Living With Limitations: It Was Only Logical


Living With Limitations: It Was Only Logical

Frozen Falls

It Was Only Logical



It would seem the inevitable cannot be stopped, only delayed.

I delayed putting away Christmas decorations, both inside and out, for a full week longer than normal to see if that would help. Nope. I had friends over for dinner who were not gardeners and I did not speak of gardening or a plant all evening long. Even I did not know I could accomplish that one. All to no avail.

All the little green noses I was so overjoyed to see so early are now under the first significant snow fall of the season. Snow does make it difficult to see one inch green noses under a three inch thick blanket of snow. Before the days of climate change one could expect a winter that was winter and it was a constant companion. Now I am continually teased by yo-yo temperatures that give me a glimpse, then snows on my parade. Before I could pretend to be patient for there was no choice.

It Was Only Logical

I am afraid what little patience I may have had melted and ran down the drain like melting snow. So, logic follows that what is inevitable will come to pass. Yes, it was inevitable that I would purchase a plant (maybe two) for my garden in the coming season. I could no long delay what was to come and I placed my first order of the year, and it is only mid-January. I won’t even get to see or pick up the plants until mid-April.

For the Defense

In my defense, I met up with forces beyond my control. From the “good old days” when I owned a nursery I still receive occasional wholesale catalogs. I can no longer order twenty of this and fifty of those for a “total dollar amount order”, but I can still dream over the color photos and descriptions. This time it was a catalog of shrubs. All the dwarf, semi-dwarf colorful foliage shrubs that many of the retailers would be selling in decent sizes this coming season. I spoke of the catalog to a friend who manages a small garden center and she said “drop off the catalog and I will see what I can do”. I circled shrubs of interest, ones I already had, and gave her the catalog. Couple of weeks later she sent me a listing of shrubs she would be ordering which included many on my lust list.

Unknown witch-hazel cultivar blooming in my garden.

Oh, MY!

Oh, my. I now have access to nine of the shrubs on my lust list in three gallon sizes. I have agreed to take five when they arrive and probably will return for some or all of the other four. Fellow gardeners, that is pure, undulated, craziness for someone who has a problem carrying a heavy spade up the hill into the garden, much less dig and transplant shrubs. But, that will be in April, and today I am strong enough to carry my dreams of spring.


I found Diervilla Kodiak Orange to play companion to the D. Black transplanted last spring. Two dwarf Hydrangea, Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha, and H. Tuff Stuff Red to go with H. Little Tuff Stuff I transplanted last summer. I continue to be fired up with Spirea, and selected the new Double Play Gold, then picked another Weigela Monet Sunset to go with last years’ Midnight Wine.

Now I will be anticipating pickup of the order for the next two months.

Keep reading. A big event you won’t want to miss is in the works. Coming soon (well, relatively)

Living With Limitations: Impatient

Living With Limitations: Impatient

Little green noses of Snowdrops (Galanthus) emerging


I keep telling myself it is far better to be patient than to become a patient. There is also the one saying it is easier to practice tranquility as a monk than when up to your unmentionables in alligators. All to say, being a gardener in the middle of winter in the mid-West can certainly tax one’s patience.

Here I am going into the second week of January and I have been ready for spring since opening my last gift at Christmas. At New Year’s celebration I had more than one glass of wine, so was not caring about spring’s arrival. I had almost, but not quiet, accepted that it was winter, just relax and think about something else like putting my tax information in order.

Walking Fern

Temptation in a Text

Then it happened. A gardening buddy located further south sent me a text with multiple photos of plants in bud, green foliage and real blooms. My toenails turned warm, my heart skipped a beat, then speeded up. The pupils in my eyes opened to the max. I wiped the drool from the screen of my cell phone, pushed down my sense of envy and returned with a polite thank you. Now he had done it. All reservations were off, my calm acceptance of 2 more months of winter flew out the window along with any tranquility I may have had. I laced up my boots, put on coat and hat and headed for my hillside garden. It is on the north side of a hill so

Foliage and buds of Helleborus foetidus

I know it is a bit later than other gardens, but I had to find something to calm my cravings.

