In the world of gardening, I fall into the Death and Destruction Sector. My first plant was a Boston fern, in my dorm room at the University of Maine at Farmington. I watered it. I put it in the sun. I even sang to it.

Jody Rich’s career as a gardener started with a Boston fern that died in her room at UMF, and things only went downhill from there. Photo courtesy of Jody Rich

Dead. I think it’s a family thing.

My father never wanted a garden while the four of us grew up. He endured a large, by-necessity vegetable garden in his youth and didn’t savor a single pleasant memory.

Mom would attempt to grow annuals outside, near the backdoor. She had morning glories vining up the chimney. Those were pretty and the pinnacle of her gardening accomplishments. Inside the house, she clustered five pots of green plants on the hearth. They got some kind of bugs on their leaves, so she took the Raid to them. More than the bugs died.

So, after my plant death at UMF, I didn’t have any others.

Until Rosemary. She can grow anything, anywhere.


Aunt Vi and her father had taught her to garden and she had plants indoors year-round. The spring after we bought our house, I told her I would help her with the side garden by the garage, but she’d have to tell me what to do.

She pointed out a circle of space and said, “Take all of that out.”

“All of it?”

“Yes, all of it. I’ll be back to check on you in a while.”

This is when Rosemary learned that I am a thorough worker. She came back 45 minutes later and found that area full of nice, brown dirt. Not a speck of any living thing.

“Where is the (something or other that I didn’t know was a plant name)?”


“Was it in this (now cleared) area?”

“Yes, it is a perennial (new word to me).” She went on about how wonderful it was and, basically, I stopped understanding so I stopped listening.

“Well, if it was in this area, it is now part of that compost heap.””

“Everything” means everything when every 2-inch green thing looks the same to these untrained eyes.

Death and destruction, that’s me. I can completely remove a cedar bush, a small Chinese crabapple tree, intrusive vines from the lilacs and bittersweet. If you want something dead, I’m your gal.

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