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.