Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Black Beauty

Black Beauty...That is another childhood favorite book, although I would cry myself sick when reading it. I don't think children were shielded as much from life's hardness back in the old days. Many of the books we read were quite distressing.

To avoid chit-chat overload, you can scroll down to the paragraph in bold!

nmsu black smokebush

But also I call this Smokebush on the NMSU campus "Black Beauty." There are three strong bushes and one struggling bush over on a skinny street in the ag area. The struggling bush has its water drip "emitter" not working well. Surely the landscapers can see that it needs more water. Maybe I'll call about it. "Hi, I'm that crazy lady who stands by the smokebushes down by the sheep barn, and cries when she sees the newborn lambs. Ya got a weak tree down here, can someone help it?"

black smokebush blooming

These small trees/bushes are called cotinus coggygria. At a plant nursery, they are devilishly expensive -- out of my pocketbook's range, certainly. I did help myself to three twigs left at the bottom of the bushes after a trim. Okay, that is in effect a LIE. I trimmed them. That's how they got trimmed. They weren't found trimmed. Sheesh, lying on a blog. FOR SHAME. I have them planted but I don't know if they will root. 

smokebush pretty leaves and blooms

My photos do not do this plant justice. It truly looks startlingly black in person. The leaves are so very dark. It is now blooming, and that is the most delightful thing about it. It truly does look like a puff of red-purple smoke when in full bloom.

smokebush bloom

I had a wonderful happening at the community garden. Another gardener was there, a very petite lady of a certain age, and she came up to tell me that my plot had too many weeds in it. "All weeds," she said. "Too many weed. Next time, put plastic, poke a hole for you plant. Weeds under the plastic, they hungry, no sun, no food, they die." She pointed into my plot: "Ha ha, you got so many volunteer sunflower. Too many." She pointed at several other plots. "No weeds. Those mine."

My initial thought was to give her the evil eye, but I decided maybe a language barrier was in play, so I thanked her for her suggestions, and also decided it wasn't really rude for her to simply state the truth, which is that weeds are creeping all over my plot and the volunteer sunflowers are becoming a mob. She didn't leave and go back to her weedless plots, which are beautifully planted, but got closer and pointed at my prized clumps of lemongrass. "You know that not weed, right? You know that something good?" 

I do indeed! "Yes," I said. "It's lemongrass." She looked at it wistfully. "It very expensive. It too expensive. I love the smell, you smelled it? I love the smell, also good for cook. But I love the smell so much."

I, too, love the smell "so much." I said, "Why don't you take some? There is plenty." Her eyes got so bright! But she said, "Oh no, not even one small piece. That yours. I could make a small piece grow, but it not mine. Every plant I have, somebody give to me. I can make anything grow, even small piece, but that yours." And all the time she was looking so wistfully at that lemongrass.

"Nonsense! Please take some. Do you want this clump, or this clump?" The things you can learn about manipulating people, for good purposes: Give them a choice. Suddenly, the question is not whether something will be chosen, but which item will be chosen. The far clump, or the near clump? 

"Far clump, please."

My new gardening friend kept protesting that she was taking "too much" but I just kept trying to dig up a clump with a trowel. We were getting nowhere fast. She said, "I have shovel in truck" and took off to get the shovel. I dug for awhile with a big old shovel, but wasn't having success. She said, "I have machete in truck," and took off and came back with one. After that couldn't separate the clumps, she said, "I have ax in truck," and took off and came back with an ax. I was determined to make the ax work, for fear she would say, "I have nuclear device in truck" and run get it.

She was hugging that clump and just breathing it in. And then she said, "See those onions over there? Those very rare. When they bloom, I give you some pups. You can grow." Oh boy, she wasn't kidding. She has pink Egyptian Walking Onions! These are permanent, perennial onions, and can be used like a green onion and a leek! And they are beautiful!

We talked a bit more, mainly about how some gardeners won't share, even down to not sharing the name of what they are growing! Then we tried to find the toad for awhile and I left feeling uplifted at having met another gardener, and having played a version of Toad Catcher. 

