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Defensive Design


A funny thing happened to me on the way to writing one of my columns last year. I decided to draw something instead, thereby saving myself from writing about four hundred words and, simultaneously, terrorizing approximately 93% of the people who open the magazine to this page. (How do we know? We take dozens and dozens of scientific polls about every aspect of this publication. Doesn’t everybody?)

I titled that piece “I Can’t Draw, Don’t Ask Me” and a second funny thing happened a couple of months ago. It won an award from the Garden Writers Association (of America, no less). For illustration. This is what we in the writing business call “irony.”

If you want to see the “award-winning” drawing, you’ll have to dig up your own copy of the May/June 2004 issue. I’ve since mailed all of mine to adoring relatives and friends, C.O.D.

It occurs to me that I have been barking up the wrong horticultural tree. Regardless of how lame my visual artistic instincts are and how many people I terrorize with my drawings, I obviously need to put more crayons to construction paper. And since I have, of late, been the sounding board for gardeners obsessed with protecting their precious plants from evil-doing rabbits, deer, insects, birds, kids, bladder-control-challenged dogs, crazed adults with herbicidal sprays, hostile corporate take-overs and even soccer moms in SUVs (is nothing sacred?), I realized that it was my civic duty to return to the computer software drawing board.

You’ll note how much more sophisticated my designs have become. After thumbing through at least two fancy landscaping books, I have eschewed circles and arrows and have embraced the design “Key.” I’m so proud of myself my teeth ache.

No awards for this one, please.

It’s on the house.

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questions

I have houseplants outside that I will need to bring indoors. What is the lowest temperature at which I can leave them outside?

After a summer outside, my clivia has returned indoors. Last year it had only one puny flower. What treatment should I give it over winter to bring it into bloom?

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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?

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