Have I ever told you that I once went to a summer camp for gardening? Oh yes. That. In addition to the badminton league I was in and the curling lessons I participated in, it sums me up in a nerdy little nutshell: I went to gardening camp.

Sure, it was a day camp at the local Golden Acres Garden Sentres (oh yes, they spelled it like that, and it fricking infuriated 8 year old Amy. I loved – and still love – rules, like spelling and refusing to talk down to children for cute’s sake). There, I learned all about annuals and perennials and fertilizer and how my hometown had a 2 month growing season and how all we could do is grow plants indoors if we ever wanted anything resembling kitchen herbs.

After said gardening camp, I promptly forgot this information, and went back to plotting how I was going to win a Tony AND a Nobel Prize at thirty (ed note: she’s still got 1.5 years!).

Anyways, fast forward a couple of decades, and Ben and I are standing in the succulents aisle at Home Depot in San Rafael, determined to turn our shared, neglected roof deck into a leisurly paradise worthy of coverage in Gardenista. Unfortunately, we had no clue what we were doing.

Ben grew up here, in the land where everything grows despite the fog, and if you let it go it will take over your home and assume your apartment lease and possibly steal your SSN, or something like that. A land where palm trees are a nuisance more than anything, and where a plant left unchecked will actually AFIX ITSELF TO YOUR CEILING. Like, for reals, plants will do that in Northern California. Where I’m from, roses need to be “bedded” (cue saucy whistle) in August to avoid the frost. Here, they mutate and multiply and have their own reality shows. There was no way I was going to win this war.

Back to home depot. In California, where things grow, I wander aimlessly, touching leaves, smelling lavender, generally resembling a frat boy encountering his unplanned offspring for the first time: curious, but not quite ready to take charge. I resort to my best habit, namely wondering a bit-too-outloud about what to do. Within seconds, a fellow shopper proceeds to take a full 20 minutes to explain exactly what to expect. When I mention something about “the lavender’ll be ok, right?” she eyes me up and down. Obviously, this product of the Great White North doesn’t quite understand what to do with greenery. With unsolicited-but-much-appreciated advice in hand, we part with a couple of hundred bucks and fill the Mini with plants.

Now, move forward a couple of weeks, and I’m sitting on my roof glaring at the lavender. It seems Mr. Lavender is having nothing of this unseasonably warm San Francisco weather and laughs at me, as he goes in and out of green health and borders on brown, or wilts, or stands tall, or gets blown over by the wind. Ben suggests we should toss ’em and start over again, but the competitive A-type eight year old is rearing her overzealous head. I shall beat you lavender, oh yes, you shall live and thrive and attract bees from hives that bear their name on top of Tony’s Pizza.

Tune in next time when I talk to the Cacti. That post’ll be a scream.