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Inspiration On the Half Shell


Some people are known as “glass half full” folks and some drift towards the “glass half empty” side. Personally, I’m a “Whoops! I’m sorry I just spilled that half glass of red wine all over your white lace tablecloth” kind of guy.

I know that many gardeners look at the coming year with anticipation. By January, the unspeakable, unending string of horticultural tragedies of the previous season have been relegated to the compost pile of history, figuratively and literally. (Or is that just my experience?) They view the world – which is pretty much limited to their patios, backyards and all-season deck chairs – with fresh eyes, convinced that this is the year that the porcelain berry vine that strangled their prize affenpinscher will be vanquished, that the heptacodium tree, which died under mysterious circumstances five years ago and which now resembles a hat rack for squirrels, will finally be removed (if only by a wind storm), and that the drainage issues that had them considering creating a rice paddy by the recycling bin will miraculously be alleviated by a climate-change-induced drought that begins in April and lasts through, oh, 2023.

Me? I anticipate the coming year the same way I anticipate driving from Waterloo, Iowa to Billings, Montana – meaning that to get there,it will be necessary to drive through either South Dakota or Nebraska. Either way, it’s going to be a long trip and there will be some pain involved.

Which brings us to the many ways that people seek inspiration to persevere in the coming gardening season. I’m told that’s a theme for this particular magazine issue, though I didn’t receive the notice because I recently spilled a half glass of red wine onto my computer keyboard and my email is piling up somewhere in the Ethernet, where it will likely spontaneously combust, bringing down our national defense system, civilization as we know it, and the season finale of Dancing With the Stars. Probably in that order.

But I digress.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I can’t imagine how she knew what it was like to walk out my back door and into my garden. And it was Vincent Van Gogh who said, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” I’m not sure what that has to do with gardening, but I don’t think he’s a guy who should be quoted about anything that has to do with ears.

Where was I? Oh, yes, inspiration. Here’s another quote: “I got a little house in East L.A. and did the gardening. I was doing some acting here and there, doing my own thing … getting back to reality.” Adam Ant said that. The only reason I include it here is to show what passes for wisdom on The Internets these days. And if you don’t know who Adam Ant is … well, I don’t, either.

But there must be some way for gardeners to become inspired other than typing “inspiration” into Google and seeing what pops up. What’s that, you say? Type “gardening inspiration” into Google? Silly me. Why didn’t I think of that?

So I did, and I discover that George Eliot said, “It will never rain roses: When we want to have more roses we must plant more trees.” Now there’s a confused person. First, George Eliot was a woman, which would have confused George Foreman as much as it confuses me. I doubt that she even spent much time grilling food at all. Come to think of it, though, George Foreman named five of his sons George and named two of his daughters Georgetta and Freda George. So maybe he does get it.

But back to George Eliot. S/he doesn’t seem to understand that a rose is a shrub! … except when it’s a tree rose, I guess. And a tree is a tree! … except when it’s a tree peony, I suppose.

Hmm. Maybe George Eliot wasn’t that dumb after all.

My head hurts. I think it’s time to spill half a glass of red wine into my potted peace lily. I want to see if the bloom turns purple.

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questions

From what I have read, hellebores are supposed to spread. I have a few I planted four years ago, and they seem to be the same as when I planted them. They are planted in a bed of vinca. Should I remove more vinca that surrounds them? I do fertilize them and protect them with a winter mulch. What else should I be doing to have more plants?

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?

I am growing my potted tropical hibiscus indoors for the winter. The leaves are starting to yellow and fall off. Should I give the plant iron and should I fertilize it? Do I cut it back, and if so, when?

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