Many questions raced in my head while I made the flight to Phoenix: Who was The Mysterious Agent MJ, who summoned us that one fateful day? Why was I chosen by Troy-Bilt as part of a select team of superheroes when I clearly had no powers of my own? Among these superior garden bloggers and the skills at their disposal, I felt that my own inclusion was an oversight. I didn’t even have a plot of land to call my own! To give you an idea of their talents, allow me to introduce the other members of the Troy-Bilt #Saturday6.
David Townsend is Daddy DIY – Whose superhuman ingenuity is only exceeded by the love he has for his family. Though brilliant enough to create devices of disaster and mayhem, Daddy DIY now uses his powers for good by teaching others how to make raised beds and grow tomatoes without the aid of devices of disaster and mayhem. In fact, he has one of the most popular garden blogs. See issue 23 to learn how Daddy DIY defeats pests and weeds with his organic superpowers.
Amy Andrychowicz is Amy Android – A software developer with a name so long and hard to pronounce that she decided life would be easier if she just became an android. She would regret the decision, but as she soon found out, androids are incapable of regret. She accepts her fate by stating with a robotic Minnesotan accent, saying “Does not compoot.” Amy Android was only programmed to feel enthusiasm for her fellow gardener and love for her husband, who sustains her with his cooking. Her gardening tips encourage even the most reluctant gardener to get busy gardening.
Helen Yoest is the stylish Lady Inappropria. Atomic photobombing and planking in the face of unbearable seriousness, Lady Inappropria uses her charm and sense of style to become the life of any party. Some believe the source of her power to be her awesome kids, but others insist that her abilities can be found in the pages of Lady Inappropria, Issue 52. It has been said that Lady Inappropria is the kind of person that tends to grow on you, but they're probably referring to her Mossy Milkshake - which immobilizes enemies with a coating of verdant moss.
Noelle Johnson is The Heatwave, who uses her encyclopedic knowledge of Arizona gardening and harnesses her powers to create lush landscapes upon the desert clay. For all her superhuman skills, she embraces her human flaws and uses them to melt the hearts of others with her humility and kindness. Unfortunately she can’t get used to her new powers yet, and for all her good intent, no one has ever survived the Heatwave’s heart melting action. The Heatwave's Heart Melting Action is only suitable for children aged 3 and up.
Matt Mattus is Gumby Gardener – A creative director at Hasbro whose commitment to fun and design led him to make the most perfect toy concept ever conceived: Himself. Between Gumby Gardener and his pokey sidekick Lady Inappropria, no situation is ever too dire or boring. An inhuman flexibility allows Matt to adapt to each hobby by soaking up knowledge like a sponge, give wedgies to those wearing red Speedos many feet away and 'do the wave’ with eerie precision.
David and I were met at the baggage claim by The Mysterious Agent MJ, who whisked us away to the secret headquarters at Hotel Indigo where we met our teammates and were debriefed. Once we rebriefed ourselves, we were presented with a #Saturday6 totebag filled with uncannily thoughtful gifts that had been tailor-made for our trip; sunscreen, chapstick, a ballcap and water bottle for the desert sun; cactus seeds, an illustrated garden calendar and a handwritten note. Also included, was our mission and itinerary.
But our introductions were cut short, as we were called to complete our first assignment within the dangerously seductive Desert Botanical Garden. Upon entering the deceptively beautiful gardens, we were confronted by restless natives. Armed saguaro cacti surrounded us on all sides while jumping cholla cacti appeared to leap out of the groundcovers by way of the surrounding groundcovers' contrasting fine foliage. We managed to fend them off with the bright flashes of iPhones and cameras, but when a tequila agave threatened us with its menacing spines, we were sure that the end was upon us – that is, until Noelle excitedly explained how it was used to produce tequila and we made short work of the hapless plant.
|Amy Andrychowicz going in for the kill|
|Matt Mattus getting a good shot|
|3 bees pollinating an Aloe|
|Saguaro and desert|
|Matt Mattus, Amy Andrychowicz and David Townsend patrolling the wild west.|
We got out by the skin of our teeth, but our insatiable hunger led us to the magical restaurant of Olive and Ivy, where Edison lamps hang suspended from the ceilings like candles at Hogwarts. I was beginning to feel like this whole trip was a lot like Hogwarts, but my miserable attempts at casting spells were met with blank stares. I resumed eating my bacon wrapped dates and sweet potato cannelloni, enjoying my time at the cool kid's table. I was taken aback at how readily we all got along, and was starting to think that there was more to this Agent MJ than met the eye. Perhaps Agent Jeweley and Commissioner Barbasol were to thank for this serendipitous reunion of kindred spirits as well, but no one person could claim responsibility. How did they just know that we would hit it off so easily?
Walking back to the hotel, I felt like the #Saturday6 was the fun-loving group of friends I never had while growing up. Up until I started garden blogging a few years back and found my confidence, socializing and making friends would have been unthinkable. Even our rooms seemed to be custom-made for the six of us. My room's wall was covered in an Echeveria mural, and the light blues and greens of the modern decor somehow matched my entire wardrobe for the trip. Looking into the unusual glowing light ringed mirror in the bathroom, I felt something begin to change within me and saw it in the reflected white ring around my pupils. Something was changing in the others too, but we were too tired to care. I fell asleep to the sound of rain, oblivious to the havoc it would wreak in the coming day.
We discussed the odd lights around the mirror over breakfast, but the subject was quickly changed when we were ushered to the Raven Golf Club for our next assignment. It was time for Spring Training, where we would learn to use our newfound powers on the golf course. I was actually quite terrified of the tiller and lawn tractors beforehand, but their ergonomic designs called to me and I felt myself relax. I was brought here for a reason. The ergonomic designs of the mowers fit me like a comfortably fitting glove, and the controls instantly became second nature. With only the bare minimum of controls, they worked how you would actually expect them to work.
We retreated indoors to the modular wedding tent to fight another day, and the teams at MTD and Troy-Bilt began their presentations. I can't tell you all the top-secret details, but we began learning more about why we were there, and things became a lot clearer to me. These were people I would be proud to work with. The storm's intensity came to a head during Agent Sarah's presentation. The glorified tent's roof flapped furiously, the walls creaked and water began pooling up under the doors as they swung open wildly in the whipping winds. Dark and terrible things were afoot here, and we all glanced around nervously while the presentation continued.
RT @rainforestgardn: That isn't snow. It's hail in #Phoenix. #Saturday6 twitter.com/rainforestgard…
— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) March 8, 2013
Eating my shrimp and grits at Beckett House was more difficult than the first night, since I was too busy talking to eat any food. While the first dinner was one of introductions and pleasantries, this night was all fun and games. We were bound together in camaraderie by our experiences, and things were just starting to get good.
Stay tuned for the next episode of the #Saturday6, dear readers!
I received compensation from Troy-Bilt® for my trip to Arizona, and the products that I've tested for Troy-Bilt® have been provided to me free of charge. The Saturday 6 partnership that I have with Troy-Bilt® includes monetary compensation. Any opinions expressed by me regarding Troy-Bilt® products or events are my own.