Green is a Color

If one accepts the premise of green is a color, then my garden is not looking too shabby. I have some conifers, but not near enough. There are creeping evergreen shrubs such as Creeping Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), Partridge berry (Mitchella repens), Sweetbox, (Sarcococca hookerana var humilis) and several Epimediums to name but a few. In perennials there are Evergreen Solomon’s Seal (Disporopsis pernyi), Hellebore hybrids and species (Helleborus) throughout the garden, and new, fresh, bright green crinkly green leaves of Primula with plump buds in the middle. Several locations of Hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) with silver and green foliage, and of course, the arrowhead-shaped variegated green leaves of Black Calla (Arum italicum).

Probably only a gardener could get excited over one inch, plump blades, of emerging green noses of Snowdrops (Galanthus), or the knobby knees of Adonis pushing through the mulch.


I would be seriously remiss if I did not include ferns such as our native Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), our Walking Fern (Camptosorus rhizophyllus), the Tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) and Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora). If it is a shade garden then the different species of moss must be mentioned. We have had a wet winter and mosses have never looked more fresh and bright.

We Want Blooms

I see and I am appreciative of my January garden and the days that we have clear skies and temperatures agreeable to a pleasant stroll. I am certainly glad that I remembered to transplant the delayed gratification of plants rewarding my efforts with color in the bleak winter months. Green is good. Some of the green shifts to bronze, red, copper, and darker shades to absorb the winter rays, adding to the reason for a walk.

But, having sang the praises of the color green, the wonders of colorful foliage, we all know gardeners will not be truly happy, never satisfied, unto we see the first plump bud unfold signaling the beginning of another gardening season.

We want blooms! We want blooms! We want blooms!


Keep reading. A big event you won’t want to miss is in the works. Coming soon (well, relatively)

Just Another Adventure: Passing a Torch; Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Event

Just Another Adventure: Passing a Torch;

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Emerging Peony

Passing a Torch


Never Say Never


Looking back over my years of gardening I never thought of what happens when the love of your life is leaving you. We have had a wonderful relationship for over thirty years. That is longer than a past marriage. So, here I stand at the end of the driveway of life waving goodbye as individual parts leave never to return. There is sadness, of course, but there is also a sense of satisfaction seeing how parts of me, of our relationship, will live on. Two old sayings come to mind. One is never say never and the other is all good things come to an end.

It would seem there is more than one way to think and feel about the ending. Perhaps it is not a final ending, but rather a new beginning coming in a different form. I may be old and have health problems but I am not deceased. There is opportunity in envisioning a different future for myself and my garden. I still have something to say, a part of me to pass on to the next generation of gardeners. I suppose a kind of passing a torch.


The Fabulous Four

The Fabulous Four from Yew Dell Botanical Garden were here again this week. I could not ask for better hands to pick up my torch than these four and the destination for the plants in my garden. I do not know the personal details of them all that well, just pieces picked up in general conversations, but I enjoy what I have seen and heard thus far. One, the new Greenhouse and Nursery Manager for Yew Dell. There are two interns, one of which goes on to Longwood Gardens shortly. There is the lady with the clipboard to keeps records of every plant dug. All are degreed, young, and enthusiastic and caring plant lovers. Who and where better to hand my torch?


More than Plants

When I get through not being able to drive any distance without falling asleep and/or doing something hazardous to myself or others, I have an opportunity to participate in the design of my garden’s new home. An opportunity to hang out with a crowd of plant people younger than I to slow down my aging process. To pass on tips I have picked up from others and my experience over the years on plant propagation and growing. Perhaps a word or two on nursery management and sales. With these opportunities I can look in the mirror and see someone who has a word or two of value remaining to pass along.



After the Fabulous Four had left I walked the garden in spite of the cold and windy weather. I had to see the damage we had done. A bit like driving past a serious autos accident. You cannot help but slow down and stare.

