Conquering the Garden of Evil

March 14th

{I am going to uncharacteristically swear like a sailor in this post; consider it thoroughly influenced by dear Finny, the gardener who got me interested in all this mother of sweet holy moses nonsense in the first place. If you don’t like the f-bomb, take cover.}

A friday night that started with the best of intentions

Friday night started so well

Planting calendar

Welcome to the last 18 hours of my life. It started out well: new seeds from the Tucson trip, nice glass of Friday-night pink girly wine, and a lovely bag of succulent and cacti clippings a friend passed along. I am just adventurous enough in the garden that a sack of new plants makes my heart leap with happiness.

Bag of cuttings

The bag of succulents

Pretty variety

Weird cactus


The sack did include some gems, but after going through my gardening stuff — I realized I needed potting soil. So, the wine waited and off I went to the nursery, where I also picked up a new hose and more worms for the composter. I came home, loaded up the new “soaker” hose and set it out on the back patio to get the earth drenched while I slept. (Couldn’t drink the wine because by the time I’d gotten home, a dozen bugs had decided to take a swim in my pink Friday treat. ) There were four large oleanders on the back section of my patio that I wanted to remove and knew I wouldn’t be able to touch them without getting the earth muddy beforehand. I turned on the hose, went out for a movie, got up and went for a hike this morning and came back to find the new hose in pieces.

Potting table, after

Soaker hoses? Fragile pieces of shit. Save your $15. Really mad I decided to buy gardening supplies in lieu of the basket at this point. The worms on the other hand? Happy little suckers and currently chomping away, making lovely compost. The soil I put to use and now have a pretty potting table full of gorgeous succulents. So, at this point I’m still in a pretty good mood.

Garden of Evil

Enter the oleanders, or as I will now refer to them — the plants of doom, sent by the devil, to torture me.

Three hours later

Quite some time of heavy shoveling later, I’d removed two of these fuckers and my arms look like I’m a heroin addict. I’ve got red, bumpy scratches all over my upper body and the wee bit of my lower legs that were exposed. Of course because the plants of doom are poisonous, these are puffy, ugly scratches morphing into welts. And really? There are only two things that could have made me grouchier.

1. Finding a snake in my garden.

Same snake, same fear


Snake size, by comparison

{HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. It is a baby and let me tell you, I killed it and then taunted the mother to come forward and show her evil face. Actually, I got the heebie geebies and screamed like I was losing my mind. And the snake may have been a little small, but a SNAKE nonetheless. Snakes are one of my greatest fears in life. Not happy at this point. And don’t dare think this is a worm and I don’t know better; it had a little head and black flickering tongue.}

Fucking oleanders

2. Having two rather strong neighbors walk by and each say, “Wow. That looks like hard work. Good luck with that.” as I am bending over, pulling and prodding with all of my might. Lend a hand? Nah. Make a stupid comment and walk by? Yes. Say it with me: Douche bags! Really not happy at this point.

See you later, plants of doom

Rather exhausted and trying to figure out how to cover my wounds. I should probably wash my mouth out with soap at the same time. Oh, and in 6 months, if all goes well — I’ll have some pumpkins, sunflowers and maybe a tomatillo or two.Β  In the meantime, really hoping there isn’t a mama snake.


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Earth Mama, Happy Hippie, Journal
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31 Responses

  1. Yikes! Snakes and poisonous scratchy plants are also on my ‘run away from!’ list. I have some major garden overhauling to do soon and there are some things I am afraid to pull up too! It’ll be worth it in the end right?!

  2. Well, you can’t say there was a dull moment!!! Hope your welts go away real soon (maybe aloe vera will help).
    And the succulents look real purtty!!
    Very soon your garden of evil will look like heaven’s garden!!

  3. I thought you were going to have someone use a truck to help pull those out? Well, you’re probably like me, when I get an idea in my head for a project, I’m going to make it happen come hell or high water (and of course, usually all by myself!)

