Last week, my family hosted a simcha—a festive life-cycle event—and fed 160 well-wishers inside a Social Hall not known for its beauty.
“You’ll need something on the tables,” warned a friend the week before.
“Where are the centerpieces?” asked the man who arranged the tables.
And, “You’re okay with just white cloths and napkins?”
Our family budget had room for fabulous food, but no room—not one single penny—for fabulous decor.
The food will be decoration, I told myself, and the guests will be decoration!
Honestly, though, I did want something to help mitigate the blah-ness of the beige room and white tables.
But the something would absolutely have to be:
And then, I figured it out: exotic invasives. Pest plants:
Chinese wisteria napkin rings
I chopped the Johnson-grass from an abandoned lawn.
I cut the Chinese wisteria from my own backyard.
I removed exotic pest plants from the ecosystem.
Our lifecycle event had ties to Egypt, and lo and behold, one common name for Johnson-grass (which hails from North Africa) is “Egypt grass.”
The event also referenced “strangers in a strange land,” a phrase with which I took exegetical liberties in order to relate it to exotic plants: plants who are strangers in strange lands . . .
And by golly, nine-foot bouquets were massive enough to be the perfect something, and the napkin rings helped my tables look like they were plain on purpose.
Let me tell you more about those napkin rings . . .
Recently, I’d noticed that the Chinese wisteria from a friend’s arbor four houses away was now snaking across our backyard. So, I snipped the long, whippy runners into coils of rope, brought them into the kitchen and sat for two days of a migraine, cutting and curving, cutting and curving. The migraine just happened to be the kind that allowed me to sit upright in a chair.
I couldn’t think straight, but I could curve a vine in knots.
When my basket was finally full of homemade, homegrown napkin rings, it looked like the sort of Pinterest Project at which people shake their heads and say, with pity,
“Here’s a woman with waaaaaay too much time on her hands.”
But the truth is,
Here’s a woman with waaaaaay too many migraines and who needed 160 napkin rings that were
More info on my pest plants:
USDA Dept. of Ag page for Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense).
USDA Dept. of Ag page for Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis).
NB: In contrast to the invasive wisterias, there is an American species, detailed with photos here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: “A lovely, aromatic Wisteria native to eastern North American that is less aggressive and less damaging to buildings than the Asian species, but has equally lovely flowers. Can be trained on arbors, walls, and columns.” It is also the host plant for several Lepidoptera species.