You know how the movies have jet fighters firing weapons as they swoop down and fly over almost at tree height, leaving holes as they go? Those holes will be equal distant in width and spacing, the same depth unless they hit something. Well, as I walked my garden I could imagine a jet strafing my garden. There were holes of the same size, equidistant from each other, about the same depth, all forming a patterns of not destruction, but of change. The sight was unsettling at first, seeing holes where this beauty once resided, or that rare plant thrived over the years, or where memories were represented in locations special plants once resided.

But, before I allowed myself to dwell on what was now missing, I remembered what it felt like when my children matured and went away. Given time they found their way back. The relationships were certainly changed, but the new difference was, in many ways, better than past. Instead of trying to dwell on the past, or what could have been, there were new opportunities for both of us. My plants will not be returning, but my relationship does not end and it is up to me to find a new way to relate.

Due to physical limitations and age I cannot take care of all the plants in my gardens. Actually, by turning them loose I am keeping them. Here they would suffer decline and perhaps destruction by the march of nature. In their new home someone else will take care of them, see that they are cared for and appreciated. I will be able to visit their new life at any time.


While they get to carry the torch into the future, I get to share the light without the burden.

Time to book Gene for your next garden event is growing short. Email now to arrange your preferred date

Just Another Adventure: A Gardening Rash: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: A Gardening Rash:

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Adonis amurensis in bud, getting ready to give back the sunshine it borrowed last spring.

A Gardening Rash


Watching the news and listening to my friends it would seem that everyone and their grandmother either have the flu, or just recovered from it, still dragging around. I have avoided crowds this winter for the last thing I need is the flu. Fortunately I have remained flue free. But having escaped the flu virus thus far does not mean some other germy calamity cannot claim me. I do not have to take my temperature, make an appointment with my family doctor, or look into the mirror to recognize advancing symptoms that have befallen me. I feel that I have been hit hard by an outbreak of gardener’s rash.



We both are aware that gardening rash can happen at any time of the year, but like the flu, it strikes hardest during the last winter months. I have tried various patent medicines from the drug store with little or no affect. On occasion an additional glass of red wine with dinner will alleviate some of the symptoms, but the rash returns before morning. Some romantics have said that time heals all, but I have practiced patience and the rash only grows stronger. I find myself itching while watching TV in the evenings. There is only one cure that actually alleviates the suffering.



Always my first snowdrops to bloom.

I cannot help but be aware that I am responsible for the infection that has given me the rash. I did not take my usual precautions as I have in the past. This winter there were no containers of all sizes in the greenhouse holding held over perennials needing my attention. New plants did not arrive that needed winter storage. No seed order was placed and sown so there are no lights during these gloomy days, no additional warmth. The sense of anticipation while watching the seeds germinate and grow on, the early breaking of dormancy, was not there to sustain me. Small wonder that I went into withdrawal symptoms weakening my system. A gardening rash was inevitable.


Step Up

Having recognized my condition, I knew the cure and set about taking my medicine as any plantsman or gardener would. First of all I dressed according to weather that placed stress on a polar bear. The soil was frozen in most places, with spots of warming out of the shadows. I saw my hypertufa troughs were frozen with an inch or two of water floating on the surface of the ice. Wind was coming straight out of the north blowing across northern snow storms. But I knew the cure so on with the coat, the hat and the boots. I began to feel somewhat better before I even left the front porch.


The garden

By the time I walked up the hillside to my garden I could feel a lessening of the symptoms. Only a walk winding through every path would bring about a complete recovery. The anticipation and excitement was beginning to flow in my veins once more. What could possibly await while taking a walk on frozen pathways? Being a gardener I knew exactly were to walk this time of the year to see the required medication.


Winter Buds and Blooms

Less than two weeks ago I was all excited over seeing the first snowdrop bud open. I realize now that I had received a booster shot of flower power. I could look out the window and see something besides cold and dreary even though weather was the same as it had been. My gardener’s constitution was returning. If I could not see good weather then I could imagine how it would be “shortly”. I believe that is faith in the future, belief in tomorrow bringing a better garden than today. We gardeners are filled with it (no, manure comes from a different source). Braving reality I could walk up the hill and see how the number of snowdrops were increasing.

