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Halftime


“Welcome back to our 2006 coverage, folks. I’m Bud Blast.”

“And I’m Hort Holler.”

“Well, Hort, we’re about to enter the home stretch. Any thoughts?”

“Any thoughts? Hoo-boy, Bud! A bunch of petunias. Look at ‘em!”

“Petunias?”

“You betcha, Bud. Never seen a bigger bunch of petunias in my life!”

“Uh, actually, Hort, I think you mean pansies.”

“Pansies, petunias, whatever. I never seen a bigger bunch.”

“You could be right about that, Hort. And they’ve certainly entertained this huge crowd, orange letters spelling out Viola wittrockiana in a sea of purple.”

“I don’t know. That ‘W’ looks a little droopy.”

“Well, Hort, it’s pretty toasty in that hot sun, especially for pansies.”

“Get them pansies off the field! Get ‘em hydrated!”

“Easy there, big guy. I’m sure that the trainers have it under control. Meanwhile, let’s recap this exciting contest. The weather certainly didn’t cooperate. I’m thinking back to that roller coaster spell of weather early on. Nobody but nobody could have expected a ninety-degree day in February. And then the temperature dropped 104 degrees in seven hours, well, that certainly didn’t do anybody any favors.”

“Are you kiddin’ me, Bud? Whatta move by Global Warming. Faked ‘em out completely! I didn’t think he had it in him. In my whole career I never seen so many strained leaves.”

“Strains, pulls, scorched tips—”

“Oh, man, scorched tips all over the place–“

“I guess you could say that it wasn’t a garden party, Hort.”

“Garden party! Haw! You’re good, Bud!”

“As the competition got rolling, there was a lot of action, with the blooming woodies taking a slight lead over the herbaceous perennials. That is, until they were blind-sided by bagworms.”

“Bagworms! You know, I still think they shoulda thrown the flag on those bagworms. What a cheap shot! I hate bagworms! I get itchy just thinkin’ of bagworms!”

“With the lead continuing to see-saw late in the first half came the most controversial play of the season. Without warning, the annuals coach pulled her Helichrysum petiolare and substituted Dichondra argentea “Silver Falls,” in a move that had a lot of fans up in arms.”

“They’re still upset, Bud. Some of ‘em are still peltin’ the field with licorice sticks.”

“That, of course, in reference to the common name for Helichrysum, which is Licorice Plant. The growing had to be suspended for a time while the mess was cleaned up. This is a plant that has had a huge following for years. Not showy, not spectacular, but a real work horse in the containers. Some might argue that its time has come and gone and that it should step aside for the splashy newcomer. At any rate, that was a controversial move that will be discussed for years.”

“Well, I’m sure discussed, Bud.”

“But if you thought that was the last of the surprises, you don’t know anything about growing, right, Hort?”

“Hoo-boy!”

“Couldn’t have said it better myself, Hort. Nobody but nobody could have expected it to rain frogs in the middle of the third period. You have never seen a mess like that mess.”

“Just goes ta show ya, Bud.”

“Just goes to show you what, Hort?”

“That’s gardening, Bud!”

“You said it, Hort. Just like nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects a frog shower. But that’s exactly what happened and it suspended play for days.”

“Taste like chicken. Didja know that, Bud?”

“I think I did, Hort. But the marching pansies have left the field and I think we’re ready to resume play. And I don’t think that anybody knows what will happen as we head into the fall.”

“Ol’ Mother Nature could throw anything at ‘em. Maybe it’ll rain deviled eggs!”

“Highly unlikely, Hort.”

“I sure could go for a deviled egg right now.”

“Meanwhile, you folks sit back, relax, and grab a cold, frosty one as we conclude the Growing Championship for 2006. If there’s one thing I can guarantee, it’s that nobody can predict what will happen. Right, Hort?”

“Hoo-boy!!”

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questions

The foliage on our cucumber plants is starting to wither and turn yellow. They get plenty of water and I feed them regularly. What could be wrong?

We have a skylight in the bathroom over our Jacuzzi tub with an area around the tub that is quite large. What plants can we grow there, and what care do they need? Can we grow orchids?

I have a nicely sheltered, rounded 7-foot tall Japanese red maple on the southeast corner of my backyard. Half of the tree has lost its leaves, the formerly red bark is turning gray, and a good-sized square of bark has been stripped off on the side that faces the yard. I sprayed the exposed bark with black pruning spray to close any entry for insects. I have not cut off any of the branches.

Does the winter have any effect on the tree? Should I look for some insect infestation? What should I do now?

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