The other day, as I was passing a local playground, I spotted a group of men who were able to throw together a random basketball, football, handball, any-kind-of-ball game without speaking any words to one another. There were some hand gestures and a few noises, and then the game began.
It brought back memories of those days in gym class, when the two most athletic boys were chosen to be team captains and then given the task of divvying up the rest of the class into teams. I was usually selected close to last. Once the ball was released, there was no time for questions — only play.
I became skilled at the art of active-passive avoidance. For example, in a baseball game, I would play the outfield — the far, far outfield, where no ball could ever, would ever go. The field’s caretakers wouldn’t even mow that area of the field — and there I would stand, baseball glove to shield my eyes from the sun. Just me in the tall grass and weeds and pollen and bees.
So when I see a group of strangers put together an impromptu game, I’m fascinated. That simply doesn’t exist in my DNA. The language of the bromance is something that I cannot fathom. It’s something that I cannot do. It’s something that I’ve never experienced.
Yes, I have Joe, but he’s not my bro. He’s my romance — my ro, if you will.
And then I met Dave — or rather, Dave’s garden.
Dave’s garden is a few blocks away and when I spotted it several months ago, it caught my breath. Perhaps it was the glow and angle of the setting sun, or perhaps it was my garden thirst of having lived in a landscapeless world — but whatever my perhaps was, Dave’s garden was a wonder of bromeliads, both on the ground and in the trees.
I was familiar with bromeliads as houseplants and as pineapples in the supermarket, but here — in Dave’s garden — they were in their element. Hundreds of sword-like leaves in shades of apple green and deep burgundy, mottled and striped patterns, complemented one another. Some leaves were rough-edged and some were smooth. Some had small blooms in their cups, while others sent up spikes of color, and still others were used for the vibrancy of their foliage alone.
Dave’s garden was a painting.
After knocking on the door, introducing myself to the gardener, and complimenting him on his work, I learned that Dave was, in fact, an artist. And generous. After taking me on a tour of his bromeliad-filled world, he offered that when I was ready to start planting, I should give him a call. He would be more than happy to share some bromeliads with me.
When that day came, I phoned Dave and we made plans to meet in his yard. I arrived with a shovel, clippers and empty pots to take whatever he was able to divide.
I’d like to say that when Dave and I met on the field — or rather the garden — that we did so without words, just like those guys on the playground. The truth is that I had so many questions about these wonder-filled plants and Dave took the time to answer them.
Because the bromeliad’s sword-like leaves are more saw-like — Dave gingerly pried mother plants from their places, careful not to slice his arms and hands along the razor-sharp teeth along the leaves’ edge.
At the base of these mother plants, small pups branched off. With a sharp cut, Dave separated baby from mother and instructed me to simply place the rootless babies in my own garden. These, in turn, would grow and flower and produce more pups — and I said, aloud, the most un-bro thing ever, the sort of thing that could easily get a player removed from the far, far outfield. “I can’t wait to have my own babies! Lots of them.”
Dividing is about the only care bromeliads need to keep things looking tidy. They’re fairly drought tolerant. Leaves are able to funnel water into the center cup, which then holds it for the plant. Any excess water that overflows is guided toward the roots around the base of the plant.
Pests tend to avoid bromeliads, as well, although iguanas — insatiable beasts that they are — will eat the flowers. Dave said mosquitoes might lay eggs in the water that’s held in the cup, but a squirt from a garden hose every few days is enough to stir up things.
I’m not sure how long Dave and I worked, but time flew . . . this must be the feeling players get after a rousing ballgame. When I looked about Dave’s yard, it seemed we hadn’t even made a dent in his garden beds — but the bed of my pick-up truck was full. I did a quick calculation and estimated that Dave provided me with about $400 worth of bromeliads — and a banana tree that he plucked from the ground.
I’ve fallen hard for bromeliads — my bros.
Each morning, I wake up and can’t wait to see my bros, just to hang out and catch up. As I go about weeding or mowing or watering, I often find myself distracted by my bros. I’d rather observe their subtle changes — for example, pups — than continue with the gardening tasks that need to be done. I wonder if this is what the guys on the playground mean by “bros before hoes.”
I also gaze longingly into my bros’ cups — but not in a creepy, locker room kind of way. I’d say I’m more bro-curious, since I really have no idea what sort of blooms to expect from these bromeliads. Will the blooms be mounded close to the water’s surface, or will I be treated to a neon-colored flower show?
These days, it’s difficult for me to visit a nursery and not linger in the bromeliad section. When I see a plant I like, I count how many plants (mother and babies) are sprouting in the pot. I’m looking for the most pants in a single pot. One over-filled pot for $35 can easily be divided into seven plants.
Thanks to Dave, there’s also the thrill of free plants. I’ve now taken to rummaging through people’s yard debris during bulk trash pick-up week. Just the other day, Joe, my ro, came home and told me he spotted a pile of bromeliads that someone had cleaned out of their beds. I grabbed my clippers and picked some choice pups.
After all, one gardener’s trash is another gardener’s bro.