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Imagine That


I was awakened recently by the sound of a pigeon rattling my bedroom window. Peeking with one cautious eye from beneath my covers, I noticed that there was a small scroll attached to its leg. I opened the window, retrieved the scroll and got a dirty look from the bird as it pooped and flew off. (Just what are the rules for tipping carrier pigeons?)

This is now how my editors communicate with me. They mutter vaguely about computer viruses and such. I’m not sure but I think I’m being punished for some grammatical faux pas.

Anyway, the note was about the theme of this first issue of the year (already? can I go back to bed?), which is … uh … “Magician Tissue.” Wait. Nope. (The print is very, very tiny on this little note.) It’s … uh … ah! I think this is the “Imagination Issue.”

Yeah, yeah, okay, I get it. That makes sense. “Brainstorm,” “brain freezing drizzle,” “creative juices,” “fermenting juices,” “thinking cap,” “thinking beanie,” think outside the box” and “think outside but don’t track in any mud” immediate pop into my head as I’m sure they do yours.

When it comes to using your imagination in the garden, I’ve boiled it down to a pretty simple set of rules. Now it might seem counterintuitive that your imagination would need to be subjected to any rules. You need to remember, though, that you’re living in my little fantasy world, not yours. So zip it and focus! I don’t want your silly wayward brains meandering all over the place. That would lead to horticultural chaos.

Feel free to affix the following list to your refrigerator with your 1996 “Floppy Discs Are the Future” calendar magnet:

Shows no imagination: well-manicured lawn
Shows imagination: well-manicured compost pile.

Shows no imagination: creating “rooms” in the garden.
Shows imagination: creating “closet space” in the garden

Shows no imagination: planting arborvitae fences to screen the view of your annoying neighbors
Shows imagination: offering “arborvitae cocktails” to your annoying neighbors to scare them into moving away

Shows no imagination: paving stones on your patio
Shows imagination: paving stones where your windows used to be

Shows no imagination: rooftop garden
Shows imagination: rooftop cranberry swamp

Shows no imagination: pruning trees with a sharpened saw
Shows imagination: pruning trees with sharpened paving stones (see how useful those things can be?)

Shows no imagination: watching HGTV
Shows imagination: coming up with new meanings for the anagram HGTV (Horticulturally Grim Television, Highly Gratuitous TV, Herbaceous Gibberish TV, Hardly Glimpse TV – try it; it’s fun!)

Shows no imagination: killing plants with herbicides
Shows imagination: boring plants to death by showing them smartphone photos of your grandkids

Shows no imagination: planting heirloom varieties
Shows imagination: burying your spouse’s heirloom knick-knacks

Don’t you feel more creative already? I sure do! In fact, I just used those wonderfully versatile and not-at-all-overused paving stones to create a ten foot high fence to keep my neighbors from spying on my creative ideas. I’m about to head over there with a brand new drink that I call the Euphorbia Margarita. Do you like yours with or without salt?

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questions

I am interested in improving fall color in my yard. What shrubs turns red beside burning bush (Euonymus alatus)?

Is it possible to plant and grow Italian cypress in the Chicago area? Are our winters too severe for it? If they are, is there an alternative conifer that will provide a similar look?

At the end of every winter, there are many shrubs growing along sidewalks that are dead and damaged either by salt, wind or dogs. Are there any shrubs that I can plant in these more exposed situations and expect them to survive?

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