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Welcome to open season on ‘plant currency’

Tue., April 24, 2007, midnight

I went to Wal-mart today thinking I needed a bag of seed potatoes.

I came out of there with nearly $100 of various plants, and seed potatoes only as an afterthought.

It always happens this way. Every spring as Wal-Mart starts to stock its greenhouse for the season, I drop in to see the two wonderful ladies who work there and who have seen me so often during growing season that we all have become friends.

“Elaine and Rosalyn!” I announce to them, “I am making my annual spring debut here! From now on, you will see me twice a week!”

Because of this, I secretly call myself the “Wal-Mart Debutante.” I make a beeline straight to the discount shelf every time.

A lot of what is in my garden came from those 50 percent-off shelves.

During the last three years when I was building the garden up, I would come home many days with the car loaded with pots. The driveway became a makeshift holding bed through out the season. There was rarely a day that it was clear enough to park my car.

The car I drive is, I dare say, the dirtiest “soccer mom” vehicle in town.

The children are often squeezed in among pots and plants in the car, and dare not move around lest they risk being poked by something.

To this madness, which is akin to a woman’s frantic nest-building before her baby is born, the man who is bankrolling it all – my husband – takes it all in stride.

He has never once asked, “How much?”

Whether this is a purposeful indulgence or benign neglect I cannot tell. But I embrace his “don’t ask” approach with a “don’t tell” strategy. In the shared silence, we enjoy a mutual understanding and appreciation and a lot of peace in the house.

A neighbor once remarked “Don’t you have a budget for your garden?”

Well, I do and I don’t.

I rob Peter to pay Mary. Part of the money I take right out of the family’s mouth. I buy mostly bulk and whole food. I am willing to slave over the stove every day to save money. The pantry is stocked with 25-pound bags of beans and a 50-pound bag of rice and the like.

I have no problem chopping potatoes to make French fries at home so I can buy the next rose. We eat stir-fry instead of steaks to stretch the dollars so I can pick to my heart’s content at the discount shelf.

A loaf of fancy bread costs as much as some gallon-pot perennials. Well, then, fancy bread we don’t eat very often.

And pizza? A pizza costs two roses! Not tonight. When the conversion to plant currency starts clicking, I drown out the sound of everybody’s tummy growling by hitting the wok harder with the spatula.

I deem the worthiness of something by how much it will cost in plants. In plant currency, a pizza will last 30 minutes. But two roses will last for years.

Now that the backbone of the garden is built, I do not need as many plants. In fact I do not need any more plants. But that does not mean I am not buying.

The new motto here is, “Buy now, worry where to put later.”

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