Advertisement

10 Years After


I’m not sure whether I should be celebrating or apologizing.

Let me explain. The 700 or so words on this page mark my tenth anniversary as a columnist for Chicagoland Gardening magazine. It scares me to think that some of my readers are younger than that. It also scares me to think that some parents might allow their kids to read this column. But I digress.

I’m surprised that the tenth anniversary is generally known as the “tin” anniversary. Which means that if you’ve survived the close combat of a relationship for a whole decade, the best you can hope for a reward is a substance that is used to coat steel containers for food preservation or to stabilize PVC plastics. So, on your tenth anniversary, I suggest you give your wife a few cans of water chestnuts. Or delight your husband with a length of PVC pipe. Then prepare to sleep on the couch, whatever gender you are.

The other thing I’ve learned about tenth anniversaries is that the flower of choice is the daffodil. Not a particularly spectacular choice but not a horrible one, either…if you like the broad palette consisting of the colors yellow, white and orange. So if any of you out there want to send me a spray of daffodils in a tin cup in honor of my surviving ten years as a horticultural writer, well…oh, save your money.

The most important thing, as we all know, is not the physical reward one receives for services rendered but the reward one receives from learning. (Yeah, it hurt me to write that as much as it hurts you to read it.)
Regardless, I’ve learned a few things in ten years of horticultural writing, despite evidence to the contrary. Here they are, in no particular order.

We’ve lost control of binomial nomenclature. For instance, Leucanthemum vulgare, or oxeye daisy, used to be called Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. I’m not exactly sure when the horticultural powers-that-be decided to kick oxeye daisies out of their “Chrysanthemum Chlub,” but I think it was about the time that folks discovered that the oxeye daisy is so invasive that you shouldn’t be surprised to find that it has stolen your identity. You may take that as a horticultural tip, if you like. Now dial 9-1-1…immediately!

Dirt is not the same as soil. Or is it “Soil is not the same as dirt?” I know there’s an important point here because I read it everywhere in very serious horticultural articles. But I can’t seem to remember what the actual difference is. I’ll get back to you on that. By the way, the other thing I’ve learned about dirt…er, soil, is that if you knew absolutely everything that was going on down there — bacteria, fungi, microbes, nematodes, compaction, doggie doo-doo, Jimmy Hoffa, lead contamination, rusty nails, phosphorus, Alice in Chains, night crawlers, Dirt Devils — you’d just pave it over (see Jimmy Hoffa).

The number one cause of plant mortality is people. No further comment.

We’ve lost control of garden tools. It used to be that the “Garden Weasel” was on the fringe of horticultural experience. But have you seen the “Garden Honey Badger,” “Garden Scorpion,” “Garden Gila Monster” and “Garden Piranha?” Makes you want to take up bungee jumping as a safe hobby, doesn’t it? And I haven’t even gotten to the “The Extreme Stumpulator” that will remove your tree stump in less than 40 seconds — guaranteed! — and also your neighbor’s backyard, if you don’t shut it off fast enough. There’s “The 18th Century Garden Cultivator,” which approaches the task the old school way — it plays Mozart while pruning your shrubs into topiaries of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Reason. My boxwood bust of Voltaire is the envy of gardeners for blocks.

An aluminum lawn chair in the compost pile will not decompose. Don’t ask me how I know this, okay? But I’m certain of this one.

Just because you bought the plant in your home state doesn’t mean that it’s a native. If I don’t explain these things, who will?

So there you have it. Is it any wonder that I’m considered the garden writing equivalent of Rousseau? Or is that Montesquieu? Wait…it might be Spinoza…Wollstonecraft? Goethe? Handel? Well, it’s one of those heads on my front lawn. I know that for a fact.

categories

Lincoln Park Zoo Advertisement

popular

Article Thumbnail
Columns
Mike’s Holiday Hort Sing Along (Again?)

Did I ever mention that in my childhood I was severely traumatized when I happened to discover two snowflakes that were ...


Article Thumbnail
Columns
A Letter From the Garden Abyss

I am writing to reach out to humanity, if there is anyone left as of May 1. If you find this note, please take it to the ...


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Diary of a Bad Gardener

Dear Diary, I’m soooo excited that I can hardly breathe!! Spring is almost here!! I can feel it in my very, very cold toes ...


Article Thumbnail
Blog
Birds and Beans

All the snow we’ve had recently brought many more birds to the feeders outside our kitchen window. A lone starling was ...


Article Thumbnail
Blog
A Tough Plant for Tough Times

This is the year of the hellebore, at least in my garden. I have about a dozen now, with several of the lime-green ones ...


questions

I’d like to start composting. Do you have any advice on what kind of bin to purchase/build so that it is successful in the Chicago climate?

I have twelve beautiful blooming violet plants on my office desk, placed 12 inches from a light source that’s kept burning day and night. I water them from the bottom and let the water remain in the saucer.

No matter what I spray, I continue to have gnats and other insects in my soil. I also occasionally start to get yellow spots on the tips of the leaves and then the spots start going down the leaves. What’s going on here?

Late last year most of the leaves on my year-old seven-son tree (Heptacodium) turned brown, starting at the tips. It had some new growth on the tips and buds. I used a tree ring soaker hose every two weeks.

ChicagolandGardening Advertisement