Shady Characters (with audio)

Some plants are hard to get.
Others hard to get rid of.

Read by Pat and Becky Stone


Psst, get this. My friend Linda? She’s got spotty dotty. She told me herself. In fact, she says she has it all over the place.

“Oooooohhhh-oh-oh-oh,” I breathed (with that little shudder at the end) when she told me. I didn’t tell a soul. You wouldn’t, right? Well, OK, I did tell my friend Margo.

Spotty dotty isn’t something you catch. It’s not something you scratch. It’s something you score. The shady dude in the alley that opens his coat to show what he’s got to sell? He has a spotty dotty planted right in the cell-phone pocket, right above the Rolexes.

“I’ve got the package,” I said. “I can hook you up.”

Podophyllum “Spotty Dotty” is a shade plant with gigantic, voluptuous lobed leaves in sassy chartreuse with reddish-chocolate spotting. If you lift her skirts, you find pendulous cherry-red flowers. And if you want one of your own, she can set you back $54 for a 3.5-inch pot, retail. I don’t know what they go for on the street. No one I know has one. Everyone I know has put it in their nursery cart at least once and then put it back just before check-out.

And Linda said, “Want some?” Not want one. SOME. I did, Lordy, I did. I went right over, and she promptly dug up a generous bevy of spotty dotties with brazen rootage. I snatched them up and hid them in the shade of the house, out of view from the street. Then I called Margo.

“I’ve got the package,” I said. “I can hook you up.”

“Oooooohhhh-oh-oh-oh,” she breathed (little shudder included).

We both planted our spotty dotties last Fall, and in Spring they magically reappeared out of the soil. I’d put a plastic Virgin Mary next to mine just in case she had some pull, but it looks like they’re fine on their own. Margo planted hers, and I’m sure the leaves are a foot-and-a-half across by now—because that’s sort of a plant policy in her garden, but I like her, anyway.

Linda came over the other day and noticed my stash right away. “Looking good,” she said. “Do you want any more?” Ohhh.

We gardeners chat about what we have and what we can spare, but most of us have all the same stuff. “Did you buy that Solomon’s Seal?” Linda asked me, pointing at a renovated shade bed.

I said, “Oh, heck no. I chopped it out of the ground and jammed it in there with no ceremony.”

“Oh,” she said, “because I have a ton of that.” Yeah. We all do.

I’d like to be able to give her something, though. “Do you need any Alstroeme …”

Both palms shot up and she cried, “NOOOOOO-OOO!” before I could get out the “…rias?”

Alstroemeria. An utterly lovely flower, and it knows it. Alstroemerias are vain. It thinks that the only thing that could be finer than a little clump of Alstroemerias is an entire acre of them. Alstroemerias, a.k.a. Peruvian lilies, are bent on empire. I can’t dig them out of my beds fast enough. But it’s too late. You can put an Alstroemeria flowerhead on a pike as a warning to the rest of them, but they’ll just grow taller to get a better look. You’d have to scoop them two-feet deep and send them through a sieve to get rid of them. And they’d still send out scouts for new outposts the next year.

What you need is a newbie to take them away. You have to get an East Coast transplant (I live in Oregon) who gives himself away by being all excited about the blackberry sprig in his backyard. Someone who buys tomato starts in April. Someone who says he’s planning to plant purple hyacinths next to Gloriosa daisies because of the color combination—and who is amazed and impressed when you tell him they don’t bloom at the same time.

You have to find an innocent.

“I can get you some divisions of Solomon’s Seal,” I say, once I find my mark, keeping my tone non-threatening. “I’ve got some extras. And, oh, would you like to try some Alstroemerias?”

He perks up. “Are they pretty?”

“They’re gorgeous. They truly are.” (They are.)

“Would they be OK in shade? Do you think I could grow them here?”

“Oh, they’ll do fine just about anywhere,” I say lightly. “I mean, I don’t know. You could give them a shot, anyway.”

He looks eager, but hesitant.

I cast my eyes down the street. “First clump’s free,” I hiss.

This article was published originally in 2023, in GreenPrints Issue #137.

  • Diane T.

    Love to enjoy breakfast and listen to these wonderful audio clips…thanks so much for a fun start to the day ahead. Diane in Oregon

  • Great story! Funny and true! I have some Jigsaw Hot Pepper starts and I have extras! Get an early start for next spring …!


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