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Article ThumbAn Xmas Carol

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about

that. I had done the deed myself: agonized over the decision, chosen the tools, picked the day, performed the execution, tidied the area, and retired to my quarters for some Netflix reflection and a libation. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail. So it was with a start that I awoke in my easy chair, libation now spread across my khakis, to confront an apparition in my home entertainment room. It was gnarled, gaunt, branched and stark. Something straight out of The Nightmare Before Christmas. And completely blocking the view of my brand spanking new mega 80-inch flat screen TV.

“Who are you?” I ventured, trying to keep the conversation breezy, while craning my neck to determine if I could see around the thing, and wondering just how many libations I had managed to consume before nodding off, and exactly how far back I would need to rewind to catch up with the plot line. After all, this vision could simply be an undigested bit of pepperoni, a blot of melted chocolate, a crumb of a cheese stick, a fragment of an underdone corn dog. “There’s more of gravy than of grave about you,” I thought, wondering how in the world that popped into my head.

“Ask me who I was.”


Article ThumbFake Gardening

I’ve been trying to characterize exactly what happens in my yard as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder. Many garden writers wax poetic about “winding down” and “wrapping up” the season. How lovely for them. The verbs that come to mind for me as I get to the finish line are “careen,” “stumble,” “bumble,” “blunder,” “wobble,” “list,” “tilt,” “lurch,” “crash-land,” not to mention the ever-popular nouns “pratfall,” “belly flop,” “nosedive,” “calamity,” “fiasco,” and “debacle.”


Article ThumbNature Talks! (Garbo Listens)

I think I’m speaking the wrong language.

No, no, no, I’m not talking about English. I actually do all right with the mother tongue. Heck, I’m part of the 0.0000023% of Americans who know how to use lie, lay, lain and laid properly, and I know that a squiggly red line under a word I just typed means that I guessed the spelling wrong and that I should keep trying different letters until the squiggles go away.


Article ThumbWhen Garden Clubs Go Bad

I had the weirdest dream last night…

“Okay, kids, let’s simmer down! Hey, everybody, we only have the room until 9 o’clock. The Corpse Flower Club is coming in and we don’t want to be around when that happens, if you know what I mean.


Article ThumbWho’s A Good Little Garden?

I am a snow thief. There, I said it. I have been known to pilfer snow from my neighbors’ sidewalks. I know that many of you fight the dark urge, upon finishing your own walks, to move on to your neighbors’ slabs of concrete and shovel those, too. Let’s face it, we all covet our neighbor’s snow.

Why? Don’t make me state the painfully obvious! Too late. Because it makes excellent mulch for our winter garden beds, that’s why! (Ouch, that was painful.) I can admit it now because … well, because the evidence has melted and the local gendarmes will not be taking snow samples and storing them in a freezer until they can be examined as the basis of an upcoming episode of CSI: Oslo.


Article ThumbWake Up and Smell the Science!

I’m not always the sharpest trowel in the garden bucket, but even I have noticed a recent trend in horticulture. Suddenly, gardening experts are getting all “sciencey” and stuff about growing things, and they’re debunking conventional wisdom left and right. If you do a search on the Intertubes for “garden myths,” you will see that there are more debunked myths about gardening than there are actual facts. And, as we all know, the Intertubes are the place you go for Science! and The Truth. And cat videos.


Article Thumb’Twas the Night Before Solstice

(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, Major Henry Livingston, Jr., Dr. Seuss and anybody else who thinks they wrote this first)

‘Twas the night before solstice, and all through the yard
Not a species was stirring, not hosta, nor chard
The zapper was hung by the back door with wire
In hopes that some bugs might fly in and expire …


Article ThumbGardening Session

Thank you, doctor, for agreeing to see me on such short notice.”

“Not at all. My pleasure. I had a cancellation and it worked out well.”

“Good. So. Where do I start? Do you want to ask me questions?”

“No, I’d rather have you say whatever is on your mind and we’ll go from there. It’s possible we’ll need more sessions and it’s possible we won’t.”

“Okay … I’m concerned because things are disappearing. Or they never happen. Or they die.”

“Things?”

“Well, plants.”

“Plants.”

“In my yard, yes.”


Article ThumbNaming Rights

Brace yourself. I’m going to smack you across the kisser with a cold, wet herring of truth: Gardening ain’t easy.

There. I said it. You may now wipe that fish oil from your cheek.

One of the reasons that gardening is harder than it looks is that the people who make the rules keep changing them. I’m talking about the keepers of the binomial nomenclature. (Note: If you enjoy reading this column because it’s fact-free, just close your eyes for the next couple of sentences, while I get the serious stuff out of the way.)

Binomial nomenclature is the rule that every living thing – like a plant – has an unpronounceable scientific name that was created to confuse the bejesus out of people who are not scientists. For instance, you think you’re growing a pansy but it might really be a Viola × wittrockiana Gams ex Nauenb. & Buttler. I’m not making this up! As Randy Shakespeare always said, before he was unceremoniously expunged from the history books, “Google it!”


Article ThumbDear Ms. and/or Mr. MacArthur Genius Grant Person

My name is Mike Nowak and, as you can see, I write a column for this very, very, very esteemed magazine. It’s full color and it’s glossy! As you can also see, my column is in a place of honor, on the very, very, very back page, just in front of a big fertilizer ad or something else of great importance to the horticultural community (they change it up every issue, just to keep me guessing).


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In this issue our primary focus is on perennial gardens – beautiful perennial gardens.


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Seasonal Affectation

We are rapidly approaching Corn-Phlegma-Plethora-Terminus-Ucopia and I’m sure that all of you are planning big parties for ...


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This giant and usually tender summer-flowering bulb can be found thriving in a Dane County garden.


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Tough Love

The day we brought her home from the nursery, we were the proudest parents on the block. We hadn’t always wanted one.


questions

I have a cycas palm and am not sure how much direct sunlight or water it needs. It has light brown marks developing on the leaves. What is causing this, and how do I care for my plant?

What ratio and amounts of fertilizer would you use for a perennial bed and a vegetable garden? For growing annuals in a greenhouse, should the fertilizer be fast or slow-release, organic or inorganic?

My split-leaf Japanese maple tree is 15 to 20 years old, about 7 feet high and about 10 feet wide. It is overtaking the corner of the yard. Can I trim it, and at what time of the year?

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