Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Anything Goes"

My friend Melinda took me to a stripper bar recently—though I am convinced that the strippers were actually drag queens. How could they not be, with names like Rose Campion and Anise Hyssop? Don’t let Anise’s redolent scent fool you: she (he?) isn’t part of the staid Licorice family but rather of the saucier mint family. Anise—sometimes s/he likes to be called Hyssop, which sounds quite slutty in and of itself—must be a drag queen, going out of her way as s/he does to fool the wayward observer with her leggy square stems and olfactory emissions.

To be sure, her name gives her history away. The Lamiaceae family is itself quite respectable, and has given us such aristocratic, venerable personalities as sage and oregano, and the prissier, prudish lavender. But every celebrated family has its skeletons, and Hyssop counts as such: s/he hails from the Agastache clan (genus), the name of which derives from the Greek aga, meaning “very much,” and stachys, meaning “spiky” or as some render it, “like stalks of wheat.” Leggy, indeed! (And even more promiscuous!)

But Hyssop has a secret life (don’t all drag queens or strippers?!), which, sociologically speaking, may be the reason why the Lamiaceaes have not expelled its prodigal child: it is the sacral herb used in ancient Judaic purification rituals. Exodus 12:22 lays it out: “Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood [of the Passover offering] … and apply some of that blood … to the lintel and to the two doorposts.” The clincher for me follows: “And don’t go outside the door of this house until morning!” Why, I ask? So the blood doesn’t drip on your head? I’d much rather post a mezuzah; it’s so much easier, and not as messy. We moderns have it easy.

Of course, this raises a question: how could a harlot like Hyssop be so integral to observant religious life?

In any case, Melinda’s trip was an imaginary one, and she had me howling with the kinds of things she thought and wrote (this blog entry is as much her invention as it is mine). The stripper bar is the garden, and several plants reveal themselves to be quite addicted to the promiscuous life.

Take Corydalis lutea, for instance. Like Rose and Hyssop, she has a reputation. I’ve been warned about her wily ways, but last year’s experience with her proved to be less than exhilarating. If the rumors titillated, then the reality deflated; apparently, Corydalis intuited that her advances would have been wasted on me. This spring, both plants have offered appreciable displays. I even bought her cousin for the shade garden, Corydalis flexuousa “Blue Panda,” yet he, to my chagrin, is not known for his casual sexual proclivities and thus has snubbed my own shameless flirtations.

Yet no offspring populated the garden. Until a few weeks ago. Suddenly, manifestations of her nighttime activities proliferate the opposite side of the garden, in the corner where the stairwell meets the front porch (hence the detritus in the photo, where the wind loses velocity and deposits its loot—and all an exhibition of my laziness). And yesterday morning, after two cool, rainy days, another child appeared at the base of the stairwell. Her productivity astounds!

I could pluck these little children, or let them grow. I’ve settled on the latter, at least until they threaten to overpopulate the garden. For now, they add a bit of charm, and a Cole Porter dose of cavalier sexuality to the garden.

Written in honor of my venerable gardener friend, Melinda


  1. I feel so honored! Thank you, Matt.

  2. Ever my pleasure, Melinda. Thank YOU for your gardening wisdom, insight, and good humor!

  3. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall in that strip club!

  4. You can visit my club anytime, Nick. Though "Miss GK" may inflame your passions, or your allergies. ;-)