Snake in the grass spurs inner gardener

You'd think after nearly six decades of living and half of them spent at gardening, I'd have a better sense of time and space.

You'd think I could look at a bare spot and know what kinds of flowers - and how many - would grow there. But more importantly, you'd think I'd have a grip on the amount of time it would take to plant them, and the common sense to check my schedule to see if I even had the time in the first place.

But no, I don't seem to have learned much from my years of experience. It seems every time I go to a nursery, I see dozens of plants I can't resist. And I impulsively buy them all. Then I get them home and realize I bought way too many. Or I don't even have a good place for them. And more often than I want to admit, I don't have time to plant them anyway. So they die and I throw them away, swearing it will never happen again. But it always does.

A few weeks ago, my next-door neighbors planted white impatiens on their side of the concrete storm drain between our driveways, causing our curb appeal to plummet. I knew our driveway was too sunny for impatiens, so I went to Greg's Nursery to find something to complement them. Ah, white vinca. Perfect. Now, should I buy three six-packs, knowing I'd have a few left over and they would probably die? Or should I buy only two, knowing I might have to make a special trip back for a third, which I probably would never find time to do?

The owner, Greg Bennett, asked if I needed help. With a little hesitation, I explained my dilemma.

"It's not like you're the only one who's ever had that problem. Things like that even happen in my yard," he said.

Now, that was hard to believe, coming from a gardening guru.

"Really," he said, "One time my wife asked me to bring home a bale of pine straw for some project she had in mind. I brought it home, and it sat there. And it sat there! I mean, for months it sat there! And then it started to rot and really make the yard look bad. She eventually got around to her project, but as she started to spread the pine straw, a snake slithered out of it. So it sat there some more. Finally, she paid a neighbor kid $5 to get rid of it."

Yesterday I shook the soil off the roots of three dead vincas. The 15 I planted look like they'll make it. But before I write another word, I think I'd better get out there and spread that pine straw I bought for them.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.