Walking slowly and carefully I found snowdrops has been joined by a companion. Sitting just at soil level was a darkest green bud with a waxed bright yellow eye of tightly clasped petals. That bud was a form of last year’s sunlight just waiting for an excuse to burst into bloom giving back all it had stored. Standing still and taking in the sight of Adonis amurensis I could feel the gardener’s rash flowing from my body and mind.


After all these years of having the snowdrops in one side of the garden and the Adonis in the other side I was struck by my lack of planning in not using the two plants as companions. It was obvious how they dovetailed into perfection. Correcting my oversight as soon as the two genus of plants have matured in this current season I will move one to join the other.


If I find myself making plans to get out there with a spade, then I know my gardener’s rash is in remission. I may need a booster or two, but I did get to scratch the dreaded gardener’s rash itch.

Time to book Gene for your next garden event is growing short. Email now to arrange your preferred date

Just Another Adventure: Amply Rewarded: Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: Amply Rewarded:

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

snowdrop Sam Arnott

Amply Rewarded


Past Pleasures

Snowdrops in bloom. Galanthus species / selection, id lost

On the inside I suppose I have never fully matured, emotionally remaining about eight years of age. Which is just fine with me. (And, males of the species, I am told, are not built to mature emotionally) There is that period in my life when simply put, life is good. It begins with Thanksgiving. I am fortunate enough to have all my favorite foods, including sticky deserts, celebrating for not one, but two or three days in a row, as left-overs are even more delicious. Throw in a family pitch-in dinner and what more could a little boy want?

Well, as it turns out there is more. Much more. There is the anticipation of the Christmas holidays. Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. It is a time when the world loves children most, including grown up little boys. I love to decorate inside and outside my home, then take drives after dark to admire neighbor’s displays. I get to put up the Christmas tree and it is decorated according to what this little boy thinks a holiday tree should look like, up to and including bubble lights. Food enters as a not unlike Normal Rockwell painting and I get to prepare my fantasy foods that make it a holiday. I know the validity of what I prepare for the Cookie Monster camps on my front porch all during Christmas. Then there are the surprise presents under the tree. Surly Nirvana cannot outdo the dreams of a small boy at Christmas.

New Years is more of an adult holiday. Every year I am going to stay awake and celebrate with the big people, but never seem to be able to stay awake until midnight. Also the host for that little boy has aged a bit and is too tired to stay awake half the night. Old enough that at midnight a neighbor will set off a cherry bomb or fire a weapon into the sky, creating a noisy celebration loud enough to wake both the dead and a grumpy old man.


What’s Next

After over six weeks of letting my little boy out to play, that is a long period of excitement, a sustained high, if you will. A sugar rush that has a crash at the end. January has a birthday for me, but age has tamed that celebration just a touch, perhaps leading to a slow winding down. January and February are months of overcast gloom and doom, hanging a frayed gray curtain outside the windows. Temperatures have been too cold to play outside, snow and sleet blankets my world as I stand with nose pressed to the window in a room filled with letdown.


Blue Skies

Just when I can see nothing but gray days and feel even darker feelings, along comes a break in the weather. Temps jump back up, snow melts and there is blue in the sky once more with fluffy white comforters floating across overhead. All of a sudden the soil has thawed and I see a reading of 55 degrees on the thermostat. The downward spiral has been forgotten and I look for my stomping boots and hat. Bert the Oxygen Bottle will be keeping me company. Recess has arrived once more and it is time for us to go out and play.



Snowdrops in bud with Hellebore niger foliage

It all came together as one of those perfect days. There was sunshine and relatively warm temperatures, the ground had thawed and I was being pushed out the door by an almost forgotten urge. Could it be a preview of spring? What would I find if I went for a walk in the garden? Bert the Oxygen Bottle and I headed up the hillside following my bellybutton, knowing exactly where I would end up down to the exact square foot.

