Things you shouldn't say to a gardener

Things you shouldn't say to a gardener

With this winter's cold limiting outdoor endeavors, even my dog is getting squirrely. Not "The Shining" kind of squirrely, but the giggling uncontrollably kind of squirrely. I get giddy when I discover a new garden catalog in the mailbox or I realize the road is clear for a hike at Allerton Park.

If squirreliness is running rampant at your home, you may want to be particularly careful on what you say to your gardener. Each year, we gardeners must survive and hopefully thrive through pestilence, drought, flood, wind and winter woes. We do it because gardening is so much more than just a pretty plant or a tasty veggie. However, for survivors, we have surprisingly delicate horticultural egos.

Relationship books extol the virtues of sharing words of praise with your loved ones such as "You look particularly nice today" or "I love the way the light reflects off your bald spot."

If your loved one is a gardener, I offer a few other phrases: "That new flower bed is such a welcome retreat" or maybe something as simple as "I love having fresh lettuce from the garden." A simple phrase of praise goes a long way with a gardener. However, words of disparagement have sharp points, and the daggers of denigration may not be obvious to the orator. So if you have a loved one who is a gardener and you want to stay together to enjoy another Valentine's Day, here is what not to say to your plant-lovin', garden-lovin' lover:

— "I think your garden was prettier last year."

— "Don't you have enough plants?"

— "Your friend Martha's tomatoes taste better."

— "Is it normal for the potatoes to have a cellulite problem?"

— "It looks like the carrots went on an acid trip."

— "I think you need to get a new hen to lay your eggplants."

— "Are you sure these are the same green beans my dad grew?"

— "Didn't the last plant in that spot die?"

— "I could have sworn you told me those were weeds."

— "I used your pruners to cut PVC pipe. I hope that's OK."

— "Isn't it cheaper to buy tomatoes at the grocery store?"

— "What's the big deal? It's just dirt!"

— "Are the strawberries supposed to be that little?"

— "Did it look like that in the catalog?"

— "Why do you need six kinds of tomatoes? They all taste the same."

— "Good news honey. The dog just dug you a new flower bed."

— "Surprise, I cleaned the garden for you. Here are all your plant labels."

— "I was afraid that lone peach was going to fall off the tree, so I ate it."

— "Hey honey I might have mixed up the sprayer for insecticide with the sprayer for herbicide. That won't hurt the roses. Will it?"

— "You might notice the rhododendrons are just a bit shorter than they used to be. You know it wasn't really my fault: The lawn mower is possessed by a plant-hating demon."

— "That's a flower? It looks like a weed."

— "I think concrete comes in shades of green."

— "Good news honey. The rabbits have pruned the roses again."

— "Zucchini for dinner? Again?"

This Valentine's Day, hug your gardener, smile when they share plans for this year's garden and always let them be the first to read garden catalogs.

Danville event

Vermilion County Master Gardeners invite you to their 2014 Garden Day Workshop and Spring Festival from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 8 at CrossRoads Christian Church, 3613 N. Vermilion, Danville. Learn about cooking with herbs and Illinois' fossilized forest. Garden book author Janet Macunovich will present "Design a Garden with 8 Months of Non-Stop Color." Shop among great garden vendors. Preregistration cost is $20 (includes lunch and a tote bag filled with goodies). To register, visit web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/vermilionmg/ or call 442-8615.

Sandra Mason is unit educator, horticulture and environment, for the UI Extension, Champaign County. Contact her with questions or comments at 801 N. Country Fair Drive, Champaign, IL 61821, call 333-7672, email slmason@illinois.edu or fax 333-7683.

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