Two years ago, I dragged a 500 square foot blue-green tarp across my lawn, pinned it to the corners with large rocks dragged in from the woods, and then promptly disappeared from polite society for the better part of a pandemic.

This - should - have prompted an outcry, a public summons, at the very least some sort of interrogatory jostling from the neighbors but I had the good fortune of destroying my yard during a plague.  Whatever the world thought, they kept to themselves. Whatever town ordinances I may have been breaking, no one enforced.

Twelve months later, that is nearly twelve months ago, I removed my giant tarp - a farcical, exploitive-laden affair that nearly destroyed my will to live - and finally got onto the work of putting something into the ground.

This whole madcap scheme hinged fundamentally on three internal axioms; firstly, I want my yard to be made up of native species. Secondly, given the option, I’d rather never use a lawn mower ever again. Thirdly, I’m offended by grass. It’s just wretched.   

Armed, therefore, with the indignant boldness of strong opinions unrefined by experience or knowledge, I purchased various plugs of Creeping Phlox, sorted them, planted them, sprinkled water about like I meant it, and then awaited the grandeur of my newfound native garden.

Success…let’s just call it elusive. 

It turns out Phlox creep at a pace that’s zippy by plant standards but patience-thinning for upright mammalians. Also, other things love fresh dirt too and don’t follow rules. In short, my Phlox were soon competing with grasses, dandelions, silver floppy ear things, and green lettucey type plants. I occasionally got advice, but it was nearly always some variation of - have you considered being a better gardener? It didn’t help a lick. 

In my defense, I weed-whacked my tangle of nonsense for the better part of six months, making sure to time my efforts with the commuting hours just so folks saw that I was serious. I’m sure my neighbors eventually realized that I was doing nothing but chopping off dandelion heads in the most aggressively modern way possible but again - no one really wanted to come over and ask me why.

This reprieve allowed me another winter, no tarp this time, and an entire season to plot. In practice, this meant using MS Paint to draw up various garden blueprints. How about a yard-sized planter box using four-by-fours? Or maybe a giant mound of rocks? If I built a Victory Garden could I accuse everyone else of moral lassitude?

Yes, I concluded happily, I could indeed.

These plans all existed in various states of digital detail…until about six weeks ago. With the melting of the snow, I got the chance to wander my beleaguered front yard where I found - to some surprise - a rather lot of Phlox. Crept Phlox. Phlox that was, had been, and would again be creeping. True, it only covered perhaps thirty percent of the yard and the rest was just riddled with Mullein, but still, something had happened, and it was vaguely like I intended.

In honor of the occasion, I purchased another thirty plugs of Phlox, yanked the Mullein, and eyed the neighbors aggressively for signs of lassitude. Thus far, my plan to have something better, completely different, nothing like I had before, has been permitted, allowed, endorsed by silence. It seems to have taken quite a few years and it’s surely not done yet, but I’ll be forever in the debt of the pandemic for letting me make a bunch of changes that were a long time coming. 

Also, only a little related, but I now approach every project just the same - patient and bearing a large blue-green tarp. 

Agreeably yours,


Robert Drake is the Assistant Director for Technology Operations at the Nassau Library System.  I nominate the Creeping Phlox for the new RLRT logo.   The views and positions here expressed are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of NLS, Robert Drake himself, or probably anyone...