Kind regards,

Olde Dame Holly


  1. some people have that smoke bush here it is very interesting.
    I have the walking onions be careful they take over. but they are good. I would have given her the stink eye to for telling me about my garden but funny about the ax lol

  2. I love the black bush and I loved black beauty too!
    I love the description of this very petite lady! So funny!

  3. Nice to have made a gardening friend at the plots! The nuclear device comment gave me a chuckle - but I think I could use one getting this ash leaf spirea out (sending suckers out everyyyyyywheeerrrrr!) I have walking onions, but not pink ones. They may have a touch of pink, I wonder if they are the same as garden lady's. I used to take bags of the bulbs in to work for people to take, so I didn't get over run. Even so, I see I need to dig up and move some plants back to the bed now. I hope the landscapers fix the struggling bush's emitter soon. And yes, tears came a few times when I read Black Beauty too.

  4. Oh, I chuckled reading about the bush that's not doing well and you wanting to call about that. There is a gas station near my home, and it's abandoned, and it's not something I want to look at every time I drive into my neighborhood. I have been thinking about calling and asking, "what is with this gas station and can you improve the looks of it?" haha That was wonderful to keep your cool with the lady who brought up your weeds. Sometimes people give us suggestions that we could learn from, right? Oh my gosh, as I was reading, this lady was determined to dig up those clumps, and she went way out of her way to do so. My neighbor the other day said she would help me pick up the piles of leaves around the mail boxes. I thought that was so nice and think I will take her up on it. Thanks for the wonderful story today, Holly. : )


  5. That was a funny gardening story! With a great ending! Yes, I've noticed that most of the books I liked as a child are too sad or violent or SOMETHING these days. Maybe they made us stronger. I'd like to think so.

  6. I enjoyed your story. I like lemon grass too. I am not sure mine made the cold Wisconsin winter. I keep crossing my fingers I see green soon.

  7. What a lovely encounter with the woman. I hope your striplings take root and grow into glorious junior black beauties.

  8. A delightful post!

    Do not jump to conclusions too soon.

    If you had, look at all which you would have missed. -smile-


  9. I love my smoke bush! Lemongrass too...but here the grass is an annual. Janice

  10. Sure enjoyed hearing about the lady at your gardening plot. Your story made me laugh. Glad things worked out in the end. I know how you feel about the poor tree that needs water. I've been in our Walmart store three times looking for vegetable plants...oh they have plenty but the poor things are wilted and dry as a bone. I threatened to call headquarters and ask if someone could please water the dying plants. It breaks my heart. They should stop selling plants. Enjoyed your post!!

  11. The story of the fellow gardener who criticized your weeds made me laugh until tears ran down my face. She really was priceless.
    I like smoke bushes too and would have one except they are too big for my space. I did buy 3 or maybe 4 Japanese Tri colour Willows this week. I hope they thrive. I hope your little twigs thrive too. I once 'pruned' a huge 6' cactus in a plant shop and to this day I have offspring from that original prickly bit.

  12. LOVE the story about your new gardening friend!!!

  13. I LOVE THE TOAD CATCHER story and would love to meet that lady. what a priceless story and i smiled and laughed all the way through it.. about Black Beauty, I have cried through every book ever written that has an animal in it. Cujo broke my heart. and Lassie Come home, my dad threaten to smack me if i did not stop crying over a Tom Fool Book. he was not a reader and never did get that books are real to me.. the chemo cream has me waking up every hour or so, last night was good, only once very 2 hours and right back to sleep. i think the reason it is effecting sinus and headaches, is I have to cover the entire nose and it absorbs into the system right on top of the sinus. one more week and I stop for 2 weeks, then start another 2 weeks.

  14. I love any smokebush and that black beauty sure is.

    I had to laugh at the woman who told you about the plastic. I used to put down black plastic, then cardboard over the black plastic. I had NO weeds, but the bermuda grass was very persistent and worked its way through to the areas where I cut small holes to plant veggies. I have finally given up growing in my little garden. Now I just plant herbs in pots and call it good. I REALLY laughed at you trying to divide some lemongrass. That's another herb I grew in pots. Until it died when the weather turned cold one year. Sharing can often lead to new friendships. And you got more out of the deal than you realized.

  15. What a delightful story. And a new friendship. Good thing you finally got the lemongrass. I wouldn't want to read about what that nuclear device did to your sunflowers!!! That smoke bush is pretty.

  16. What a fun story and you've made a gardening friend!! I love your smoke bush!! Happy Spring ~ FlowerLady


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