FREE Plants! (No, not really)


Beautiful bursts of color had been laid out on the front strip of lawn at the high school across the street from my office. For weeks I’d been thinking I should pop over there and pick up a hanging basket of flowers to add a little beauty to our deck.

As I was driving home on this day, I saw that the whole stretch of lawn was positively crawling with people holding plants. You’d think they were giving them away for free there were so many people carrying plants. Then I saw the sign, “FREE PLANTS.” But as most things in life are not free, the plants were no exception in more ways than one.

Upon inquiry, the kind folks working the plant stand said they were asking for a donation and that then you could have “free” plants. (I must have missed the fine print.) To be fair, the plant sale started as a fundraiser for the high school, the “free plants” offer was just their way of clearing out the plants which had not yet sold when it was time to close the plant stand. So I handed over my donation and selected a few plants as I overheard at least one or two other “customers” say, “so, the plants aren’t free then?”

It was only after I’d loaded up my car that I realized the plants would cost more than my donation. For starters, these plants had been at the stand for a while, so they would need some pruning, pinching back and general cleanup. What I didn’t realize is just what the plants would do to my car. When I removed a few hanging baskets, herbs and strawberry plants from my car, it looked like a greenhouse had exploded inside it. There were bits of plant matter everywhere! My trunk was littered with brown leaves, broken green leaves, stems and flower petals–the passenger side was no different. This is going to need a vacuum.

I set the plants on the floor of the garage before bringing them upstairs. I knew they would need some serious maintenance before dragging them through the living room or my home would end up looking like the inside of my car. The family needed dinner before I could get to this and I dreaded the work ahead.

It was a sultry evening, and as I trimmed plants I broke into a serious sweat before long.

I swear those plants sprouted new brown leaves after I removed the old brown leaves and I’m amazed there was actually any green plant left after all that was trimmed. But several of the plants looked really nice and I was pretty sure a little water would perk up the rest. The plants were basically healthy and I was pleased to note there were no aphids or whiteflies. I brought the plants upstairs and wouldn’t you know, the plants managed to shed even more bits along the way, so yep time to vacuum the living room now too.

It was when I gathered the last couple of plants to bring them upstairs that I noticed something other than plant parts had managed to escape into my car. The rear window revealed a giant moth furiously beating its wings trying to fly through the glass. It was actually quite pretty–yellow wings emblazoned with eye-like gray spots.

So I had to rescue the moth. It was not easy. Every time I thought I had it, the pesky thing dodged my hands just in time to leave a powdery mess behind in my car and on my hands–it was like mothy pixie dust. But I finally closed in and gently captured the moth and its big fuzzy body and let it outside of the car. I then escorted a spider and another crawly insect out of the car. Not sure if every critter had been relocated, at that point I was too tired to care. Ah sleep.

The plants looked lovely on our deck and I started to think that the plant struggle wasn’t all that bad. Even if the donation had been an outright plant purchase, the price was good and if the plants came home when they were in better shape, I’d still have had to give them some care eventually.

It was on my way in to work that I discovered I hadn’t relocated all of the “free” insects that came with the “free” plants. A giant green one dropped down from my visor. It waited until I was at a stoplight to fling its green body at my head. So at least it was a considerate thing. No harm was done as it was quickly shooed out the window and I think that was the last of them.

The next morning, I was eating yogurt when I saw large shadowy shapes pass back and forth behind the balcony blinds. I heard shuffling too. This was definitely too big for insects. Another type of critter had discovered the new plants. SQUIRRELS! Evil Cute little squirrels had decided that the strawberry plants were a feast which I’d put out just for them. The squirrels were devouring the plants–not the berries mind you. There weren’t any berries. The squirrels were eating the woody part of the plants as if it were a nut. ACK!

I searched the mess, there wasn’t anything left to try to put back into the soil. Bits of leaf, stem, soil, plant roots and torn open plastic pot remains covered the balcony. Another greenhouse slaughter. Sigh. I finally discovered one last strawberry plant the furry invaders had missed and relocated it to the living room before the little raiders could return to the scene of the crime to finish the job. I guess I shouldn’t be too upset. The flowers in the hanging pots were untouched and still lovely. And the strawberry plants were free, right?

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