They’re not really worms, they’re sawfly larvae, and they’re everywhere, scouring the green tissue from each leaf, leaving behind a veiny patchwork. They’re luminescent green, about this long ——->. I count five on one leaflet. Happily the herd has not made its way to the new leaves at the top.   Maybe they’re waiting for the leaves to plump up some more, which they soon will, thanks to sunlight and the alfalfa meal I fed Miss Hepburn last winter.

Rising above the foli-carn-age is a flurry of impeccable pink roses. This ‘Audrey Hepburn’ is very elegant, worthy of her namesake, despite the vermin. More or less gladly I fall to my knees and get to work, detaching thorny stems from thornier twigs. Some come away easily, some take a tug. I go barehanded, since my gloves are too clunky, too thick. Fingertips are useful to discover outlying green gobblers. Squish: in each evisceration a little grit, a little goo. Disgusting labor but I don’t so much mind. I’m even a little grateful to be in service to this kind of beauty.

That lasts a short while. There are other roses to do. They all have worms. Worms worms worms. Poor ‘Betty Prior’ at the end of the row. By the time I get to her, star treatment is so over. Was there ever a star named Betty? Betty suits “Betty Crocker.”

I take a break from leaf-plucking and worm pinching. It’s still a beautiful morning out there, outside my head. We’re having weather befitting our gentrified selves. Climate chaos has been in the papers a lot lately. Is Florida going under? Look at the tall trees hereabouts, glowing with vitality—the maple, the pittosporum, the red plum. Sure it’s been a windy few days but it’s calm today. Back in Kansas the wind has been blowing trains right off the tracks, semis off the interstate. We’re not talking tornadoes, just your day to day wind.

Nature adapts, takes what belongs to it and sometimes more. Like the anemones taking over the clivia. With my hori-hori I gut the colonizing anemones while piecing together the idea for a screenplay, about a plant that in response to an altered environment activates a gene and begin smothering cities, one after another.  A plant like the mattress vine in the garden next door, wiry, dense, a wave advancing over the fence into this garden which I must cut back every time I’m here and which, if I’m not lax, I’ll do today. In my movie city blocks are overtaken in hours, entombed like Pompei. Herbicide only feeds the vine (thanks, Monsanto.) Mattress-cide is critical, but it’s too late. Humans are reduced to a remnant. Squish.

I pull myself up short; that movie’s been done, The Little Shop of Horrors, about the plant that craved human blood. What was her name? Oh right, Audrey II.




  1. I loved this piece, perhaps because I have an “Audrey Hepburn” rose of my own. After blooming vigorously earlier this spring, she was ironically devoid of blossoms on Sunday, May 4, Audrey Hepburn’s birthday. And name of the carnivorous plant in “Little Shop of Horrors” is actually “Audrey II”.

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