COLUMN: No shirt on a frosty night

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Lost: A nice, blue flannel shirt last seen Wednesday night in New Boston. If found, please call 547-3424.

Yes, I lost my shirt, not from my back but from my solitary peony bush just a few yards from Indiana 545. The shirt was in my garage since fall and seemed the best short-notice choice for covering the peony buds. The weatherman was calling for frost overnight Wednesday and I didn’t want my future blossoms to be nipped. I live on one of the highest hills in town and so I’m less prone to late frosts than the neighbors below me, but I wanted to be on the safe side.

I’ve been coddling the peony bush since I moved into the house three years ago and last year’s two or three blossoms were its first for me.

This year’s early spring, coupled with regular doses of Miracle-Gro, got the plant off to a fast, healthy start. I left the bush alone all of last year instead of moving it mid-summer. I’ve heard this helps peony bushes store energy and produce more flowers the following spring. I also dug up the tuber-like bulbs late last fall and reburied them at a slightly more shallow depth – another tip I’d been given – and added two 5-gallon buckets of rotted manure.

The tender, loving care worked. At least 10 fat buds emerged this month so I was naturally worried about frost damaging them. Thus I draped the lightweight flannel shirt over the bush late Wednesday. The protection was indeed needed because we had frost in New Boston by the time I left home early Thursday.

There must have been a good breeze Thursday since my shirt was blown off of the plant. Driving by to a dinner Thursday afternoon, I noticed it lying on the ground. I didn’t have time to stop then, which I should have, because as of Friday morning, the shirt was nowhere to be found.

I guess I should have tied the shirt to the plant somehow, which I suppose would have prevented the problem. Lots of people use larger pieces of clothing or old bed sheets to cover their large plants – plastic milk jugs, buckets, boxes and smaller containers are common frost-protection devices for small plants – but I didn’t have any old bed sheets lying around. All I had was a shirt.

Plus, if there was enough of a breeze to blow my shirt off the plant, a bed sheet would have gone zooming away and knowing my luck, it would have sailed across the highway like a kite, landed across the windshield of a passing vehicle, blinded the driver and caused a morning accident. Such are the things I worry about.

So, if anyone sees a nice plaid shirt in the New Boston vicinity, give me a shout. I’ll miss the shirt, but at least I’ll have peony blossoms to enjoy in a couple of weeks.