branches are now a complete umbrella over the garden, reaching from the porch steps across the entire backyard, where it has become entangled with the vine.

Note: Forty years. Prince and his Irish skin. Brutal heat. Blazing sun. Black roof. I watch from the kitchen window, planning his funeral.  

Everything fights with everything for wall space in this garden. 

Speaking of which. Well, speaking of gardens, anyway. Have you thought of planting corn as an ornamental screen? I imagine not. 

We went to our first movie post-Covid yesterday, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,* co-starring the always delightful Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I love her sarcastic eyes. Out in time for dinner at Las Placitas, our favorite of the many Mexican (Salvadoran) restaurants in the neighborhood. They have tubs of corn plants outlining the patio that have actually corned, or whatever it is corn does.

These are not dracaena, the ornamental houseplants that are also called corn. These are the fruit-bearing—Wait! Is corn fruit? Well, on investigation, some call it a fruit, others a vegetable, and others a vehicle for butter. So, I guess we could say they fruited. 

Whichever, they looked very cool and tropical, in the context of margaritas and guacamole. I once suggested growing them to Baby, who in a previous house had a view that deserved screening and no money or patience to grow something tall and permanent for shielding.

She screwed up her perfect little nose. Corn? she snorted. 

However, corn is so easy to grow (I imagine. See wisteria). And it grows as high as an elephant‘s eye, they say**. It’s also interesting-looking, if not pretty, with its silky tops.

How does one do it, and when? It’s best to plant seed in full sun in April or May if you want to see cornlets, but you can start it now, in early July, if you’re just going for fast height and foliage.

Or buy the plants already started, Home Depot offers a six-pack for $5.98. You’ll quickly have a screen and you might see a corn.

*Antonio Banderas has third billing in the film in which he’s seen for about five minutes and is so grizzled he’s scarcely recognizable. Is that??? one says. Yep, one answers. The big question is WHY is he in this movie, on a fishing boat in Greece, for maybe five minutes. I can find no answer. 

** Rodgers and Hammerstein, who wrote Oklahoma!, whence originates “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” were both Jewish boys from Manhattan, meaning they had about as much knowledge of corn growing as . . . I do. 



2 thoughts on “Green Acre #434: Space Invaders

  1. Mary K Weddle says:

    Corn – it’s the American way, right? And love the reference to Oklahoma! Some great tunes and lyrics!

  2. cynthia tilson says:

    thank you…delightful way to begin my day…and yes! I recognized Antonio immediately, although it took until the credits to convince my gal pals.

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