Native Son: Hemlock Holmes and Dodder Watson

A Horticultural Murder Mystery … To Die For!

It was a dark and stormy night … and I watched from a covered porch across the street as Mary Gold, wearing an Irish Petticoat, paced back and forth across the windows of her home in Philadelphus, trying to figure out how to pack her heirloom Persian shield, a circa 1066 golden rod, as well as her precious Jewels of Opar into a small overnight bag. Suddenly, a rather tall man wearing a rather colorful Joseph’s coat skirted up her front steps and knocked. After a quick peek out the window, she opened the door.

“Dan D. Lion!,” she exclaimed, “I’m so gladiolus to see you!”

“My dear Mary, you look absolutely radishing!” He quickly said, ”There’s been a myrtle in Washingtonia. I found Jon Quill dead nettle early Sunday morning glory … apparently the victim of a strangler fig … and under the most unusual circumstances…”

“Oh my!” Mary Gold wept into her lady palms.

After what I assumed to be a charade for any possible 3am onlookers, such as myself, she announced modestly, “It’s chili outside … come in and warm yourself by the firebush.” As soon as the door closed, they fell into an impassionvined embrace.

Continued Below

Thirty seconds later, a loud knock at the door rattleboxed them both back to the moment. Dan rushed to the door and flung it open … revealing the particularly distinctive figure of one Hemlock Holmes. As the lightning flashed, my own presence behind him became known.

“Orange you going to let us in?” asked an impatiens Hemlock, “It’s simply dreadlocks out here.”

“But of course,” answered a rose-cheeked Mary Gold. “Come in before you both freesia asters off.”

“Thank you,” said Holmes, as we strolled indigo. Mary Gold quickly collected our coats and umbrella plants, then took them into the next room.

“Dan D. Lion … how long has it been?” quizzed Holmes.

“Seems like a century plant since I’ve seen yew two,” said Lion, shaking our hands. “Yew have arrived at a most fortuitous time. Ms. Gold and I were just discussing a myrtle, in Washingtonia…,” he trailed off as she re-entered the room.

“I can’t believe my love vine is gone,” said Mary Gold, as she started to crinum. “One day I’m thinking eternity; the next, my future is gone with the windflower.”

“There, there, weeping willow … cry those baby tears” he said, as he tried to comfrey her. As she cried into his shoulder, he began to think it odd that she was so well-dressed in the middle of the nightshade. His irises perused the room and sawgrass many items that seemed out of place in a ladyslipper’s residence: an autumn gold Spanish dagger, two devil’s claw-tipped bayonets, a dozen or so knight’s spurs, several spearmints, three skullcaps, two shindaggers, and a Dutchman’s pipe … mulch like the one that hung from his own mouth.

“My condolences for your loss.” Holmes consolidad her politely for a moment, but, as they parted, detected something strange in her baby blue eyes … were those alligator juniper tears? “Please don’t think me insensitive vine, but we have come to take stock of the flax in this case. There isn’t much thyme on the clockvine, as I’m due for a night court arailiament at four o’clock.”

“Legal troubles?,” inquired Mr. Lion with a slight smirk.

“Yes, but … not … mine…” said Holmes, as he raised an eyebrow.

I could hold back no further. “Jon Quil was last seen alive in a room full of naked ladies. You know most of them from your Schoolhouse Lilies sorority … Rose Mallow, Holly Fern, Mexican Heather, and Sweet Violet … as well as Wild Olive, Winter Jasmine, and Scarlet Ginger. Surprisingly, there were also three distinguished society ladies, from the Belles of Ireland Club: Barb Erry, Diane Thus, and Mary Juana.” I paused, primarily for effect, “There were also some men present … known mafia members … Al O’Vera, Art Temesia, Cory Opsis, and Del Phinium. In addition … I know this is going to hurt … they found one of your old flametrees, Dusty Miller, hiding in the bathtub.”

Continued Below

Mary Gold looked shocked. “I don’t understand … what was Jon doing in a … a catnip house? He just proposed to me a week ago, saying we had an everlasting love. He called me his Sweet Pea, his Apple Blossom, his Princess Flower … said we could get weeded by the Vicary privet during the full moonvine. He promised to give me his bachelor’s button and I would wear my bridalwreath and give him my … my Virgin’s Bower. He said we’d be together ‘yesterday, today, and tomorrow.’ I was in a blue daze. Now, to think he’s … he’s…”

She fell sobbing upon my shoulder. When I did not display empathy, she became defensive. “Why Dodder Watson! You don’t think I’m involved in this myrtle! Jon Quil and I were lovers in a mist! We were to tie the knotweed soon … at the Tree of Heaven Chapel right on the beach vitex.”

Holmes took the reins. “Dodder Watson and I have visited the National Zoo in Washingtonia…,” he noticed Miss Gold’s eye twitch, and continued, “…in search of clusias to piece this monkey puzzle together. We examined everything: the elephant ears, the lion paws, the chicken gizzards, the foxtails, the snakeroots, the lizard tails, the lobster claws, the whale’s tongue, the rabbitbush, the skunkbush, the octopus plant, the leopard plant, even the bear’s breeches!”

Dan D. Lion intervened, “What does all of this have to do with the price of tea trees in Chinaberry!? I demand an explantation!”

Holmes stepped forward. “Lettuce examine the flax. One: Jon Quil’s body was found in the zebragrass, behind the tiger lilies, with a note that said, ‘I offered you my heartleaf, and you threw it in the burning bush.’ Two: He was known for his rather narcissusistic personality … a trait you share in commelina, Mary. Three: Each of you wanted the other’s fortune tea, and were willing to mariola to get it. Four: Once the ceremony was finisache, you intended for Mr. Lion … your true love … to kill Jon Quil, using one of the many dudleya weapons that are so convolvulously displayed against that wallflower.”

“But I don’t have any moneyplant!” blurted Mary Gold.

“And I didn’t kiri anyone!” declared Dan D. Lion.

Holmes resumed directly, “You simply didn’t get the chance, Mr. Lion. Indeed, you went to the zoo to kill him … but found him already dead. And you should know, Ms. Gold, Jon Quil was involved with another regal lily … Dawn Redwood … just in case the scenario with you didn’t work out.”

“So Dawn Redwood killed Jon Quil!” they deduced.

“No…,” Holmes continued, “Jon Quil was myrtled by a woman who has loved him since they were schoolmates. She pursued him annually, biennially, perennially through the years, but he always rejected her … thought she lacked beautyberry. One daylily, right in the middle of the crowded school lunchroom, he called her a name … you know how cruel the young ones can be … that eventually led to her insanity and his demise. Yes, Mr. Quil was murdered by Sweet Magnolia, the woman he once called … Bat-Faced Cuphea!”

The sounds of approaching sirens signaled our departure. As we descended the front steps, I asked Holmes, “So why did she kill him … in the zoo?”

“The museum was closed.”

“Fair enough.” As we continued down the street, I couldn’t help but ask, “And … and she actually killed him because of a cruel name he called her back in high school?”

“Elementary school, Watson, elementary.”
© Steven Chamblee


The author acknowledges the index of Michael A. Arnold’s Landscape Plants for TEXAS and Environs as the primary resource for the plant names found in this article.


I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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