red watering canWhile I may be T Ching’s Resident Tea Heathen, allowed to grace its pages mostly because I drink the occasional cuppa and can spell – oh, and maybe also since I’ve known Erika, the managing editor, for 25 years – in The Real World I am also a Total Gardening Aficionado Ho.

I blame it entirely on my father, who fled post-war Germany as a teenager, not due to religious persecution, but because he couldn’t grow a decent tomato.

Worshipping the climate, he planted us all in Sunny California and the overgrown house I grew up in was dubbed “The Jungle” by the whole neighborhood.  In my family, “deciduous” was a four-letter word and when my father retired to Hawaii (“…where stuff grows REALLY fast”), astronauts orbiting the Earth began to report a “large green warty thing” overtaking Hilo.  Believe it or not, most global warming models show that without my father’s gardening, we’d be twenty years further down the hot hot hot road – we have a plaque from Al Gore to prove it.  Not to let my mom totally off the hook, yet where she could appreciate simple flora – “doesn’t this gardenia smell NICE?” – my dad and I were channeling Johnny Appleseed on crack: “hey, didja hear? Miracle Gro’s on sale – let’s go buy a KILO!”

flower houseHIGH, BUT NOT DRY
My personal contribution to the California drought flourishes in the hills of Topanga.  Despite Native Plant Nazis (“…touch a leaf on that oak sprout and DIE”), and fire-prevention zealots who want us to live on a pad of concrete (“…just for a 200 foot radius”), I grow TONS of flowers: roses and lavender and nasturtiums and sweet peas and geraniums and jasmine and rosemary (Yes, even herbs bloom for me)…  And even The Occasional Decent Tomato.

My thumb is so green (and not just from the aphids that I lovingly squish with my bare hands) that free-range verbena spontaneously sprouts from the asphalt in our driveway.  When I confessed to my favorite nurseryman that our potted roses had busted through the bottom of their plastic containers and worked their roots down through the macadam, he said that they had a name for folks like me and it rhymed with “fanatics” – still my credit card went through, just the same.

But enough about me and the roots of my gardening obsession – this is a TEA site, so let’s get to it!  What role does tea play in the garden?  Can you use it to poison snails? – NAH, that’s beer.  Does it enrich the soil like coffee?  I had no idea.  So I did some research and in addition to the yucky, gross, organically disgusting topics of “worm tea” and “compost tea”, I discovered that used tea leaves make great soil, and it’s fun to get jiggy and put tea on your hydrangeas.  Besides nurturing your garden, my web wandering also led me to topics like: how to grow your own herbal tea.  An interesting challenge, except unless they sprout teabags – preferably packaged in easy-open boxes – it was way too exotic for me.

Still, I must confess that this *fascinating* piece about tea and gardening isn’t really what I set out to write.  What’s really on my mind is the story of my next door neighbor and how close I have come to choking him this year with his obscenely overgrown zucchini.  And of course how tea plays a role.  Somehow.

I’d launch right into the exorcism now, but my Word Count Detector warns me that I have Hit The Wall and so I must defer the story of My Irritating Neighbor and his Equally Irritating Garden until my next post.  At least you will think I am a Nice Person for one more month…