December 12, 2017
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Stranger helps make safe end to nearly disastrous garden trip

By Janine Pineo
Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN

The charge nurse said she could just picture us as old ladies sitting with a cup of tea, recalling the day we went to Vassalboro.

And she compared us to Thelma and Louise. And she laughed. A lot.

I suppose I should explain what gardening, a laughing charge nurse and Thelma and Louise have to do with anything, let alone me.

We’ll have to go back to last Saturday, when I and my dauntless traveling companion struck out for Vassalboro and Fieldstone Gardens, a nursery from which I often have ordered plants but never visited.

With Dauntless as our usual navigator, we wended our way through Waterville, Winslow and onto the rural roads of Vassalboro, arriving at Quaker Lane despite some spotty directions at the end. The nursery was hosting an annual hospice gathering and so we ended up parking in a hayfield — remember that as one ingredient in our Recipe for Disaster, henceforth the RFD.

We immediately were taken with the view across the fields of this old family farm, criss-crossed with magnificent rock walls, as we headed up the hill and into the nursery area, the main ingredient in our RFD.

I spotted first the stand of trees for sale and went up and down the rows, marveling at the varieties. I stood under a very tall horsechestnut tree and knew there was no way I was getting that into my small car.

I kept pawing through leaves and branches, looking at tags and thinking my yard was just way too small to grow all that I want to grow. Then I saw it. I pointed it out to Dauntless and grabbed its pot, looking for a name.


It was lovely, a little spindly, but with a good show of pure white blooms. I couldn’t quite place it, but I knew it would look good in my yard.

It would end up being the final ingredient in our RFD.

The next couple of hours were spent wandering around the grounds while I decided if I had room to add more.

I did. A lemon-lime green hosta named ‘Erie Magic,’ an eye-popping magenta-flowering hardy geranium and an old-fashioned honeysuckle made their way into my cart alongside the unknown plant. Dauntless decided she wanted some tomatoes so we rummaged through the greenery to find the kind she wanted. I added a buttery yellow yarrow and Carolina lupine, Thermopsis caroliniana, which was on display in one of the garden areas in its full golden glory. I couldn’t resist a stachys or a Salvia nemerosa, either.

I took a chance on Sanguisorba officinalis, mostly because its foliage was fun and it wouldn’t bloom until late summer. I couldn’t place the name, only later finding out that it is a burnet. I have grown salad burnet, S. minor, for years and was pleased to be adding a relative. ‘Pink Tanna’ sounds delightful, its foliage described as willowy and free-flowing while its blossoms put on a show of catkins later in summer.

We took a break from the heat and sun with water and cupcakes purchased from a Spanish club raising funds during the hospice event, wandered about the grounds a bit more admiring the landscape and made our way to the checkout.

It was there I learned that the mystery plant was a mock orange. I was in love.

The one I found looks to be Philadelphus coronarius, if the pictures I’ve seen are any comparison. While I don’t need any more shrubs, I couldn’t resist purchasing it.

I probably should have.

We headed back to the car, the wind whipping across the hayfields, dust blowing every time a vehicle moved, another RFD ingredient. I opened the car up to cool it down before loading the plants and then Dauntless and I sat on a rock wall and cooled ourselves down with a flavored water.

A few minutes later, the car was packed and I walked the cart back to the retail area. When I returned Dauntless was standing outside the car.

Did I mention that Dauntless has allergies? Really bad allergies? To most everything, especially pets and plants and pollen and dust and perfume?

I fear you see where this is leading. The scented mock orange had to go, specifically to the trunk where the other plants were. We set off, but before a few minutes had passed, Dauntless was not well and I was trying to find my way back to a populated area while remaining calm since Dauntless was not.

A wrong turn became a right one, landing us at the Waterville CVS pharmacy. Despite taking several doses of medicine, Dauntless still was in a bad way, but she refused to get back in my car or take an ambulance to the hospital, just a couple of minutes away at the top of the hill.

To the rescue was pharmacist Matthew Sweatt, who gave me the keys to his car and told me to go. I asked him if he needed my name and information, but he said it wasn’t necessary, telling me he was off work at 6 p.m. and then asked which was my vehicle.

That was how we ended up at Inland Hospital with the laughing charge nurse, Tara, who thought our story was one of the funniest she’d heard. Then she was off to call the pharmacist to let him know Dauntless was doing fine now that the medicine was kicking in. And his car was OK, too.

Tara returned to say that the car was expensive, which only served to freak me out on the return drive down the hill. And she said when she asked the pharmacist why he would turn over his car to total strangers, he said he would have thought twice if we’d been 30 years younger. She laughed again and so did I.

Well, yeah, because I’d have been 12.

But the reason was something else entirely. When we went back to the pharmacy to fill a prescription and return the car, Matthew said a college friend had died because an ambulance didn’t make it in time when he had an allergic reaction. To him, the car was of little importance.

The well-being of a total stranger, well, that was important.

I don’t need to be an old lady to recall such a momentous journey. Even if I am 42.

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