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Gardeners share the best advice and most valuable tips
A student once said, "Thanks for convincing me that if I can't
give a plant the right light and water, so it can keep itself
healthy, it's better to just throw it away or let it die rather
than spend my gardening time medicating it. Ever since I moved that
troublemaker shrub to a better place, I haven't had to spray
Recently we asked fellow instructors for more facts or
techniques that people in their classes had considered valuable.
Here is what their students said, "I'm glad you told me:"
"That I should learn the botanical name of a
plant, so I can communicate with any gardener,
horticulturist or botanist, worldwide, and we'll both know we're
talking about the same plant. You were right that using a common
name can confuse things since that name might be relevant in only
one region and one plant might have many common names. As I use
these names they don't even sound strange anymore, no more so than
'Forsythia' which is a botanical name!"
From a student of Karen Bovio, plant
and owner of Specialty Growers Perennials.
"That there are always new plants to learn. You
told me that in my class assignment I used plants that were news to
you, the instructor. I was getting a little desperate because there
were so many plants to learn and it made me feel better that you
don't even know them all."
From a student of David
University of Michigan Associate Professor of Landscape.
"That root-killing soil compaction isn't necessarily at
the top of the soil but can be transmitted deep down and
there may be a loose layer that seems fine above it. So I may have
to probe to find out it's there, causing the problem. I don't think
I'll ever forget 'the pathogen of the newspaper delivery girl,'
when you helped someone see that the problem with their lawn in one
area was from the daily tread of a delivery person compacting the
soil along one narrow path.
From a student of Dean
MSU Extension professor of commercial horticulture.
"I'm glad you told me about roots and root
pruning. I had no idea roots could grow two or three times
as far as the branches spread and that most are quite close to the
surface. Now I know to root prune a season ahead of time so my
transplants have a better survival rate."
From a student of Dan
Forester for the City of Detroit.
"That even if I cut my rose wrong I won't kill
it. It's just like a bad haircut, a mistake that will grow
From a student of Nancy
owner of Great Lakes Roses.
"To pay more attention to my plants, to really look at
all the ways they tell us if they're 'okay' or not. After
your class I was amazed at all the things I was looking at that I
had never really seen before."
From a student of Steven
Horticulturist and garden photographer.
"To use the same rules of design for my exterior as I
would use in the interior. That I can arrange the plants
in a bed the same way I might arrange a group of things I hang on
my living room wall."
From a student of Pam (Palechek)
landscape designer and owner of Petal Pushers design company.
"That not every plant in my existing landscape has value
and it's okay to tear out those ugly shrubs. My wife and I
did the careful evaluation of our landscape that you taught me, and
now we can see potential in our landscape where we didn't see
anything before except that we didn't like it."
From a student of Karen
"That I can prune things like boxwoods and redtwig
dogwoods in December so I can use the trimmings for winter
From a student of Karen Sierzega,
Through the Arbor gardening company.
"That I should read, take classes, learn from
experts, then go home into my own garden and do it my own
way, to make it my own!"
From a student of Martha
garden writer and tropical plants instructor.
Green thumbs up
to forgiving yourself for the mistakes and shortcomings of the
year just past. Take advantage of the new year to move on and keep
growing. As our friend Wil Strickland says, "Gardening is a
process, not a product. Enjoy what you do, don't expect it to ever
to holding the door open for extended periods of time as you say
good bye to your holiday guests. Cold drafts can be murder on
indoor plants, causing mysterious problems such as leaves curled on
one side or deformities in some of the new foliage.
Originally published 12/27/03
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