My Mother Kills It

In Life Lessons on March 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Peppermint is a delicious thing. I love peppermint. Peppermint tea, peppermint white stuff in a chocolate shell, peppermint ice cream, peppermint gum, peppermint jelly. Well, I don’t really like peppermint jelly. But I do like peppermint schnapps. It’s like getting drunk and brushing your teeth at the same time. But peppermint in the garden can be too much of a good thing.

This is a lesson my mother taught me. Too much of anything good becomes a pain in the ass. (Especially the schnapps.)

If you don’t know, peppermint takes over the garden by spreading its roots. Mint can escape from big pots and separate beds as well. As the story goes, one year my mother planted a few pots of mint in her perennial bed. She knew that mint’s a thug, but she thought she’d be able to keep on top of it by edging and whatnot. She was wrong. Before she knew it, the mint had taken over. Whole perennials were covered with mint graffiti. Birds were taken hostage. My mother had to start carrying a handgun when she walked to her car because the mint kept trying to shake her down.

She was forced to go in and rip the plants out by their roots. And then it got her thinking.

“This is what my mind looks like right now,” she said to herself. “A mess.”

She was, at that point, shipwrecked in a particularly thick mess of mint and probably woozy. Mint had wound around all her limbs and was trying to ingest her and it’s possible that there was some sort of “fragrant nectar” being used to intoxicate her senses. But she found a sort of Zen in the experience and by the power of her mind and her machete,  she fought her way out and survived to pass on her wisdom.

“Dawn,” she said, with the calm, battle-scarred demeanor of the true sages. “Your garden is a reflection of what is going on in your mind. If it’s a mess, you are a mess and you must go out and make it better. My mint was like my thoughts. At first, in small controlled bits, it was nice. I had mint for tea. Mint for juleps. Mint for lamb. But then it became like an obsessive boyfriend stalker. I couldn’t even see anything else because of all the mint.” *

For the last few years, my perennial bed has been behaving like the Mums, Black-Eyed Susan’s and wild rose bushes are acting in a summer long production of Animal House. It’s embarrassing. People used to love my garden. They would stop and put their chins in their hands and talk in soft voices to each other while contemplating. They would hold up their thumbs and forefingers and then make sketches in their notebooks. Now they just walk by and shake their heads. The poor Lavender bushes and Bleeding Hearts have become ashamed to even send up their new shoots.

My mother is right. My mind and my garden are a mess. I’ve been having a hard time, lately,  working through the fact that a long-term friendship has ended. The thoughts have consumed me.

Last weekend I decided to try my mother’s advice. I went out and had a “conversation” with the John Belushi of the bunch. He’s a big wild rose that is almost as thick in stalk girth as the ornamental Japanese Maple that lives next to him. I brought my machete and some heavy-duty bolt cutters from Scott’s toolbox. I knew that I had to cut him down to size in order to set an example for the others. He was easily three feet taller than me and four times my size around. Once he figured out what I was going to do, he wrapped his arms around me and clawed at my shoulders. But I was armed. We battled for an hour or more.

After he was chopped and cremated, I went on to the Butterfly Bush and the weird giant weeds I had let grow last year because I was too busy with work and other things and plus I wanted to see what they would end up looking like. I burned them all in the fire pit. My driveway and yard had a definite post –apocalyptic vibe. There was the little rose bush. The little butterfly bush. The sparse, early spring, smoke drift covered bare beds. The bonfire. And me, in flannel, with a machete and bolt cutters and the dirty, bloody look of the victor. Splattered mashed potatoes from the rose bush’s last stand covered my vehicle.

And guess how I felt? Better.


*The conversation went something like that. That’s the gist of it. My mother probably used different examples because, as far as I know, she doesn’t drink julep or eat lamb. And she probably used sage-ier wording. I’m just an ordinary schmuck. I know not what the Yoda would say.


  1. Remind me never to piss you off. 😉 I loved hearing about this and then reading this — your details are so vivid. And I think we should have mint juleps at our first Nibs meeting in May. And wear big fancy hats. And come up with pretend names for horses that will run in the Derby of our dreams. (Can you tell I need coffee???)

  2. Dawn, This is great I love your desriptions.

  3. Great story make me laugh!

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