Amply Rewarded

Bert and I stood at the side of a raised bed held in awe by what was happening right before our eyes. There, in all the different browns of fallen leaves and the black of soil, was the opening of the first snowdrop of the season. Streaks of bright green against all the dead of last year, a few green blades with white tips and there in the middle was a single hanging snowdrop blossom with its green markings. We elders stood there recovering our breath, while youth smiled from ear to ear and clapped its hands in glee, jumping up and down in one place.

All paths led to that one day, that one time in the afternoon to decide to take an early walk in the garden. I was more than amply rewarded.


As it turns out that little boy still loves plants, still wants to play in a garden.

Time to book Gene for your next garden event is growing short. Email now to arrange your preferred date.


Just Another Adventure: Counting Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events

Just Another Adventure: Counting

Gardeners Grabbed by Life-Altering Events



Looking Inward

The ice and sleet, the snow, have turned to rain standing in puddles for the ground remains frozen and it has no place to go. Heavy gray clouds hang so low I feel I can stick my finger up into the air and punch a hole in the bottom of the gloom. With the sudden warm temperatures we are having the soil will soon thaw. Snowdrop blooms are just around the corner. If I look carefully I can see some almost-green in the lawn.

It is raining again so no walks in the garden to see if I can find any green noses emerging to sniff the winter air. While I cannot get out into the garden I can get within myself.



For some unknown and random reason I feel the need to inventory my good luck, count my many blessings. At the very tip of my pinnacle of piled treasures has to be simply being here to do the counting. At my age I have many old friends who are now memories of past times, old conversations and shared time well spent. Both my parents have passed on, and of eleven siblings, only four remain and I get to be among those four. Of all the blessings I can think of counting, life is the greatest gift to be thankful for.



First snow on evergreen fern in garden

I found myself in the emergency room at the hospital almost two years ago. The problem was quickly diagnosed but while running tests they found a list of more serious problems with my health. I won’t bore you with the details, but I was admitted to the hospital and would be again a year later. My quality of life would never be the same for me. Limits to my physical activities would be pretty much permanent. It was a life-altering event. But, it certainly could have been much worse.

I remain alive and I am more or less mobile. While in rehab I watched the others around me. Some were not going to help themselves, make no changes. Others concentrated on getting back to their lives best they could. Two or three made bad jokes about it all and cheered on the rest of us. For all of us that made it through surgery and into rehab there was a choice. The choice was settling into a life of depression over what was now gone or restricted, or see that you have been given another chance and make the most of it. I am not always giddy with the results, but I remain here in the upright position and have enough presence of mind to be thankful.



I have been attending gardening symposiums ever since the beginning of my gardening. Trade shows came soon after. I traveled from Michigan to North Carolina giving lectures. Much of the nursery trade was by appointment here at my garden. I have been very lucky to have met more gardeners that I can count. As a result I have friends in surrounding states as well as Japan and England. All those friends have plants in their gardens that came from my nursery, so there is an open invitation to visit the gardens and gardeners who became friends over the years. While the nursery has been shut down for a couple of years now, and I do far less lectures, friends still want to visit. My friends are blessings that are countless for I could visit a different garden and gardening friend once a month for the rest of my life and still not see them all.



If, and that would be a very large if, I never get to garden again, I have over thirty years of memories of when I could garden. In the same garden, on the same Southern Indiana hillside. All that time building not only a garden of rare and unusual plants, but of constructing a residence for my soul mate. When nothing was going well in the world, I could drop the problems at the gate and spend time in another world where worries had no place. Almost every plant has a story, a history I share in memory if no longer in soil. What a blessing to be able to have that many memories of times spent in tranquility.


Why tell you?

Snow covered Guardian of the Steps. His expression says it all.

If I have a feeling or thought, I am pretty sure we share similar thinking and emotions on occasion. Perhaps by sharing something I have learned for my benefit it may be of assistance to you on a gardenless day. There are times when sharing helps the process of my day, perhaps my week or more.


Time to book Gene for your next garden event is growing short. Email now to arrange your preferred date.