The Stuff of Nightmares

I think I am being just a tad dramatic, but just try for a moment to put yourself in my shoes.


Let me first say that I absolutely love my job as a gardener. This is in no way meant to complain about the tasks that are needed to be done. However, there is one part of this job that makes me groan. Yup, I think I’ve even groaned audibly for my co-workers to hear. I imagine they all inwardly groan as well. Perhaps this is the reason I always seem to find myself alone doing this chore. They are all too smart from previous years. They usually come to my rescue  just as I am  about to break and curl up into fetal position though. The task I refer to is hand-picking Maple keys out of garden stones. Ugh. I guess this evil task is simply a matter of geography in a way, since Maple trees only grow in certain countries. Here in Canada we glorify the Maple, our national tree. Heck, even our flag has the Maple leaf emblazoned on it. I secretly curse the samaras that fall into the rocky gardens. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that they aimed to wedge themselves in between the rocks simply to inconvenience humans. It seems as though there are never any maple keys on the grass, only crammed deep within the rocks making the need to pluck them the only form of removal. Within minutes, my hands transform into claws that loose the ability to grip more than a couple of samaras at a time, making the job even less enjoyable. I never knew human hands could do this until “the keys” were a regular part of my life. Very interesting phenomena. It is not painful, just annoying.


Maple keys. or samaras, are an ingenious form of self-propagation. Nature is brilliant in so many ways, carrying forth a species by dropping seeds is only one of many miracles. Although, the miracle of the birth of a Maple is rather lost on me while picking keys out of stone. After a few weeks of this task, I have come to the conclusion that I will never put rocks instead of mulch in my own gardens. I have always dreamed of installing a Japanese-inspired garden with river rock throughout but I have been sent a clear sign by Reality that this is not going to work for me. Not right now, anyway. Perhaps when I reach a point in my life where Maple key collection rates high on my fun scale. Hmmm…not going to happen.


Collecting keys has become the stuff of my nightmares lately. In my slumber I see rocks with dried and sprouting samara that need to be collected. Just like in “real life” I shift the stones to pluck the keys out only to look around where I’m working to see millions more. I stir from sleep with my hands immobile, fingers in a gripping position and my jaw sore from clenching. Thank goodness the Maples are almost finished dropping their keys. I could really use a Maple-free rest.


If I enjoyed tinkering and inventing things, I would definitely try to come up with a vacuum that could identify and suck up only Maple keys. Just strong enough to pull them free of their moorings among the rocks while leaving the rocks in place. I’m sure this invention would be a gold mine. If anyone figures out how to construct one of these miracle machines, I  want one!



“Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does.”
– George Bernard Shaw  

6 thoughts on “The Stuff of Nightmares

  1. After reading your comment on my blog today, I read your Maple key blog-love it-I live in the southern US, but have maples in my yard-Ive always called the seeds “whirly-copters” for lack of a better word-now I know what they are called. I haven’t had too much trouble with the maple seeds, but I am an avid gardener and my # hate is chain-or-crabgrass. When it gets started, it kills everything around it by putting out underground shoots and spreading. i guess all gardeners have their “most hated” plant category…

    Could you tell me how you out things in “Posted in” categories vs tags? I really want to expand my readership-also do you link articles to websites. seems I haven’t had much luck there-can you link them at will-without permission from the website ?

    • I’m glad you found your way over! I used to call maple keys “helicopters” when I was small. I forgot about that! I love the term whirly-copters! We deal with the evils of crabgrass here too so I totally know what you are saying. I just try to keep in mind that all of these species are probably native plants that have adapted for survival and we are in their territory. One can never truly tame Nature, just hold it at bay in our gardens for a brief period.

      To categorize and tag your posts, scroll down after writing (before publishing) and type in different categories you wish for your post to appear in. Then type in different corresponding tags. That’s all I do anyway. I’m sure there are more indepth techniques but I’m in the learning process too and this seems to be working well. As for the linking to articles, I haven’t tried that yet but will in the future I’m sure.Not certain about permission. Your best bet for info on this would be to check the FAQ’s section on wordpress or contact the website owner directly. Hope this helps. Good luck!

      I am totally loving your blog! I love the honesty in your writing.

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