Summer 2016

At The Gate

Surgery’s Surprise Blessing On February 10th, I had rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder. It was two months afterwards before I could lift my arm over my head. It’ll be July before I’m good to go again. It hasn’t been much fun, and Captain Cantankerous (your editor) hasn’t always been cheerful about it. But…  READ MORE


Typing on a laptop in a garden
Irene Onorato: Louisiana’s Irene, a radiation protection technician in the nuclear power industry, writes humor and romance novels, plants seeds, and pulls weeds. Cathy Gilbert: From Renton, WA: “My husband and I have spent 20 years turning our horse-pasture yard into a peaceful garden oasis.” Wayne K. Wilkins: From Birmingham, England: “After my grandfather died,…  READ MORE


The Bronx Farmers

o more pesticide-laden food for us. That became our mantra when our first son was born. It was time to start a garden, grow our own earth-friendly food, and cook everything from scratch. With the baby settled in for an afternoon nap, Jim and I went into the backyard of our rented house in Ocala,…  READ MORE

The March of the Tree Frogs

he neighbor’s cat was on our deck railing, and it was obvious from the way he stood—crouched, head bent, still—that he was up to no good. I slid open the patio door and stepped outside to check. There, directly under his nose, was a plump, gray-and-brown tree frog. The small frog sat frozen, motionless except…  READ MORE

Now You See

y grandfather was born Henry, but everyone called him John. He felt that Henry made him sound like royalty—“and I haven’t done anything to deserve that.” Of course, I didn’t call him John or Henry—but Grandfather. Grandfather was an old-school gentleman in just about every way. He loved his whiskey straight with the rocks left…  READ MORE

My Burlap Garden

OK, OK, for a would-be gardener, renting is not ideal—and renting an apartment even worse. So from the start of my search until the day I signed the lease, I did everything in my power to rent a house rather than an apartment. The problem was that I was about to be a college graduate…  READ MORE

Life-Changing Magic

Who wouldn’t want a little life-changing magic? That is probably why the catchily titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo spent over nine months on the “New York Times” bestseller list. I know I didn’t want to miss out on the happy-making transformations of a decluttered pantry and organized sock drawer—so I bought…  READ MORE

Dad’s White Rose

Dad flower gardened with enthusiasm and curiosity. It didn’t matter if plants were pass-alongs, came from purchased seed, or were just happy accidents—he enjoyed them all. Dad’s color blindness made for some entertaining combinations. Cosmos clashed with zinnias, and orange marigolds shot up everywhere. But his real passion was roses. One day he bought a…  READ MORE

The Garden Remembers

his morning I caught my breath when I found new shoots breaking through the soil on a St. John’s Wort I’d brought home from Oregon several weeks ago. I thought it had died. Hypericum calycinum is not a difficult plant, nor as rare as the exotic nursery finds that had shared its cramped suitcase on…  READ MORE

Get Off My Lawn

never thought I’d be that guy. You know the type. The type of guy who is obsessed with his lawn. Not like partially obsessed, I’m talking full on Google-knows-everything-about-you stalker type obsessed. I’ve seen Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood. You know, the 2008 movie where he plays a cantankerous old man. He looks mad…  READ MORE

That Good Old (Very, Very Old) Garden Advice

As an author, I often wonder what impact my years of research and writing will have. My wife has observed that it seems to take about 30 years for the world to see what I see. In 1986, for example, I started writing about building with straw bales—and this year straw bale construction is in…  READ MORE


t’s summertime, and as usual, my winter houseplants are crowding my porch. They are so spoiled—but some of them have been with me for almost half a century, dating back to when my mother-in-law lived with us. She died, about this time of year, more than 18 years ago. Two of these houseplants are actually…  READ MORE

Outsmarting Mother

“Mom! He pulled my hair!” I shouted, leaning over the oak banister. I held my head in exaggerated pain. “She knocked my toys over first!” Don complained. “Will you two be quiet? I’m reading!” screamed Diane. “You’re the one making all the noise!” said Dale. Suddenly, we heard Mother’s voice from below: “There’s a row…  READ MORE

Holly Go Heavily

Many years ago, the extremely horticultural expert (his license plate was in Latin and he had crossed out ‘make’ on his owner’s card and replaced it with ‘genus’) of a very well-known company that specializes in high-end perennials must have picked up the wrong list of garden writers (List One: For plant trials; List Two:…  READ MORE

Grow (Your) Microbes

ou might not think that this is all about gardens. But it is. Just wait. The royal “we”—the pronoun that sounded so poncy when Queen Victoria glared frostily down her nose and announced, “We are not amused”—turns out to apply to each and every one of us. You’re a we rather than an I. Every…  READ MORE

Heirloom Harvest

Amy Goldman’s Heirloom Harvest: Modern Daguerretypes of Historic Garden Treasures features over 175 extraordinary photographs, the result of a 15-year collaboration between Goldman, a celebrated plant conservationist and heirloom gardener, and Jerry Spagnoli, one of the world’s foremost daguerreotypists. The result is a truly stunning display of classic vegetables, seeds, and flowers shot in a…  READ MORE

Grandpa’s Seeds

hat brought me back was the shed, but more than that, it was the seeds. The seeds, in their crisp little handmade packets, their names written in my grandfather’s neat, cursive hand. very August since we were little, my sister and I went to our grandparent’s small cottage near Lake George, in the hills of…  READ MORE


After Age Fifty

Simple Affirmation


Prize Fighter


The Man in the Garden

My SpongeBob Garden Tool

Broken Trowel

Good Dogs & Bad Ladybugs

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