Welcome to Late-night Garden Horror. Your hostess tonight is the mysterious and languid Madame Tillie, mistress of the dark corners of the garden, empress of the dense leaves and the deep shade beneath— behind the wall, under the fronds, back of the stones…
Tonight’s feature is called Windmill Palm, the story of chlorophyll innocence and leaf beauty, airy form and ancient stature which became, somehow, possessed by evil. It is the story of a young palm, planted and cherished, nurtured and loved, only to turn upon its caregiver with unbridled wild unthinkableness that can’t even be comprehended or what the hell is that anyway?!
Because once, not so long ago, the palm was a charming and well-behaved tree, all sweet and manageable and there by the greenhouse door welcoming everyone in, shading the ferns, casting odd shadows. It was exotic and Victorian and I loved it like I would a rose or even a delphinium. (For a dangerous moment I considered adopting a second one, in case palms are flocking plants, but I forgot…)
Then it happened.
I don’t know what I do to deserve these events… I walk outside, in happy devotion to the gardens, and I come upon this eruption or extension or extrusion, coming out of my windmill palm.
It leers. It looms. It reminds me of a cobra, or yes that creature in Alien that would burst out of some poor expendable character’s mid-section.
And now it is spreading, opening, reaching. And if not an alien at least it looks like those millet sprays I used to buy for my parrot.
Okay it’s a flower. But it has creepy down to an art. (I will not be picking a nice bouquet of these to bring inside.)
And no one at the plant nursery happened to mention this so-called flowering when I bought it. They all forgot. Sure.
I am trying to be generous. The “flowers” remind me a bit of Dr. Suess and that’s a positive. They remind me a bit of The Addams Family, another plus. And I like the parrot connection even though I tried for years to get him to say please pass the rum but he would only say what’s your problem and then he would, oddly, make a sound exactly like water going down the kitchen drain…
Oh alright I’m getting over it. And since I am so remarkably grown-up and mature I will also admit that the pair of rhododendrons I accused of never blooming have bloomed–but I still don’t know their names.