  4. I laughed and laughed at this post – not at your misery, but because I was picturing you wrestling with the oleander and screaming about the snake, while still managing to whip out your camera and document the events. I’m impressed that you got the snake pictures before doing him in. πŸ™‚

  5. How did you manage to grab your camera in the midst of all this hell?

  6. Kelli~ The number one annoyance for my husband is when at the peak of exhaustion a neighbor rides by and says, “hey, when you’re finished with your yard you can come do mine” GRRRR It will all be worth it when your beautiful new garden goes in. Hint: I like to keep Benadryl Allergy spray on hand for reactions to plants,bugs, etc.

  7. Oh Kelli, after all that you deserve a whole bottle of wine not just a glass! Perhaps even one of those boxes of wine that fits in your fridge!

    Evil oleanders and devilish snake. I think you have cleansed your garden of all evil. Only good can prevail now!

    Keep on keeping on! πŸ™‚

  8. Well, fuckety, fuck, fuck! (Sorry, I bad. Trying to make you smile…..OK, I’ll let the Merlot cleanse my potty mouth)


    Are those Garder snakes? If so they are good for the yard. But I’d squeal too. And the drive by people? Bite me!

  9. Well, you’ve aptly summarized all the reasons why I probably will never get into gardening. Even though I have a decent-sized yard, all I ever personally plant are container plants. I’ve never liked the idea of what all might be lurking in the dirt…especially in AZ.

    And because I live in an old neighborhood, we have tons of really big oleanders, 8-10 feet high, at least. It costs thousands to get them removed so they will be staying forever.

    It does just look like a garter snake–not that I would want to see one in my yard, especially when my body parts are close to it, but it would have creeped me out to kill it more than it would creep me out to leave it and put all my gardening supplies away.

    Bummer about the basket.

  10. OMG such a great post! I mean, I am sorry that you had such a horrible time, but so great that you didn’t just throw in the towel! I probably would have whacked the neighbors with my shovel or thrown the snake at them myself. Even in all of this you are still such an inspiration! I wish I had more women in my life like you. Strong, determined and focused. You rock.

  11. rohanknitter March 14, 2009

    UGH! Snakes don’t bother me much but that’s because there really aren’t any poisonous ones around here – if I lived where you do a snake would freak me out too!! And those plants you dug up look like a back breaking nightmare!! Hope your welts heal quickly!!

  12. Seriously, the only thing oleander is good for is as a wind block. Who the hell puts it right next to the house? Not to mention the roots that could tear into your foundation and its poisonous nature. Of course, that’s just my opinion in case there are any oleander lovers reading this out there πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, after learning that snakes are one of your biggest fears, I feel like a douche bag for mentioning it might be good for the garden! I’m that way with centipedes and spiders. While removing giant snails from the front planter a while back, I uncovered a little nest of centipedes beneath the bark mulch. I seriously screamed that scream of impending death, stomped around on a few babies, ran inside (still screaming) to grab the Raid and proceeded to unload half a can onto the front porch and down in the planter while hopping around in a random ‘don’t enter my flip flop’ fashion. I did *not* return to the task until two days later.

    Hey, remember that scene in Better Off Dead where they’re at the dance and Lane and Charles DeMar are sitting at their table and Beth and her new douche bag boyfriend come up and make the squeally pig noise? Then Charles just busts up laughing? That would have been awesome to do to your neighbors.

  13. I just remembered that you’re a little younger than me so … those golden 80’s flicks may not have that special place in your memory’s humor file like they do mine!!

  14. Though they say that’s the journey that counts, the final result is what really matters, and I guess your green thumb will win!

  15. Finny is rubbing off on you! πŸ˜‰

    I did some plant pulling last week but at least one of my neighbors came over and used his brute strength to get the last of the root so I could pull out my plant.

    I do not like snakes either. Glad this one did not get you!

  16. I’ve heard oleanders are really hard to remove. They are everywhere around us since they grow so well here (used to call them freeway flowers since they had them planted all up and down the freeways).

  17. Ah yes, welcome to the joy of gardening! πŸ™‚ Never a dull moment as you have found, and there are always bound to be critters.

    I have an evil plant to conquer too. Glad you got yours beat into submission.

