Absolution Granted! World Rejoices! Grumpy Forgives Gardening Goofs!

August 20, 2010 | By | Comments (5)

For nearly a week now, a nearly unbearable burden has been weighing heavily on those faithful readers of the Grumpy Gardener. Who fessed up to making stupid gardening goofs this year? Who of them would Grumpy forgive?

Purple coneflower

Let’s begin with Pat T, who could not figure out why her beautiful perennial coneflowers, like the one above, never came back. Then she realized that the newly sprouting leaves and stems in spring looked like weeds to her and she’d been pulling them up! “Don’t judge,” she writes. “I am a relatively new gardener.” Well, Pat, newness is not an excuse and the Grump will judge. His verdict — you are forgiven.

Now let’s examine the egregious case of UrsulaV, who admits she “carries the greatest burden of guilt.” She bought four rare and endangered Tennessee coneflowers (Echinacea tennesseensis), and in “a misguided effort ot save the world, I planted them.” Unbelievable. What possessed her?

But wait — it gets worse. When rabbits started eating them, she dumped used cat litter around the base of the plants to discourage the savage rodents. Then it poured rain.The dissolved ammonia killed off anything the rabbits hadn’t and the flower beds smelled like cat pee. Rare plants became even rarer that day. Still, Grumpy grants you mercy. The coneflowers won’t.

MGroSome readers are judged more harshly than others, because they really ought to  know better. Such is the stultifying example of Henry H, who works in the green industry. “Sprinkling Miracle-Gro around some flowers instead of mixing it with water is not such a good idea,” he admits. “Only killed about 20% of the impatiens I had planted, but I can’t laugh anymore when my customers ask if they can do it.”

Obviously, Henry, you’re one of those “do-as-I-say” people and not a “do-as-I-do.” It’s nice to know that so many beginning gardeners can count on you for sage and accurate advice. Then again, everybody makes mistakes. And as long as long as you promise to learn from yours and never tell customers the wrong thing again, your case is dismissed.

 RoundupNext on the docket — a grievous horticultural offense more common than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wearing a Speedo. Becky writes, “One day, I was spraying both Deer-Off and Roundup. At the end of the day, I decided to do one last round of Deer-Off, but, yes, you guessed it, I grabbed the Roundup. I spent 30 minutes spraying nearly everything in the garden.”

Fortunately, she quickly realized her mistake and hosed off all of her plants before they could absorb the herbicide. In the future, she resolves to wear glasses while spraying. Grumpy thinks that’s a good idea, but adds that spraying your entire garden with Roundup is actually very effective in keeping deer from eating it. Becky is granted absolution.

Case #5. Julian Chandler “murdered” geraniums, scaevola, ferns, and a dead nettle by planting them all in the wrong places. But the Grumps asks, “How much grief can I give you for having a dead dead nettle?” Dismissed.

Case #6. Carolyn planted elaeagnus (a plant Grumpy loathes) and it’s taking over. Linda ignored wisteria and it’s smothering everything too. Jim admits he let an airhead 20-something intern talk him into making his garden so large that he’s a slave to plants. Jim, Jim, Jim. Should I wire you $8 million from Nigeria?

CoffeeWell, it’s Friday morning and I’m off to Tanzania with 30 of my closest friends to spray-paint a sleeping rhinoceros. I’ll be back soon, but in the meatime I thought you might enjoy hearing Grumpy fess up to his own disastrous advice. A lady called here to say the leaves of her azaleas were developing chlorosis (yellow with green veins),  because her soil wasn’t acid enough. I told her one way to acidify her soil without using chemicals was to pour leftover coffee around the roots.

I had no idea she’d use hot coffee.

Thanks to EraPhernalia Vintage and Samdogs for the pix.


  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Bear’s Mom,
    A lot of people think plants under trees need less water, because of the shade. In fact, they need more water, because the trees suck up most of it. Live & learn.

    September 2, 2010 at 10:25 am
  2. Bears Mom

    I’m not alone!!! This spring I cleaned out a bed under the pines and planted masses of red azaleas, knowing that next year I’d have a sea of blooms. This summer when it got up to 100 degrees and it was just WAY too hot to go outside, I didn’t. When I finally got around to watering all of my plants, my new azaleas were. . .uh, dead.

    August 31, 2010 at 1:50 pm
  3. Henry H.

    “Do-as-I-say not do-as-I-do” Man, have I turned into my father already?!?!?!?!
    Thanks Steve…..(I can sleep now)

    August 23, 2010 at 11:28 am
  4. Jim Long

    I am so grateful our Plant Pope doled out absolution. I feel ever so much better, cleansed of my gardening sins and ready to load up the wheelbarrow with fresh chicken litter and scatter it across my turnip beds. I think the Pope of Plants should hold biennial Confessionals, we can all learn from others’ mistakes.

    August 21, 2010 at 11:22 am
  5. UrsulaV

    When they find my body savaged by vengeful coneflowers, let my tombstone read “Grumpy Forgave Me.”

    August 20, 2010 at 6:46 pm

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