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There Is No “I” in Ideas


This, as I have been told by the esteemed staff of Chicagoland Gardening magazine, is the Ideas Issue. I learned that a little late, as there is a de facto ban on my appearances at editorial meetings. I think it has something to do with declaring at a gathering several years ago, in what might possibly have been a high, whiney voice (I seem to have somehow blocked that memory), that the tubers from sweetpotato vine (Ipomoea batatas) were among the culinary delights of the planet. Or it might have been that I served them up on skewers adorned with Jerusalem cherries (Solanum pseudocapsicum), which are reportedly fairly poisonous.

Now, I ask you: When did nearly killing the editorial staff of a gardening magazine become punishable by banishment? The truth is that they probably would have spent a few hours in gastrointestinal agony but would have eventually recovered.

But I digress. Back to ideas.

January and February are the healing months. The pain created by the disasters of last year’s growing season have finally subsided to a minor throbbing. You have passed through the five stages of plant loss:

Denial. You didn’t kill those plants. Somebody else did. They sneaked into your yard in the middle of the night and stabbed them all with a ballpoint pen.

Anger. You’re really, really angry at the person who sneaked into your yard in the middle of the night and stabbed all of your plants with a ballpoint pen.

Bargaining. You promise your significant other that you will never ever spend that much money on plants again if he/she will only let you venture out into the yard again. If you don’t have a significant other, you look into the mirror and bargain with your reflected image. Warning: that can go on for hours, days, weeks or months.

Depression. You realize that you have been arguing with your reflected image for hours, days, weeks or months. Or you realize that your significant other tuned you out long ago and is now focused on Candy Crush on his/her smartphone.

Acceptance. It was all your fault. You knew that you didn’t know how to grow Brussels sprouts. You knew that you didn’t have the right sun or the right soil. Heck, you weren’t even sure that those plants you bought were Brussels sprouts at all. And you certainly didn’t know what time of the year to plant them or how to care for them or how to prune them or how to harvest them. Frankly, you blew it. And then they were covered with aphids and you ran for cover. And entered the five stages of plant loss.

But now it’s the new year, and the pain is subsiding. Ahh. Feeling … better … ahhh.

See? You’re ready for new (cue the hopeful music) “Ideas!”

And this is where I make my editors happy and I stick to the theme that they have assigned me.
So, in the few words I have left, I present some ideas for the new gardening year.

Idea #1 – Knowledge.

Do you know more about your garden than you know about your taxes? If you don’t understand why you pay what you pay in income taxes, how can you be expected to understand anything about your garden? I’m not exactly sure how to fix that but I feel the urgency to bring it to your attention.

Idea #2 – Think globally.

You need to understand that people all over the planet are just as bad at growing stuff as you are. The fact that, as a species, we are still alive, is a freaking miracle. And that, like you, the folks in Australia and Japan and Latvia go out and plant stuff each year with the same expectations of failure, should make you dance a jig around whatever invasive species has taken over your little garden.

Idea #3 – Persistence.

If you’re like most people, you will do this over and over and over again, until you get it right, or until you rip the whole thing out and create a basketball court where there once was fertile soil. I don’t know. I’m just hovering in space above this whole thing until whatever is holding me up here disappears and I fall face-first into the concrete.

Which is why, at this point, as I consider reconstructive orthodontistry, I say, “Good gardening, and good luck.”

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questions

After my father’s tomatoes ripen on the vine, he finds when he cuts into them that there is a hard white core that extends through the fruit.

What is the green worm that eats my roses and columbine every year?

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?

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