  18. Snakes are my biggest fear too. We had onein the garden that kep gettign away – black and bright yellow. Pretty actually but none the less frightening! About 1 1/2 years ago after fleeing time anfd gain from this creatruire in my garden I was shutting ther slider door one day and it wouldn;t shut all the way. I kept shoving at it and then ooked down and I had the snake trapped. It was a very hot day and I believe it was trying to get into the cool house. ACK!!! I opened the door enough for it to slither away and I have never seen it again to this day. I am sure he slithered as fast as he could to someone elses garden away form the crazy lady who tried to cut him in half with a slider door! Good riddance! Oleander is a pain the ass – you got that right. Nasty stuff. Your garden is going to be wonderful so hopefully this time in the garden from hell will soon be forgotten or at least laughed about. Happy Sunday!

  19. Yuck oleanders! They are evil.

    Do you have any room left in your garden? I ordered seed potatoes and have too many, let me know if you want some.

  20. Yay–evil plant vanquished through your own hard work, and the snake gone, too! I like garter snakes, but if you don’t, it certainly shouldn’t be in your garden, your Eden. And a big “up yours!” to the smart-ass, lazy neighbors. No fresh produce for them!
    But you know, I’ve always had really good luck with soaker hoses…

  21. Yikes! I am with you on the snakes. One time my cat brought a tiny, tiny snake in the house (size of large worm snake) I had heebie jeebies for a month and was not at all happy with the cat! I am jealous of your succulent cuttings they look great! Good tip on the soaker hose, I was thinking of getting one….right now I have the irrigation rows in my garden. Pics are up at my blog. So far I have 4 pumpkin sprouts coming up, quite a few corn, and I noticed some lettuce one this afternoon that had just poked up!

  22. ali la loca March 15, 2009

    Forget the oleanders, I would have given up at the first site of baby snake! I share your total fear of the things…

  23. OK, just seeing the picture of the snake made me want to scream and run a couple of hot laps around the room. Jakers!

  24. Adding more fuel to the fire, of why I do not garden. Wow.

    I recommend Aveeno for your skin. I forget what they’re called, but they make these little envelopes, and they have oatmeal and other skin soothers in them. You sprinkle them in your bathwater and… aaahhhhhh. I used them when I broke out in hives.

  25. Dear Ms. AfricanKelli,

    On behalf of the dead snake, please report to our re-education offices immediately. Michael Vick and DMX are saving you a seat.




  26. Brrrr. I really enjoyed this post. But brrr about the snake. Although I’m with Tracy – for me it’s centipedes that give me the heebie jeebies. So impressed how you’re making the most of the land you’ve got. Maybe I’ll try again this year.

  27. I’m gonna sit down and write you a nice long email soon, I promise (and I’m so sorry! Lousy friend! Lousy friend!), but in the meantime, I have to tell you that Mark and I were in stitches over this post. STITCHES. If I lived a little closer, I’d SO lend a hand, my dear!
    But…uh…MUSCLES…you appear to have all things in hand anyway…including man-eating snakes, foolish unsympathetic neighbors, man-eating Oleanders… Good Lord girl, is your back not KILLING you? I’m sure that rooting up bushes with trunks the size of a Shetland pony MUST score SOME points with the personal trainer?! Egads. You inspire me and my currently jiggly bat wings. Watch out Rosie, there’s a new pair o’ biceps in town!) You are FABULOUS, gal. Just. Fabulous. πŸ™‚

  28. The Fluff March 17, 2009

    I’m sure that was just a worm. But great post my daughter wants to garden and plant cool stuff. I will send her over next time to help.

  29. I can’t believe you killed the little creature – snakes have rights too πŸ™‚

    Charlie is glad you offed it.

  30. EEEEKKKKK!! I HATE< HATE< HATE snakes! This is why I don’t hike because of my fear of snakes, I guess now I can’t garden either! OH MY GOSH!!!! And yes you probably should wash you mouth out with soap, just make sure it’s the bar kind. I almost killed Tanner when I made him take a one pump hit and then he had an allergic reaction. From that day I was never able to use that as a punishment again! It worked for my childhood, but I guess ingredients changed over the years!