What's the Latin word for ‘work'?

Friday, April 13, 2012

With the exceptional weather we've had here in Southeast Missouri during late winter and early spring -- not counting the scattered frost in some areas this week, things that bloom have put on a truly dazzling show.

One conspicuous absence in this colorful display has been the blossoms that should have appeared on the massive, healthy wisteria that covers the trellis at the end of the tool barn alongside our house.

I look at wisteria vines in other yards. They are loaded with blossoms. Some of the vines trail up into trees. Others cover trellises much like ours. Still others have been pruned into the shape of small trees. All are full of flowers.

I've tried to find out what I can about the proper care of wisteria vines, but apparently the advice I'm getting is wrong. Or, option two, I am not smart enough to follow simple directions.

Alan Titmarsh, the host of a popular BBC landscaping program that aired on PBS stations in the U.S. several years ago, has prepared a video about pruning wisteria vines. In the video, Titmarsh lets slip that "wisteria" is Latin for "work." I believe him.

Left to its own devices, our wisteria would engulf our tool barn and creep over the roof of our house. Until a couple of years ago we had an ancient, towering evergreen next to the wisteria trellis, and the exploring vines found their way up, up, up.

However, they did not bloom.

When we moved to this house 15 years ago, we discovered several abused shrubs here and there, many of them chopped off by lawn mowers. One measly twig sticking out of the ground turned out to be a blazing red azalea that has turned into a glorious specimen. Another was the remnant of a forsythia bush. While the forsythia prospered and became an enormous hedge -- enough to provide privacy for us and our neighbors, it never, ever bloomed.

I have warned the reluctant wisteria of its possible fate. "Look what happened to the forsythia," I tell the wisteria. "What forsythia?" the wisteria asks. "My point exactly," I say, somewhat menacingly.

If anyone knows how to encourage a shy wisteria to bloom, please let me know. Even if it's work.

So. Apparently I'm not finished with the topic of hard-to-open packages. Several of you have mentioned to me that you also fight with boxes of cereal and containers of butter substitutes, packages of cosmetics designed to thwart shoplifting and on and on.

One of you, however, saw fit to point out that the makers of these products are not at fault. "Look, Joe. It plainly says on the box that a 5-year-old can open it."

There. There's the dilemma in a nutshell.

The plain fact is I am not 5 years old. I am, actuarially speaking, old enough to be a 5-year-old's great-grandfather, never mind we're still working on our sons to take that middle "grandchild" step.

When I think about it, I realize my critic is right. When I was 5 I had no trouble with cereal boxes and the like.

Now my fingers are achey and my patience is thin. I now eat cereals not for the toy inside the unopenable box but because it has the highest fiber content.

Memo to sons: There's another good reason we need grandchildren. We need someone to open stuff for us in our dotage.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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