Garden Questions Coming Your Way
By Michael Leach
A word of warning: The question season is returning. As soon as cardinals start singing songs of welcome to sunrises that come ever earlier, and determined green shoots begin pushing through the moldering autumn leaves, gardeners will be peppered with questions wherever they go.
Not that we don’t get questions all year round. Who hasn’t been at a party or committee meeting or funeral and somehow been identified as a gardener? Next thing you know, questions are flying your way. Doctors and lawyers probably field more questions than we growers, but even my doctor occasionally asks for help (at no reduction in his fee).
There’s no telling when a question will arise. I once stopped by a hospital to visit a friend. Obviously his condition had deteriorated considerably since my last visit about three days before — the waiting area was full of family who’d been summoned due to a sudden turn. The grim silence was broken only now and then by some soft voices.
Despite feeling awkward, I sat quietly, prayed and waited. Suddenly, my friend’s son-in-law, who was sitting several seats away, asked me loudly, “Do you know anything about asparagus?” Laugher erupted. Apparently my “job” was to be part of the comic relief. The man was serious, though, so we talked asparagus awhile.
Because I’m known as a garden geek among the guys who hit the Y before heading off to work, I get plenty of questions. Often I’m wrapped only in a towel and sometimes nothing. (I refer to myself as the naked gardener.) But the info on lawn care, tree planting and tomato blights is as eagerly received as if I were lecturing in cap and gown at a college podium.
A nurse friend tells me medical people try to get patients to talk about hobbies and interests during treatment. Yet, given my experience with the general public, I’m not so sure. I thought one nurse was unusually intent on knowing how to care for her roses for the coming winter. I answered her questions while undergoing surgery for a skin cancer on my nose that involved a small skin graft.
But it wasn’t until I was an emergency room patient that I experienced questioning under the most unusual circumstances (so far). I was being examined following a rear-end collision. The impact was so brutal that my head flipped back and broke the glass in the rear window of my pickup truck. The impact also severed the cable holding the spare tire beneath the now crushed bed. Amazingly, I had no obvious signs of injury, but a check up at the hospital seemed like a good idea. (God was with me, for I never even had a headache afterward.)
Strapped to a body board, the ambulance took me to the ER. While there, word got out that I was the garden reporter for The Columbus Dispatch. Apparently an X-ray tech recognized my name. He had a relative who was a graphic artist I worked with.
Tests, X-rays and then seemingly endless waiting for results. Still strapped to the board, I could only look at the overhead fluorescent lights. There had been only a couple of questions from the staff. I recalled what my nurse friend said about trying to make me comfortable. But the ER doctor quickly dispelled such thoughts. He skipped small talk and asked, “Can you recommend a good landscape designer?”
Who questions you — and where? OK, so here’s a garden question for you, perhaps your first of the 2017 season. Where do you field garden questions and from whom? Is it the hair salon, soccer field, coffee shop, drug store? You’ve probably been queried in places few of us can image, so please share. Now a second question: When stumped with a question, where do you turn for help? Please share favorite websites, books and other references. For instance, among my go-to gurus is the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/plantfinder/plantfindersearch.aspx