Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Famous Garden Lady (from Digging Deeper: a Series of Gardening Micro-Stories)

Stilisierte Blumen vor dekorativem Hintergrund, Stilleben, 1908
(Stylized flowers before decorative background, still life) by Egon Schiele
She said she wouldn't listen to the two women unless the word Clematis was pronounced Clem-uh-tis and not Cluh-MAAA-tis.

(Prescriptivist linguistics do not belong in gardening conversations thought the younger woman. Gardeners—by their very nature—should always be descriptivists, but she didn't want to tangle with the famous garden lady in the tall golden grass surrounding them.)

The older woman remarked that she didn't want to be confused by having too many Clem-uh-tis vines from too many pruning groups in her large garden because they were too difficult to remember. The famous garden lady became livid and mean. Her face caught fire quickly—matching the chaotic hair crowning her head. 

She barked at the two women, "I refuse to continue speaking to ANYONE who is so prejudiced about Clem-uh-tis vines and their pruning schedules. That is simply ridiculous and I don't have time for this." As she'd been speaking, she appeared to the younger woman to look like hundreds of tiny little firecrackers writhing on the pavement and then it was over. Much like the fireworks, she'd simply burned herself out.

The two women walked back to the gravel parking lot. Both were a bit shellshocked from the senseless explosion. The older woman crumbled when they reached the car. She'd just finished suffering the humiliation of cancer and had not expected another gardener to be so unkind.

"You don't treat people like that," she said.

"That was uncalled for," said the other woman. "You don't even treat plants like that."

To this day, both women continue to happily garden, and they still call the vines Cluh-MAAA-tis vines.


  1. I'm even worse. I call them "Clemmies".

    Love love love the Schiele!

  2. Yikes! Such bad behavior! I mispronounce things all the time. I actually mispronounced Buddleia once, and got a smirky smackdown for it. So I know how the poor woman felt.


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