I’m a long-time member of the Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild, a group of about 40 dig-in-the-dirt types that range in knowledge from master gardeners to rank beginners. We attend monthly meetings where we plan our next gardening moves, sip coffee, and become educated by speakers on topics with titles such as “Hip Hip Hydrangeas” and “Pots with Pizzazz.” Our fundraising efforts go in a few directions, mostly toward the year-round planting and maintenance of the 12 Wellesley Square and two Wellesley Hills post office boxes.
It all sounds so idyllic, and it usually is, but lately our group has found itself embroiled in a mystery. There’s intrigue. There are shadowy figures. There are even corpses.
Here’s the way the division of labor is parceled out in this working club: every week, a different club member is in charge of the Hills and Square post office boxes. The member waters, deadheads, and keeps the flower boxes looking aesthetically pleasing through judicious fluffing of the plants or by artfully coaxing a vine to go this way or that, all in the name of maximum visual impact. The club takes it all very seriously, because nothing screams out broken promises and shattered dreams more than unkempt flower boxes.
Here’s what’s been happening: lately, members have been showing up to do their gardening duties, only to find the boxes already sodden and plants dying (the corpses). After a flurry of communication among members, we realized that we’ve got a Mystery Waterer on our hands. Or maybe even two.
I’ve been scheduled for duty for the past week, and when I showed up only to find that someone had gotten there before me, soaking the drought-resistant plants within an inch of their lives, it put my anxiety level through the roof, let me tell you. Some of plants had actually given up, drowned — blub, blub, blub — by too much of a good thing.
I did what any panicked garden club member would do. I emailed that most august of garden club figures, the Chair of Civic Improvements of the Post Offices. I struck a calm, factual, don’t-blame-me note. “The Wellesley Square boxes have been consistently sodden. Not sure why. Will let you know how they look tonight,” and was told, “Don’t water. I was there this afternoon. All good and wet. Don’t go tomorrow either. I have to head down there and check on a few things anyway.”
Whaaat? My heart sank. It’s my week to water. Aren’t I supposed to be checking on a few things? Am I not responsible enough? Am I under a cloud of suspicion? Ok, just breathe through this. Nobody’s accused you of anything yet. You’re completely innocent of plant murder or neglect. Pull yourself together and keep going with your regular routine, I told myself.
When I went back to the scene of the crimes, ready to water, deadhead, and fluff, the boxes were once again sodden. I knew I was being pesky, but I emailed to report on this and ask the Chair if she had watered for me. “Nope,” came the reply, “I’m away. Maybe L___ (one of the committee members) did it. Or maybe we have a Mystery Waterer. They screwed us last year.”
This was news to me. A Mystery Waterer would explain everything, except for the weirdness of why there is a Mystery Waterer at all. Gleefully, because I’d emerged from my self-imposed cloud of suspicion, I declared, “We must have a Mystery Waterer. L___ and I went swimming at Farm Pond two days ago and she knows I’m covering it.”
“Argh,” wrote the Chair. “I will send an email to the club today pleading with any members to stop watering. Take the key out of the box if you can. That should stump them.” (We have a poorly hidden key to access our water source.)
“WTF?” (Now that I’d been let into the inner sanctum of garden club secrets, I felt that I could swear.) “Such weirdness. Ok, will try.” Then, because I’m a writer and because I just can’t leave well enough alone, I added, “I will put a note in one of the boxes asking our Mystery Waterer to please stop.”
“Good idea,” wrote the Chair, knowing there was no sense in trying to stop me. “Make it sweet as honey!” (Emoji with bee vomiting honey into a honey pot.)
Then, the plot thickened. An email from another club member came saying, “Hi, Post Office Chair. I read your note with interest and wanted to let you know that yesterday when I passed the Hills P.O., I saw a woman and man wearing straw hats, intently working on the window boxes. It seemed odd to me, as they both seemed to know what they were doing, i.e. they had pruning shears, etc. I didn’t look closely to see if I recognized the woman because I was in a hurry. So it might solve the mystery if you ask Deborah if she was there yesterday with a male helper. If not, someone is doing double duty!”
I can tell you this much. Neither my husband nor I wears a straw hat. Furthermore, I was not taking care of the boxes with a man who was my husband or a man who was not my husband, for that matter. Ergo, two people, neither of whom was me, were working on the boxes, according to an eye-witness account. Sounds like our Mystery Waterers, Scooby Doo.
Now it was time to put a stop to all this nonsense, sensibly and with the gracious manners all Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild members innately posses. I pulled out my heaviest Crane’s stationary and my smoothest black-ink pen and sat down with a nice cup of Earl Grey at my writing table in the morning room. I was ready to go full-tilt Wellesley on them.
Dear Mystery Waterer(s), I began.
Aren’t the post office boxes just beautiful? The women of the Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild take great pride in planting AND maintaining them. Each week, one of us waters and deadheads on a daily basis. For most of us, it’s a highlight of being in the club. So we certainly understand why you’ve been so keen to jump in, Mystery Waterer.
But we must ask you to please stop. Sometimes club members, not realizing you have gotten there ahead of them, are watering on top of what you have already done. Unfortunately, some of the plants are suffering and have had to be replaced due to overwatering.
Thank you for understanding that we already have plenty of eager, responsible waterers who really shouldn’t be denied their “flower box therapy.”
Best, The Members of the Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild
We’ll see if the power of the pen has the ability to make this mystery history. I hope so, because I can’t bear to see any more senseless drownings of plants, and my club just doesn’t have the resources to put a 24/7 lifeguard on duty.