I think it’s fair to say that both Dave and I are worried about Mr. Happy. Mr. Happy started out small but rumor had it that if everything went right he’d push up a gigantic spike, with girth to rival its length, a veritable tower of pink. I’ve kept him in my bed since last spring, just waiting.
Mr. Happy isn’t just any old Echium. But the truth is any Echium would find this place a challenge. I saw him in the neighborhood once so I know it’s possible. I didn’t know who he was at the time. There was a ten-foot, massive, rigid spike of flowers in somebody’s parking strip, right next to all the skid marks. Might be the kind of thing that’s just ho-hum in California but around here it’s a statement. And the statement is oh baby, oh baby, oh baby.
So I recognized him when I saw his picture along with his Personal Ad on the little tag in the nursery. He was in just a three-inch pot and he was a four-dollar gamble. The problem was he wasn’t going to put out until his second year, and he wasn’t going to have a second year if he couldn’t make it through the first winter. For four bucks he was worth a try. Sometimes we never get much below freezing here. Back in November we’d already had a cold snap in the mid-twenties and I thought Mr. Happy was a goner, but he just got a little ragged on the edges and still seemed quite enthusiastic in the central well-hello-there zone. Temperatures rose to the forties and stayed there for weeks on end, and then this happened: lows predicted around twenty, for days.
We got to work. Dave pounded in a couple stakes and got a few hundred dollars worth of Costco plastic wrap and bundled up Mr. Happy like Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes. He put a sleeping bag on top and a 100-watt bulb underneath. Late at night he trotted out with hot chocolate, a binky, and some Vicks Vapo-Rub and read to him aloud from The Wind In The Willows. I looked out the window with love in my heart and thought of my mommy. Specifically, how, in the days before plastic wrap, days which we were now revisiting, she was able to bundle up a sandwich in waxed paper with hospital corners.
Mr. Happy glowed in the cold and the dark like the Baby Jeebus in a nativity scene. We don’t know how it’s going to go for him. It’s nothing I’m going to say in his presence, but just in case, I’ve already begun to work on his obituary. I’ll have to send it to the L.A. Times. That’s where all his friends are.
"wasn't going to put out until his second year, and he wasn't going to have a second year if he couldn't make it through the first winter." Sounds like my eight grade relationship with Sue R….except for the "his" part.
Good luck, it may be a mean winter.
Even this many years later, you're protecting Sue R by not revealing her name? A gentleman.
Thank goodness you posted that last photo or I would have thought both of you went off the deep end.
You see? You see?
Of course, it doesn't mean we haven't gone off the deep end.
Some good things are unknown in the beginning. My best friend in the wilderness was a big spider named I named Hilda. I kept running into her web across the door to my shop out back. I stopped one morning, pulled the web off my face again and told her to please raise it up more so I wouldn't run into it every day and she wouldn't have to rebuild it. If somebody saw or heard me, I would have been sent to the place of lunatics. Fortunately, however, she started to build her web up higher and higher until I could unlock the door, stoop a little and walk right in without damaging her web. She kept it that way until very cold weather killed her. Talk about intelligence.
Honest, Abe? If only you were shorter, none of this might have happened.
That four dollar gamble must be a somewhat higher number now, what with the plastic and the tape and the electricity and paying Dave to channel Vanna White in that photo!
Dave works for free.
Oooh. Mr Happy would make me very, very happy. Fingers and toes crossed that all that loving care pays off.
Hey, you could probably grow one where you are! Right? Check it out and report back.
Sounds like E.wildprettii, in which case EC probably could grow it, but she'd need to get Dave to come down and do some wrapping.
I try to maintain a very strict *you're on your own* policy with my garden denizens and thus am always very grateful to the ones that go "Whee!" and just take over the place. I'm very much afraid Mr. Happy wouldn't stand a chance here – and not just because my zone is far less temperate than your zone. I don't have a Dave – I guess that's part of the problem. I have a sort of version of Dave, but… Anyway, good luck to Mr. Happy! That last picture certainly explains a lot.
Yeah, I kind of figured I'd need to supply a picture lest a concerned reader have me packed off to the funny farm. Hey, do they even have funny farms anymore?
Mr. Happy that you keep in your bed… who knew it was a plant. I was thinking of something electronic.
That's under the bed.
Always, your details slay me. Wind in the Willows. "…a few hundred dollars worth of Costco plastic wrap."
You're a day-maker, woman.
What could be better than that? 🙂
Seems Dave has developed an unusual connection with Mr. Happy. Might it be a Miss Happy??
Dave develops unusual connections with every damn thing. It's the Little Buddy syndrome.
post script–get it, miss happy (mishap) Never mind,
Super name for a character!
I certainly hope Mr Happy makes it. The flowers are worth the wait for sure. We grow blue ones out here in Australia. I'm sure we could grow the pink too, it's just I've only seen the blue.
How big are the blue ones?
By the way, "Mr. Happy" is the actual name of this plant. So you could order him, maybe.
I've never grown one so can't be sure of the eventual full size. There are some near my flat, when they are flowering next I'll stand near them to get some idea. I'm 5 feet tall. Or I could just google.
Robin Williams used to say that adolescence is when a young man learns to shake hands with Mr. Happy. Your Mr. Happy looks a little spiky for that.