Sniper Gardening (With My Son-In-Law)

By Sandi Schmidt (Bubbles) on October 21, 2010

I promised that the Wedding Reception article was just a lead in to a story about gardening. What follows is a short true story about my gardening experience with my son-in-law. In retrospect, he wasn't exactly a willing participant but that's beside the point. I don't have a photo to document our experience. Didn't think I'd ever need one. There was only one, and it “went missing” shortly after I lent it to my daughter to post on her refrigerator.

My son-in-law is a commercial landscape architect.   He likes everything in it's place, no clutter, a purpose of planting.  I, on the other hand, will plop a plant into any available space in my small, crowded and chaotic gardens.   And when there's no more room in the garden beds, I'll plunk the new finds into pots...lots of pots.   I'm sure I drive his sense of order crazy.

We never anticipated he'd also turn GREEN, however.  At some point after marrying our daughter, he started recycling, sorting the trash, picking up litter off the side of the road, all that good stuff.  I'm fairly sure those traits had not surfaced before the marriage.  I would have noticed.  Possibly, he was unknowingly brain washed after so many late night Austin City Council Meetings.  I'll never know for sure.   My husband and I weren't so much into the Green Movement.  With only two of us, we barely half filled our trash can each week.  Keeping our little patch of grass green, however, had always been a priority for us.

Shortly after marrying, the couple bought their first home.  We were happy because it was only about three miles from us.   With friends and relatives helping, they started renovating the house.  By early September, it was coming along beautifully.  Their yard wasn't faring as well.  The grass was getting brown and crunchy.  I mentioned that a little water would green it up pretty quickly.   Son-in-law reasoned the St. Augustine was probably going dormant already, so no need to turn on the sprinklers and waste the water.

My daughter and I were gabbing later that evening about his reluctance to water the grass.  I said the grass wouldn't be dormant for another two or three months, and she might just water one small square for a few days to prove it was still green.  After some laughing and plotting back and forth, we decided instead of a square patch, a green, grassy “HI” would be more fun.

She reasoned I should do it instead of her, since they both worked and I'd have more time.   I agreed and said I'd water "HI" in the side yard where it wouldn't be readily noticeable for at least a week.  She giggled, "No mom, write "UT."  Her Texas A&M Aggie husband bleeds maroon and despises all things UT, so for me this would be a dangerous and secretive mission.

And so ...whenever I went to the cleaners, the grocery, the library, the mall... I'd drop by their house and water in the shape of the letters “UT.”  Those letters eventually grew to about three by five feet on the front side yard.  Into October, aided by a few short rain showers, the rich green color of the St Augustine was really showing in the entire yard.  The “letters” were a bit darker green.  Our son-in-law wasn't able to appreciate my hard work because he was leaving early and coming home after dark.  However, some of their neighbors started noticing, and had to be sworn to secrecy by our daughter.   We were all getting impatient for him to see the letters, so my husband suggested I ramp it up and add some fertilizer to the watering regime.  I carted a watering can and a packet of Miracle-Gro around in my car for weeks so that I could force the darker letters green and gorgeous.

One of those October afternoons, the UT men's swim coach who lived across the street from them, walked over and surprised me by asking what I was up to.  I popped up and with a smile said, “You don't know me, you haven't seen me, and if you tell on me I'll swear your team did it to impress their coach!”  He shook his head, laughed, and walked off.  I figured I was safe.

The Saturday of the third week of October, our son-in-law ran into their house and yelled for our daughter to come quickly because someone had spray painted “UT” in their front yard.  After he pointed it out, she managed to tell him with a straight face that it looked more like it had been watered in.  The fertilized grass of the letters was definitely longer and darker green than the rest of the lighter rain-watered lawn.  And guess who he blamed?  His wife first, and then me.   When accused, as innocently as I could, I said I might know who could have possibly done it, but three people were involved.  I wasn't taking the fall alone!  He couldn't be positive it was me, but he was certainly suspicious.   And then their neighbors started dropping by to cluck about the mystery letters in the yard.   No one told..... no one saw anything.

Halloween night, Coach spilled the beans telling our son-in-law how funny his mother-in-law was...watering their grass everyday...into a big “UT.”  Shortly after that , I got a phone call informing me I had been “busted.”  And since then I have slept every night with one eye open.

Son-in-law recently mentioned that he sometimes shares this gardening experience of ours with his clients, so I guess he's good naturedly resigned to tolerate his one and only mother-in-law.   And of course, I've certainly given up all hope now of getting Mother-in Law of the Year....ever.

As for Coach, shortly after ratting me out, he left the country to coach the Olympic swim team.  When he returned, they sold the house across the street and moved to a gated community.  I cannot get to him without that entry code... Coincidence? Maybe...

Related articles:
gardening, green gardening, mother-in-law, son-in-law

About Sandi Schmidt
After taking the Master Gardener classes in 2001, I removed half the St Augustine in the front yard and planted beds of deer-resistant perennials. The same approach to the backyard was not as satisfying. Missing the semi-tropicals of the MS Gulf Coast and the tropicals of our years in Hawaii, we added a pond, some small palms, and a few flowering tropicals. I started reading, collecting, and experimenting. After completing the two year course series for Landscape Design Study at Texas A&M, I joined a few garden clubs including the Garden Club of Austin, Violet Crown, and the National Garden Club. Our garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat. We also have a rainwater harvesting system...for all those tropicals!

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
funny!! Ridesredmule Oct 26, 2010 9:42 AM 6
What a great prank! Zanymuse Oct 24, 2010 2:06 PM 6
Classic Bubbles canadanna Oct 22, 2010 7:36 PM 3

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