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Mid-Season Classic


Are we all met? Good. Have a seat, everybody. Down in front, please.

[Mumble, mumble, rutabaga, watermelon, and other crop names used as background crowd conversation.]

Annuals, perennials, biennials, trees, shrubs, tropicals, weeds, insects, arachnids, worms, gastropods, roly polies, millipedes, centipedes, garden gnomes and fellow citizens of this yard:

As we approach the Autumnal Equinox, I come to you, as your Gardener-in-Chief, to deliver my State of the Garden address. It has been a long year — heck, every year is a long year. In fact, many years seem like they are two or three years long. Do you remember last year? Wow. Now that was brutal. That year seemed to go on for decades. I was ready to put all of you out of your misery by July. By then, I was already thinking about grabbing the rototiller and…

But I digress.

Allow me to say that the state of our garden is…well…it’s pretty okay.

[Polite applause.]

As we move forward into the autumn of our…uh…year, it is time to look back at our accomplishments and our failures, our lofty goals and our lowly setbacks, as we look toward another season of fecundity, growth and…uh…uh…I can’t remember the third thing. Oops.

[Embarrassed murmurs, rutabagas and watermelons.]

It was a year in which we had such high hopes as the spring rains blessed us with fecundity, growth and…uh…something else…and it was GOOD!

[Thunderous applause, cheers.]

But soon that rain turned to more rain and even more rain, and we learned that, like watching the All-“Futurama” TV Channel, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. That sad fact of life being acknowledged, I would like to recognize some of the stars of the garden, without whose contributions we would not be here tonight. I start with the tulips, daffodils, crocuses, scilla, puschkinia, alliums and other spring bloomers who made the early part of the season so memorable. Let’s hear it for the bulbs!

[Polite applause.]

Whoa. Tough crowd. I sense a little professional rivalry. But let’s move on. Next on the list, we must acknowledge the ephemerals, whose early performance lifted our spirits with their appearance — then disappearance. Talk about your approach-avoidance issues! But they have left a hole in our lives — and our garden designs — with their all-too-predictable exit. Let’s give it up for them, anyway!

[Polite applause.]

Regardless of your tepid response, they will be back next year. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t send a shout out to the lawn, perhaps the neediest and least understood of our horticultural brethren.

[Wild applause, cheers.]

Thank you. Hey, get off my lawn!

[Laughter.]

Oh, you’re a great audience. Now, you can’t deny that the natives in the yard have given the garden a much-needed connection with our past. In other words, native plants are our past and our future!

[Crickets chirping.]

So let’s hear it for the crickets and the other insects and other bugs, and I say that in the spirit of inclusion that makes us such a thriving, diverse community.

[Crickets chirping wildly.]

It looks like it’s time to roll the “In Memoriam” clip of the plants that graced us with their presence last year but failed to make it through the winter.

[Sobbing while the film is shown.]

Well, I’m being given the “wrap it up” sign, and since this garden wouldn’t be here without me, that’s a little weird. But I’ll roll with it. Let me just say that it’s been a pleasure to be your Planter-in-Chief, Waterer-in-Chief, Weeder-in-Chief, Pruner-in-Chief, Mower-in-Chief, Obsesser-in-Chief and so much more. I’ll be back in the spring, though I know that some of you won’t. Allow me to say, right here and now, that if you end up on the “In Memoriam” reel, it’s not my fault. Life is hard. I have bills to pay. I’m doing the best I can.

[Silence.]

Hey, that’s a joke! Open the hose! Drinks are on me!

[Wild cheering, “For He’s a Jolly Good Gardener,” rutabagas, watermelons, etc.]

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questions

I have lost four 12-15 foot tall white pine trees over the last year. All had the same symptoms, browning needles at the bottom that continued up to the top. Can you tell me what pest is killing the white pines? I am also losing an Austrian pine now. It is experiencing the same symptoms.

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

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?

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