It was a gift exchange of sorts. On Mother's Day afternoon I was planting one zinnia, an aromatic garden sage and Thai Basel when up the driveway came a brightly colored collection of flowers wrapped in plastic and another group in a small jug, a sack and a long box. At least that was what caught my eye before I checked who was behind the surprise to see a few of my nearest and dearest. We carried things inside and promptly found a tall vase for the long blooms.

It was a gift exchange of sorts. On Mother’s Day afternoon I was planting one zinnia, an aromatic garden sage and Thai Basel when up the driveway came a brightly colored collection of flowers wrapped in plastic and another group in a small jug, a sack and a long box. At least that was what caught my eye before I checked who was behind the surprise to see a few of my nearest and dearest. We carried things inside and promptly found a tall vase for the long blooms.

The tall vase elegantly displayed yellow roses, yellow lilies, deep red Lilies of the Incas, stems of purple leaves, long green strap leaves and two cabbages stripped down to bare stalks leaving large leafy buds. Novel idea for those who grew a bumper crop of cabbages and have grown tired of eating cooked cabbage, sauerkraut, Cole slaw, Bierocks (German yeast rolls filled with meat and cabbage), cabbage soup, corned beef and cabbage, Bubble ‘n’ Squeak (British fry-up of potatoes and cabbage), Reuben sandwiches, or Puerto Rican cabbage salad.

The shorter round white pitcher was placed next to the vase. Filled with orange roses, red carnations, purple phlox, one large orange daisy, and soon to bloom yellow lilies, but what were the three fuzzy green balls? Curious lime green flowers in soft fluffy orbs that invited gentle caressing similar to what one would do with a Koosh ball. New to me, these were ‘Green Ball’ Dianthus. Florists love the green blooms of the hybrid Dianthus barbatus, or as one Canadian called them “hairy green tennis balls.” A very tactile bouquet.

In the sack were Kerrygold cheese and bread crisps. I am especially fond of the Irish Kerrygold cheese. The true Mother’s Day gift was in the long box now sitting on the floor. Inside was an 18V Lithium battery with charger and dual-purpose lightweight machine not only a string trimmer but edger. Weed eaters usually come with two drawbacks: weight and energy source. The larger ones indeed have enough power to cut down a tree, but lugging around a gas tank on a stick gives me the feeling of using a Molotov cocktail to cut grass, plus it requires strong He-Woman muscles. Dragging a long electric cord is too close to stretching a long heavy water hose across miles of landscape to get to that one last plant. More than enough incentive for me to grab a pair of snips, clips or shears.

The day-glow green (or International Distress yellow, depending) 3.3 pound device is so cool. I could hardly wait to try out my new toy, but the battery needed charging. Shadows grew long as the sun set. It was soon time for our company to leave. By the jeep stood their Mother’s Day gift. Surprise! one three-foot tall cherry tomato plant. Because of what the squirrels had done last year (ate every tomato and green pepper around), this year they vowed no tomatoes. Everyone has to have at least one tomato plant if they live in Oklahoma. It’s an Okie requirement. Their plans have been foiled by this robust garden denizen which did have two small green tomatoes hidden within the leaves. The mention of garden netting not only brought snickers but peals of laughter as they backed

out of the driveway. I halfway expected to see the tomato at the side of the road as they drove off, but pictures prove their Solanum lycopersicum, descendent of South American tomatoes, had at least made it to their home.

Next day the battery was charged and ready. I immediately set to chopping down Sericea lespedeza, an Asian legume with delicate deep green leaves and a foot-long taproot. In 1896 somebody in North Carolina had this brilliant idea to control erosion, stabilize mine sites and provide nutritious food by planting Chinese Lespedeza, not native Lespedeza. The foreign perennial took off and never looked back. Presently, Sericea (Lespedeza cuneata) is concentrated in the southern and eastern states. The clover is a drought tolerant, fast growing invasive which crowds out native plants. It produces toxic chemicals that inhibit growth of plants and seeds that survive for decades. Natural diversity is pretty well destroyed when large patches of this clover become established.

A tool is now available for controlling the beast. In the past we tried to cut the Sericea with a lawn mower before it bloomed while not destroying the larger leaf native clovers. With so many bumble, honey and native bees, butterflies, moths, other insects that live here, glyphosate (Roundup) is not an option.

My green weed-eater and I dove deep into tall grass territory, inflicting little damage except on the Sericea. Very satisfying to grind the plant nearly to the ground. I discovered my technique needed a bit of work when trimming around the pollinator garden and Oakleaf hydrangea. The Daisy Fleabane that had been nurtured for weeks went down before I realized the string had decapitated my lovely flower. I brought it indoors and stuck the plant, still in shock, inside the vase with the other Mother’s Day flowers. The small daisies severely drooped. Back outside I then tried the trimmer on the Wisteria, snapping off vines and tendrils. Tall bunch grass took several descending swipes. The Japanese honeysuckle fought back. The buckbrush caused the machine to yell. Before I reached the hollies and forsythia, I was reminded we did have a hedge trimmer. Oh yes. So, I reined in my little trimmer and finished tidying up around the paths and walkways and killed the battery. It was put it into the charger and I walked indoors. Every little stem on the daisy was standing up with a tiny open flower at each end. It lives for another day.

This past Wednesday, the talk that followed the Multi-County Master Gardener meeting was actually both an advertisement and presentation of a garden box that ‘turns brown thumbs green’ using a unique watering system. Since Larry and Letitia Pierce are from Newalla, just miles from my house, I figure they deserve the support of our community. As an Earth Box and Gro Box proponent for years (5 boxes) I noticed their deeper self-watering boxes can be linked together in an innovative passive water flow system. Clever. The “Garden Anywhere Box” (GAB) is basically set up much like an Earth box: an elevated platform inside the box with soil wells, tube, fertilizer, dolomite, and a plastic cover. The “GAB” also comes with water tubing but, as with the Earth Box, no potting mix. Each box holds 2 cu ft of potting mix, but Letitia Pierce stressed not to use garden soil. No weeding. Portable. Self-watering. Easy. Give the “Garden Anywhere Box” a go at www.gardenanywherebox.com.

The trimmer battery has been recharged. I see the Sericea growing! Bye y’all.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.