Gardens of Guilt

I have a garden, which I’ve wanted for years. In New York I had to be satisfied with window boxes and urban tomatoes (they look pretty but oh, those airborne carcinogens, especially if the tomatoes in question grew fourteen stories above a 14th street bus stop).  Now I’ve got jasmine and bougainvillea (a word I cannot spell correctly on the first try, ever), and desert rose, and even a few tiny pots of herbs: lemon mint, peppermint, basil.

Caught up in quasi-tropical fantasies, I also planted miniature lemon trees–one in the corner of the backyard, and two in big pots in the front.  I imagined myself in someone else’s life or a magazine as a lady of leisure, sitting on the patio sipping coffee while the sweet smell of lemon blossoms wafted around my head.  It’s a pretty picture, right?

Would you like to know what happened to my pretty picture?

GREEN WORMS OF LEMONTREE DEATH, that’s what happened.


I had a dilemma. Because of course, the eco-gal I want to be thought, “gosh better get some kind of non-toxic spray, or some soapy water, or….”

But the person who wanted to sip coffee and smell lemon blossoms was chanting DIE DIE DIE.

Here’s the thing (rationalization coming up, be warned): it’s hard to find organic, non-toxic stuff in Abu Dhabi.  And I tried the simple “flick ’em off” manuever,but those green bastards were attacked with millions of tiny caterpillar feet.

Yes, people, I know. But it’s one thing to read your adorable toddler Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and another thing to see those voracious mofos munching down your defenseless little tree.  I mean, where is the tree in all this, amirite?

I went toxic. I went full-bore spray on those green gobblers and the next day they were gone. Of course, so were most of the leaves on my poor plant.

But at least the plants in front were safe, I thought, and then I saw the tell-tale signs on those leaves, too: small, not-yet grown caterpillars. I resisted toxins and instead flicked, and flicked, and flicked. If one of those little grubs landed on a happy patch of dirt, great; if its caterpillar brains were dashed against the pavement, well, sorry dude, karma’s a bitch. Eat my tree, you’re gonna eat pavement.

Now every day when I walk out my front door, I get a whiff of delicate blossoms:


It’s the sweet smell of my life-of-leisure fantasies, which will remain with me even as I am driving to school drop-off, to work, to the grocery store, to soccer practice.

I walk right past those dessicated caterpillar corpses. Don’t even see ’em. I figure I’ve created a buffet for birds, right? It’s all the great circle of life.

But I think that when I’m in the States over the holidays, I’m going to buy a few cans of non-toxic, environmentally friendly caterpillar killer.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

, , , ,

17 Responses to Gardens of Guilt

  1. Tracy November 17, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    Excellent! A friend of mine (Lebanese American, grew up here, went to a school your boys formerly attended,) said that every time they moved houses his mom planted a lemon tree.

    I tried to have a lemon tree but ended up with a lime tree, which is also cool. It gives 30 to 40 limes a week, twice a year.

    I recommend tickling it, and your bouganvillia (sp) etc in order to cross pollinate it. Mine gets pollinated by the birds which I overfeed. In a year it has grown maybe five feet taller and is massive. Seriously. You will be soon looking at marmalade recipes.

    Thanks for the blog and best of luck with your harvest!

    • Deborah Quinn November 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Tracy! Thanks for stopping by the blog – and I have to ask, what does “tickling” mean, for a lemon tree, or any tree? Do tell?? And are there hummingbirds here? I am wanting a hummingbird feeder but not to feed the seagulls! Any bird-related suggestions??

  2. Cindy - The Reedster Speaks November 21, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    I totally imagine myself sipping lemonade made from your lemons from a mason jar with a striped paper straw on our veranda. NO MOFO CATERPILLARS IN SIGHT.
    Cindy – The Reedster Speaks recently posted..Drivin’ down the road.My Profile

    • Deborah Quinn November 22, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      you are sharing my vision and I thank you…the caterpillars can go to their own veranda, dang it.

  3. William Dameron November 21, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    I planted a hug garden in New Hampshire and it rained, rained, rained. This was OK for the garden but a paradise for slugs, which ate everything in sight. Like you, I didn’t want toxins and would go out and spray them with vinegar water and salt. It was not a pretty death for them, but such sweet revenge for me. It would have been nice to have the lemon blossom smell, though…..
    William Dameron recently posted..Take Me Home, Country RoadsMy Profile

    • William Dameron November 21, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

      And by “hug” I mean “huge”, although a hug garden does sound nice, though doesn’t it?
      William Dameron recently posted..Take Me Home, Country RoadsMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn November 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

      I think a hug garden is really a great idea. like a butterfly garden but with touching. My grandmother used to put little dishes of beer in front of her plants b/c the slugs loved it…they’d slug their way over & drown in the beer. Then she’d pay my cousins to dispose of drunk slugs. It worked, and probably a nicer way to die than death by vinegar shrivel. (Ever poured salt on a slug? hehehheheh)

  4. Christie November 22, 2013 at 2:08 am #

    bougainvillea. Gorgeous word. Every year I threaten to do a city garden but turns out those don’t grow themselves. So every year I keep not having one. BUmmer. You go get those little buggers.

    • Deborah Quinn November 22, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      I love a city garden if by city garden you mean: pot of basil, pot of flowers, pot of something that I forgot what it was. Those gardens I know, but this is my first actual plot of dirt for which I am solely responsible. I’m wicked intimidated.

  5. Angela Ryan November 22, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    Sorry you had to go toxic, but they are lovely lemon trees.

  6. Stacie November 22, 2013 at 5:02 am #

    You gotta do what you gotta do. I miss my Meyer lemon and lime trees. They just don’t survive in the East Coast weather. But I had really good ones in CA. And no caterpillars!
    Stacie recently posted..Comment on Old And Decrepit by MarcyMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn November 22, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

      No caterpillars in Cali? See, that should be on a bumpersticker or something. I don’t know if I will ever be able to eat the fruit from these trees, but they do smell deeeevine.

  7. Karen P November 22, 2013 at 5:52 am #

    I totally understand! I’ve had vegetable gardens and have had the same dilemma…to kill or not to kill.

    • Deborah Quinn November 22, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      Who knew that a garden could become such an ethically charged space! Thanks for stopping by …

  8. Karen November 22, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    A lemon tree sounds divine. Like Bill mentioned, I wonder if vinegar and water would work. That’s a crazy amount of giant caterpillars in that picture of yours though.

    • Deborah Quinn November 22, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      Next time, I’m going vinegar and water…but have to say, whatever those toxins were, they were *good* because nary a caterpillar in sight!

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes