No one else in my family is. Only me.

I looked it up. According to Merriam-Webster online it became commonly used in the late 1950s in America. It is derived from the Yiddish word, klots which literally means ‘wooden beam’.


I used to laugh this off but as I get older it gets a bit more serious. Like about 15 years ago I was visiting my dad and my step-mother at their house at the beach. She handed me two nested glass bowls that were stuck to un-nest.

Yes. They broke and sliced my finger.


I wrapped it in a paper towel and figured it would stop bleeding. We kept the conversations going. Three hours later it’s still bleeding. There is no nearby hospital or even a doc-in-a-box (urgent care), so they called an ambulance.  For a cut finger. The ER doc gave me 5 stitches.


There have been many more instances, I will spare you. Fast-forward to today. Years ago I learned the hard way I can not use a weed-eater. Not only do I get too close to that whacking string but I beheaded many unsuspecting plants. So whenever I want to edge flower beds I use a garden snip. This works really well but is time-intensive. On a day like today I was happy just to be outside. Even though my area of town did not get the quenching rains so desperately needed, the thunderstorms that passed through last night cleared the hot air and humidity.


So I plopped down in front of the garden stones and clipped the overgrown grass. Lily and Lulu stretched out close by occasionally sniffing the light breeze.


I absent-mindedly commented to Lulu how much the grass had grown, snipping away, hands buried deep when I felt a sharp pain on the same finger I nicked for my step-mother. Drawing it out sure enough a bright red spot bloomed where I actually sliced off a good chunk of skin.


I ran inside, wrapped it in thick paper towels, again, holding it over my head. It finally stopped bleeding to the point where I could put anti-bacterial ointment and bandage it in gauze. It has even stopped throbbing now, so I think I will live.

Maybe I should get a weed whacker anyway. I can always replace the flowers.


Lulu exhausted from the excitement.





spring fervor

Normally it’s fever. This year somehow the garden centers suddenly have exploded with all manner of shrubs, trees, bedding plants, vines and border plants. The stars (perennials and annuals) have not made their appearance yet, maybe not until May. But the colors! Bright reds and magenta, pinks, blue, lavender and vibrant green in every shade imaginable.

And the pollens!

Everything is coated in a dusty yellow pine pollen film. We had a good, hard soaking rain a few nights ago and most of the pollen dust washed away but it’s never ending until after April. Sneezes going off everywhere. Anonymous “Bless you”s quickly follow.

This morning on our walk Lily, Lulu and I went rogue off our neighborhood property onto the adjacent electric company’s property. We followed the rutted road as it curved around a retention pond, and amongst the bramble and blackberry tangle found an unkempt wild wisteria vine


I brought a cutting home to see whether it would root. This is a maniac of a vine and will easily take over an arbor in a summer or two in this climate but if tended properly is very pretty with pendulous, grape-like, heavily scented flower clusters.

I was given some pittosporum seeds a year ago which I started in small pots. It’s a pretty shrub with a lovely creamy white flower that has a light fragrance. So far I have a few that have rooted but are not yet ready for the unpredictability of the outdoors

IMG_0901.JPGMaybe next year, if I can keep them alive through another winter inside they can be planted.

I have scattered more wildflower seed since nothing came up last year, I have tomatoes, some herbs, coleus and other plants for flower pots. But we are warned of yet a few more nights of maybe frost or close enough, so I’ll wait another week or so.

Meanwhile, Lily has let me know it is time for walkies.


So planning and plotting where I will plant things, place flower pots and trellis tomatoes will have to wait.

For now.



Murray’s pokeweed

So this master gardener class, I actually finished the classroom work last May but you don’t get to graduate until the following winter after you complete 25 hours of volunteering and 25 hours of plant clinic  where actual people come in with limbs, roots, desiccated leaves, berries, and various other garden/ weed items to have you either help them identify it, tell them how to get rid of it or tell them how to cure whatever may be wrong with it. That is a lot of anxiety for me. There could be any number of things that look similar. What if I recommend the wrong treatment? I’m telling you, I began to understand how doctors feel. Some of these plants are heirlooms or were someone’s great-great Aunt Martha’s plant and Must.Not.Die.

So I did manage to get through the plant clinic work. The volunteering was a lot of fun because it is nearly all outside, either pulling weeds, planting new seasonal plants or pruning, dead-heading. I did enjoy the weed pulling. It’s very therapeutic. Until one day.

I was under a canopy of shrubbery pulling out chamber bitter and various other noxious weeds when I spotted a poke weed. Unless you are from somewhere in the South you probably will not know what this is. Every part of this plant is toxic once it sets flower buds until the berries (juicy purple things that birds love and stain everything) are gone and the plant dies. Even then you should never try to eat it.

Called poke salad (pronounced poke salit, a song made famous by Tony Joe White, “Poke Salad Annie” written and recorded 1968 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz4DvG4bQ2o), humans sometimes eat the tender leaves in spring but must be very careful that no evidence of a flower stalk has begun to grow. I do not recommend this with or without flower stalks. Ever.

images.jpgpoke weed plant

images.jpg berries

So this plant had been there for a while. A few years maybe. It was doing no harm under this canopy.  No one could even see it, not unless they crawled under to where I was which wasn’t likely. I was surprised it had even survived because these things take full sun, happily. And heat. No problem. So here is this plant and I had a time cutting through its stem but finally did and proudly emerged with it, casually tossing it onto the growing pile of weeds and debris to be discarded.

Silence descended on our little group. Figuring everybody was just too hot to talk I went back to my weeding.

Murray, an older gentleman whom everyone knows and loves wandered up. Suspendered, a sheen of perspiration across his brow he walked over to peruse the results of the work we’d done. I barely heard him, but did for sure hear, “I figured somebody’d pull out that pokeweed one day.”

I was mortified. Were it in my yard it would have been permitted to stay since it does attract any number of songbirds. But this was a public garden, highly manicured. And I was a novice. Unseasoned as to the particulars of what others’ preferences and habits are. Still, I learned a very important lesson that day. Sometimes a weed, especially one that shows grace in humility among refined, well-bred flora, are encouraged to stay.

download.jpgDo Not Eat


My dogs truly completely hate these creatures.

I am beginning to feel the same, the way these fluffy-tailed rats dig up my seed beds, planters and flowers to bury… what? There are no acorns yet. Maybe they are burying the sunflower seed I put out for the songbirds. They hang upside-down munching away while the birds wait their turns in top tree branches.

Then the hounds are loosed.

Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu streak out the back door, flat out the entire 25 yards to the feeders while the squirrels nonchalantly swing down from their posts of fatness to idly climb the nearby trees. They know Lily and Lulu can’t follow them up there. No sooner are the dogs back inside than the squirrels are back at the feeders so we loop this circuit over and over until the squirrels finally give up. The birds resume their feasting until the squirrels come back again, which they always do.

Where I moved from there was a neighbor I was told a couple of blocks away who used squirrels for target practice with a BB gun. He was a lousy shot. I replaced 3 windows in the 5 years I lived there. Four, if you count the side window that was lost to a neighbor’s fireworks misfire.

The late Bob Ross, the television landscape oil painter/teacher had a rescued baby squirrel he sometimes carried in his shirt pocket on tv as he painted. He named this squirrel Peapod. Well once you name something you have claimed it for your own, which he did. Evidently this relationship was congenial. I was not a regular viewer of the program but the times I did see it when Mr. Ross spoke of this squirrel or had him on he never mentioned that it bit him, scratched him or did any other squirrelly things.

Not likely but I do hope my dogs do not ever catch one. Pretty sure husky-mix Lily would make quick work of it. Terrier-mix Lulu is more likely to want to play with it, I think, but I hope she never catches one all the same.

The other day as we wound up our nature park walk we came across an adolescent (?) squirrel lying on the path ahead of us. At first I thought perhaps he fell out of his nest as they sometimes do and was stunned. As we got closer I saw he had no head. Likely some owl or hawk got him and was too eager to begin its feast before dining properly atop a tree branch or electrical pole and dropped the remainder of him. Just as glad I saw it and retrieved it before the dogs did.

Drama of nature.


Most everyone likes a garden. Whether they enjoy getting their hands deep in rich soil, sowing seeds, or simply admiring someone else’s toils, flowers are pretty.


Working in a flower bed is like cultivating a friend. Some think if they want to move a flower they simply grab its stem and yank it out by the roots, dig a new hole and put it in.

Not exactly.

You need to consider what it comes from. What if it’s a bulb? a rhizome? a root system, large and well-established or a taproot? What if it has bulblets, or plantlets sent out on separate shoots? You need to find its foundation first. You need to gently work in and around the soil and its roots taking care not to break or injure them. Tenderly help the roots release from the soil, watering now and then as you work.


As it comes away from its former place prepare a new place digging in the soil larger than the plant root system. Place the plant centered on its base carefully filling the soil back in loosely so as not to pack too tightly or suffocate and cramp its feet. Continue to cultivate it with water, nourishment, pruning where it has useless, dying leaves or stems. Encouraging the healthy plant to grow.

Friendship is the same. You meet someone you would like to befriend. The friendship is nurtured carefully, fed with interest, attention, and observation. Laughter, listening. Thoughtfully tended. The foundation begins with kindness, gentleness and warmth. Water with love, consideration, grace, peace.

And prayer.



This was a week of catch-up reading. So many books I’d been wanting to read while involved in the Master Gardening program piled up and I have still got 5 or 6 left to read. At one point I wandered around my yard and potted plants and found many beginning to bloom, so here are a few —

DSCN0171.JPG geranium     DSCN0167.JPG  lily


DSCN0164.JPG  phalaenopsis DSCN0165.JPG  more phalaenopsis


DSCN0168.JPG knockout rose  DSCN0169.JPG tomato


DSCN0172.JPG blurry lizard  DSCN0174.JPG  Lulu hoping to catch blurry lizard


DSCN0135.JPG                                                    Lily and Lulu enjoying a backyard stroll

So this was our week and weekend. Next week we will have the yard enclosed so I can keep Lulu out of the neighbor’s yards and the street. A couple of days’ volunteering at the plant clinic at the Arboretum to knock off a few service hours. More books read, more books on hold at the library coming in, I hope.

I truly wish you a grand and delightfully surprising coming week.

“Ms.” Gardener??

So this Master Gardener program began almost 9 weeks ago. My brains are so full of information on annuals, biennials, perennials, grasses, fruits, vegetables, fungal diseases, bacterial diseases, blights, beneficial and pest-y insects, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, you name it, in these 9 weeks of intensive classes of 6 hours per week I am in gardening overload.

I have always enjoyed gardening. If you had told me at the beginning of this herbal odyssey I would feel this way I’d have laughed myself silly. It’s like gorging at Thanksgiving. The feeling’s just the same except my head wants to explode, not my waistline.

No idea when or if I will ever use this information. Maybe it’s crammed in there in such a way as to come through as second nature. I’ll look at an azalea leaf and know it is a rust disease, not lacewing insects. Or see little raised tunnels in my yard and know they are not really tiny moles but mole crickets. I will know the small, round shiny-gray things are ground pearl, an insect for which there is no remedy except to dig up and completely replace the sod, no small (or inexpensive) feat.

There are more varieties of oak that I could ever have imagined, and most wasps are beneficial. (I don’t guess that applies to yellow jackets as well).

I won’t know, right off the bat, if you have your soil tested and it has a low ph of 4.7 what proportions of fertilizer it will need. Clemson University can tell you. I won’t likely be able to say if a camellia variety is a japonica or sasanqua, but I know they are both beautiful flowering shrubs. I know more than I did at the outset of this class, much more, I just have to integrate it into my current knowledge.

So it’s hard, if I even actually pass the course, thinking of myself as a master anything, much less a master gardener. Even so as with most everything else, I will not ever know it all, at least I certainly hope not.

What fun could that possibly be?