It was something done in the veil of darkness after the neighbors had retreated from the muggy evening heat to their air-conditioned living rooms and prime-time viewing. It was not something to be conducted during daylight, and it has been kept secret—until now.
Perhaps humans enjoy displaying our strange behaviors—or perhaps we all possess an inner desire to come clean; regardless, I’ve chosen to expose our “dirty little secret” and openly confess to the citizens of the world.
My husband and I have painted our dead yews green.
The whole episode started this spring when five yews were planted in front of our home. According to the county ag agent in charge of yews, the planting was done correctly, and, because the yews were container grown bushes, three of them just died.
Funds were low and the season late when we realized there was no hope for the struggling bushes. Two of the smaller yews remained healthy and green, but the three larger bushes turned a sickly yellowish brown. Soon, all green disappeared from their needles. They stood, three lifeless and barren bushes in a line along the front of the house with the two lush, green yews.
Our choices were limited: pull up the dead yews and have gaping holes in the line of bushes or leave the brown yews alone—a stark symbol of our failure as horticulturists.
Then my ever-clever husband hit upon a third option: spray paint the brownish-yellow yews green. And thus, our plans for The Painting began.
We realized such a scheme would be deemed tacky by most, so it was decided The Painting would occur in the cover of darkness, at about 22 hundred hours. A trip to an out-of-town store for the spray paint would be necessary. After all, what if a local store clerk, in her desire to be helpful, asked us what the goods were for? To announce in one’s small home town the planned purpose would bring embarrassment upon our household. So, a trip to an impersonal store in another town was scheduled.
The plan was being carried off flawlessly when a hitch developed at the impersonal store. My husband and I stood in the spray paint aisle examining the varied hues of green.
“Here’s a green I think sounds perfect,” I said, pointing to a can of forest green with a satin finish. “This ‘forest’ color sounds promising.”
My husband, however, clutched his own can with a green lid. “This is on sale!” he exclaimed. “I think it’s a perfect match.”
I took the can from him, looking at the lid and color description. “It’s Kelly green. And what’s worse, it’s a gloss. We don’t want the yews to shine. No, this satin finish is a much better choice.”
My husband’s eyes rolled toward the ceiling. I could see hin computing the monetary difference between the paints. After a few seconds, the financial result was announced. “The forest green will cost us thirty cents more. Since we don’t even know if this will work, I think we should save the money.”
I’m a penny-pincher at heart, and my husband knows that. For the savings of thirty cents, his paint choice won, and we left for home with a can of glossy Kelly green.
That evening, after sunset, we snuck out to the front yard, flashlight and Kelly green in tow. The Painting was done silently, and in a matter of minutes, our dead yews looked green and vibrant. It was a triumph of paint technology.
I don’t know what our neighbors thought when they awoke the next morning to find our yews miraculously recovered overnight. Perhaps they guessed from the start. There were, after all, clues. The spray-painted yews were a few shades darker and bluer than the real yews. The dirt around the painted yews was the same color as the yews. And the worst part, the painted yews shone like newly waxed cars in the sun.
You may drive by and look at our dead yews if you would like. If the sun is shining, you will need your sunglasses for optimum viewing.
As I write this, a dream is growing in my backyard. Four dreams, actually – all of them French mantilla butterhead lettuces.
Granted, it’s a weak start for a garden; but then, I’m a born and bred city girl. Neither my parents nor our neighbors would have ever dared take a till to their perfect, lush suburban lawns, so it’s not in my recent lineage to garden.
However, since graduating from college, I have had this hankering to try my thumb at vegetables, but my housing locations were never right for it – until now. Having recently moved to a rural, small town and a yard bigger than our car, I decided it was time to make a dream come true.
As spring neared, I checked out organic gardening books from the library. Soon, I had picked the perfect spot for my garden and had even chosen what to plant. I was limited in the vegetable choices because my husband, a known supporter of veggiecide, willingly only consumes a few things green – one of them being peas and the other, of all vegetables, lima beans.
Then the purchasing began: seeds, top soil, fertilizer, fence posts, chicken wire, seed starter pots, peat pots. My vegetable abhorring husband was patient as check after check flew off to seed companies.
In early spring, a friend arrived with his tiller. It was a banner day for me. The dream was about to take shape. After giving my husband instructions on the tiller’s operation, the friend and I stepped back to watch. It was obvious from the get-go the tiller had the better of my husband. His face screwed with frustration as he struggled against the beast to till row after row. Our friend turned to me and declared, “He looks like a city boy.” Which, of course, he is.
I forced my husband out to the plot of brown, lonely soil yesterday to proudly show off my growing produce.
“Here,” I said, hopping on my toes and pointing to a small corner of the fenced soil. “I have four lettuces growing!”
He squinted at the tiny, green flecks emerging from the ground. “Are you sure that’s not chickweed?” he asked.
“Of course not! That’s chickweed. Over there.” I pointed to another section of the garden.
“Isn’t that where you planted carrots?” he asked. “Where are the snap peas?”
“They were supposed to germinate here. I think I need to go back to the library and read more about peas.”
He stared at the colorless soil where the peas should have been. Then his eyes began darting across the garden, seeking his favorite vegetable. “Where are the lima beans?” His voice rose a pitch.
“Over there,” I said, nodding in a northerly direction.
“Where?” He squinted again.
“I think I’d better get over to the library,” I replied lamely.
He looked back at the four ragged lettuce heads struggling for existence in the barren garden. I could see him adding up the cost of the seeds, top soil, fencing and so forth in his head. I had done this previously and arrived at the exorbitant sum of well over ten dollars for each of my lettuce heads.
He didn’t comment on the expensive lettuce. He just smiled warmly at me and walked back toward the house humming the theme from the TV show “Green Acres.”
I know my neighbors walk by my leafless, little garden and smile as they mutter “City Girl.” And yes, it’s true, but my colorless garden looks like a city girl’s dream to me.
Beaten and scarred —
In its younger days
When it was lithe and green,
Some boys thought
It would be great fun
To play lumberjacks.
Soon they tired of their endeavor.
So it stood
Wounded and Bleeding —
When it was older
And the scars had turned ashen,
Some girls thought
It would be great fun
To put red spray paint
All over the ashen wounds.
Still it stood
Disfigured and Deformed –