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The CRASH Test


Every day I receive letters (well, not every day, but every few days…actually, I occasionally receive letters ... okay, okay, I got one once—are you happy?) in the mail (to be precise, not the real, old-fashioned mail, but somehow they find their way to my desk ... my computer ... and they’re somewhat about gardening ... I mean, I assume that increasing your trowel size has something to do with gardening ... uh, by the way, don’t ever open an e-mail with that subject line) like this one from Rusty:

Dear Mike,
How do you know if gardening is for you?
Sincerely,
Rusty
P.S. Do you have anything you can send me for free?

Ulterior motives aside, Rusty raises a good point. How does one know if gardening is for one, uh, you? I was pondering that question while looking out the window the other week, watching squirrels on the lawn playing five card draw, using my crocus bulbs for chips. And somehow, out of the blue, the word clueless came into my head. There ought to be a kind of aptitude test for gardeners, in order to weed out (thought of that myself) the clueless ones. Not just for spite, mind you, not that it hasn’t occurred to me, but for their own good, to spare them from pouring their life savings into the quest to grow a hydrangea with blue flowers in Zone 4, the endlessly frustrating Google searches (you type in Hepticodium and it asks in its I’m-oh-sooo-smart way: “Did you mean: Heptacodium?”) and the childish taunts of “Nyah, nyah, brown thumb!” from your neighbors that can make the walk to set out the recycling seem like the Last Mile. You know, the kind of things that gardeners, at least the ones I know, experience on a daily basis.

With that in mind, I have come up with a prototype of what I believe will one day be likened to a MENSA test for gardeners. Yeah, like even a MENSA could figure out how to prune wisteria.

Anyway, here is what I call Calculating Real Aptitude for Serious Horticulture, or the CRASH test.

The answers to the following questions will be provided at the bottom of the page. (Not always, just for this prototype. How dumb do you think I am?)

1. True or False:

dirt doesn’t taste all that bad, really.

2. Who invented the Rose?

a) Gertrude Stein
b) Rose Marie
c) Pete Rose
d) FTD

3. Quick, what goes with orange and purple? Quick!

4. Compare and contrast:

The paper “Structure and Functions of the Digestive Canal of the Earthworm Species Eisenia foetida (Savigny)” and the song “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Be brief. Please.

5. Which of these substances should NOT be added to a compost pile?

a) liquid nitrogen
b) Silly Putty
c) Hamburger Helper
d) Beano

6. Fact or fiction: Roger Swain.

7. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Would you tell Barbara Walters?

8. Which garden tool should you use to discipline an unruly trumpet vine?

a) a ruler
b) a spoon
c) a hair curler
d) a time out

9. Your shoelace is untied. Ha! Gotcha!

10. “Busy Lizzie” and “Sweet William” should never be planted together because

a) people will talk
b) they don’t play nice
c) it makes “Black-Eyed Susan” blue
d) oh, just choose from the first three

BONUS QUESTION!

Create a simple design using only exotic invasive plants and use it to conceal the horrific spaceship that now sits on top of Chicago’s Soldier Field. Execute your design on a separate sheet of paper and mail it to City Hall.
Answer key: Fell for this one, too, eh?

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questions

I have a hoya houseplant that has been growing happily for eight years. It had flowers when I received it, but it hasn’t bloomed since. What am I doing wrong? Can I get it to flower?

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?

We all seem to plant the basic herbs like basil, rosemary and parsley. What suggestions can you offer for more exotic herbs that I could add to my garden to spice things up both for cooking and adding interest/beauty to my landscape?

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