Sometimes I drive to Walmart to visit the dying plants in their garden center. I’ve been three times this week already.
I figure, despite all the things I may or may not have against Walmart, the plants never did anything wrong. They came into this world expecting soil and sunshine and clear flowing fountains of water to quench their thristy root systems. And, at first, their lives at Walmart suggested that this kind of existence was possible. Dozens of people came to visit them, hour after hour. Picking them up, examining their leaves, deciding who looked best next to whom. Flats of lucky annuals and perrenials, shrubs and trees, were chosen and paid for and loaded up in mini-vans and pick-up trucks and driven home where they were planted in back yards, flower beds, borders, and gardens, and given names, and loved.
But as the weeks went by, as the days grew longer and the sun grew stronger and hotter and more relentless, those plants which had not been chosen and paid for begin to show their neglect. They droop and sag and shrivel. They become jaundiced as their lush green fades away to sickness. It’s so sad to see them all lined up in their flats, dry and sun-scorched, clinging to the hope that someone might still come to rescue them. They don’t know that the signs placed at the ends of their rows say “Clearance,” “$.50,” or “$2.00.” They can’t read. They have no idea what sort of future awaits them. What happens, say, if no one wants a $.50 plant? Will the price be reduced further? Or will the dried-up stems be ripped from their plastic pot so the pot can be rinsed out and used again for another helpless plant next year?
I can’t just watch them die. I have to do something.
On Sunday I rescued two palms, named them Castor and Pollux (after the twin Roman gods who were born from an egg), and gave them a home on top of the piano. Every time I see them standing proudly in the living room, I get this warm, good feeling. I saved them from certain death. I know they’re grateful. I can see it in their fronds.
But I couldn’t shake the image of all the rest of the plants from my head. While Castor and Pollux are safe in my living room, there are rows and rows of other plants wasting away at Walmart.
So I went back. I had to go back.
I was relieved to see that some plants had been bought since the last time I was there. All the palms were gone, and the difenbacquia, and some of the gerbera daisies, too. Either that or they’d died and their plastic pots had already been emptied and sprayed clean. Or worse, they’d just been thrown straight away—plant, pot and all! I couldn’t bear to think of it.
Then I saw a section that had not changed since my last visit. The rows of shrubs on a long flat bed. Not one spare space on the table. Not one plant had been liberated.
I knew what I needed to do. One cart wouldn’t be big enough. I found a salesclerk.
It’s a good thing I’d had enough foresight to bring Emily’s Escape. Those 26 shrubs would never have fit in my Accord. It took the salesclerk and I fifteen minutes to ring them all up and load them in the back. She never asked me why I was buying so many bushes, but she did give me a few questioning glances when she thought I couldn’t see her. She’d probably meet up with her coworkers in the employee lounge later to tell them about the freak who bought all the shrubs. I didn’t care.
On the drive home I racked my brain for ideas. What was I supposed to do with all these bushes now? I’d saved them, yes, and that was good. But I hadn’t planned much further in operation “Save All the Shrubs!” If could just line them up in the driveway, maybe, I thought, and make sure they get plenty of water. But was that really a better life than what they’d had at Walmart? They needed to have their own bit of ground to stretch out their roots in and make a home.
That’s when I had the perfect thought: the garden! I hadn’t planted any vegetables because I didn’t want to see them all massacred by the bunnies. But bunnies don’t bother shrubs. So the shrubs can live in the garden! O, how they will love it there!
I’m on my way outside now to plant them. I think they’ll be happiest in three long rows.
Now, what to name them all . . .