The prairie plant catalogs have been staring at me for a few weeks now. I dug them out of a pile of other neglected plant books and periodicals after Jerry mentioned that we should get some seeds ordered for our prairie-to-be. The catalogs arrived in the mail early last spring – when thistles and other undesirable growths were plotting to rear their ugly heads in our nice little clearing – when it seemed way too soon to think about ordering seeds for a fall planting. I’m very nervous about ordering these seeds. Will they be the right mix for our latitude, our soil, our sunlight, our lack of knowledge? When I look around at my flower “gardens,” I see the first frost of fall will not be entirely unwelcomed. Freezing temperatures would be a decent excuse for the appearance of my spring planting endeavors: now sprigs of various heights, sterile and blossomless. All summer I used the heat as an excuse: “Yeah, I guess they just couldn’t stand it, and that cold water from the hose isn’t like rain water.” HA! I know what it is: it’s that mysterious quality called “a green thumb.” I don’t have it. I’ve seen the myriads of healthy flowers and shrubs around other homes – raised effortlessly, it seems, by people with this verdurous digit. When you compliment them on any particular acre of blooming loveliness, they say things like, “Oh, a petal dropped off one of my violets and all those flowers sprouted up and bloomed.” Doesn’t seem fair. I was out planting, watering and babying my flowers the whole month of June. I planted the shade-lovers in shady spots, the sun-lovers in sunny spots; I mulched, I weeded, I fed, I pleaded. I got enough dirt under my fingernails to plant something in. I ended up with swollen knees and a sore back. All for the satisfaction that comes from working with God and the earth to create some beauty in bare places. What I created was a clay-stained cripple and a lot of mediocre to never-made-it plants and flowers. I’ve retired my precariously donned gardener’s hat for this year, although I did pick up a couple of potted Mums to coax into obscurity yet this year. But, obviously, hope springs eternal and, after another ravaging of the undesirables in our “prairie,” that project awaits its fall seeding. By the way, I already have decided on my excuse for next year’s garden failures: “Aphids,” I’ll say sorrowfully, as I flick the clay from my cuticles.