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Outlook columnist Sharon Nesbit knows plenty of gardeners, but don't ask her to plant flowers.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sharon Nesbit wrote this in 2002.

NESBITBeware of strangers bringing easy-to-grow plants.

This declaration will likely reinforce the public's general opinion that journalists don't know squat about what they write about. Or maybe you didn't need any help with the concept.

Though they are likely to revoke my garden-writer license, I confess that I write a lot about gardens and gardeners, but do not myself, personally garden. I dig it, but I don't dig. I have bad knees. I live in the trees. At our house, we grow moss on the roof, in the lawn, on the deck.

My gardening is confined to listening while I sit or stroll languidly in beautiful gardens where someone else has labored. Listening is easy because a gardener's effusiveness is fertilized by the slightest appreciative murmur. It works like steer manure.

I literally learned to walk in garden paths, toddling out to the yard with my grandmothers while they yakked about marigolds and snapdragons and fussed over petunias. With no effort at all, I can summon up the 40-year-old smell of grandma's petunia patch on a hot desert night.

And I remember what fun it was to squat near a California poppy and slip the little green nose cone off the bud, launching a blossom prematurely. That's what kids did before PlayStation, I tell Scooter, who snorts as if that explains everything.

What astonishes me is that even though I grew up to do very little in the way of actual gardening, most of what I did was wrong.

I was attending a discussion on native plants recently when they passed out a brochure on a pesky new invader called Japanese knotweed, an obnoxious plant menacing the Sandy River Gorge.

"Doesn't it just make your blood boil when some idiot introduces a plant varmint like that into our tender environment," I mumbled to myself, and then the picture — like seeing your cousin in a wanted photo in the post office — caught my eye.

Hub's calls it his bamboo patch. I brought a start of it home more than 20 years ago, a gift from my friend Margie who offered it saying, "Even I can grow it."

The first thing you should know about gardening is that if it is easy to grow, you probably shouldn't. Keep kudzu in mind. Watching to make sure no one was looking, I stuffed the knotweed brochure under my shirt to take home to Hubs while the experts talked about the additional sins of English ivy and Himalayan blackberry. Guilty on three counts.

Hubs is bewildered. His bamboo friend is suddenly an enemy invader, the Taliban taken root next to the driveway. We have laid plans to sneak up on it and kill it — sharp knives, poison, smothering, possible paving. According to the brochure, we can't even throw the stuff out because, like the severed tentacle of a slimy alien, it will root anew and gain control of the planet.

My friend, Alex, always said that in Troutdale you never planted your garden until the snow was off the Silver Star range across the Columbia in Washington.

It would be good this year if the snow never melted because we aren't thinking of planting so much as supplanting. The rest of you gardeners may have a growing season, but ours will be a killing field. Be warned, botanical axis of evil.

Sharon Nesbit is a former new reporter for The Outlook. She writes her column in retirement.

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