Today marks the start of Grumpy’s 33rd year of not being fired from Southern Living. I know, I know — how could any organization overlook more than three decades of sarcasm, bad taste, poor judgment, and blatant snarkiness? I still remember my first day on the job. I was 10 and had to sit on what was called a “telephone book” to reach the keys of my state-of-the-art IBM Selectric typewriter. To thank you, dear readers, for not throwing up every time you saw my byline, I now present 32 of Grumpy’s greatest garden observations — one for each year you convinced the magazine not to march me to the edge of the roof and push.
1. Never plant a single okra plant lest you appear foolish.
2. The best way to get even with someone who slighted you is to give him or her a flat of mint.
3. Don’t get upset when plants die. It gives you the chance to plant something new and better.
4. You know you’re a gardener when you consider a truckload of manure an acceptable anniversary gift.
5. The most common reason plants fail to bloom is lack of sun. The second most common reason is you parked your stupid RV on them.
6. Prune your crepe myrtle like you prune your dogwood — in other words, just about never.
7. Never copy what your neighbor is doing in his garden, because he has no idea.
8. Don’t plant Bradford pear! Its flowers smell like tuna, it falls apart in wind, and its thorny seedlings come up everywhere.
9. NASA has just confirmed there is life on Pluto. Unfortunately, it’s privet. Learn from this.
10. Find out how big a plant will grow before you put it in the ground. Giant house-eating plants are a pain in the hiney to move.
11. Don’t scalp your grass or you’ll soon have all weeds and no grass.
12. If any guy with a pickup truck offers to “top” your trees (cut the tops off), give him 5 minutes alone with your pet gator.
13. The easiest way to kill any plant is to make it the focal point of your garden.
14. Determining your last spring frost is easy. It always comes the morning after you set out your tomato plants.
15. If the power company says it’s going to prune your trees, assume it will do so in the ugliest way possible.
16. Just because a plant is native doesn’t make it better. Choose the right plant for the right spot, no matter its origin. (Privet is never the right plant.)
17. People who don’t read my “Grumpy Gardener” blog each week are like blind people in a portrait gallery.
18. No, you cannot grow any type of grass in the shade, including the fun kind.
19. Hiding a pretty house behind a hedge of shrubs is like putting flannel plaid pajamas on Taylor Swift.
20. Never grow watermelons on a fifth-floor balcony for obvious reasons.
21. It’s easy to keep dogs from digging up your flowers. Get rid of one or the other.
22. Don’t burn off a dormant lawn in winter. It looks like an asteroid struck.
23. Hollies can be male or females. Females are prettier, but they never stop talking.
24. Never take a chainsaw up into a tree unless you’re already dead.
25. The vast majority of plants like sun and well-drained soil. Tattoo this onto your arm so you’ll remember.
26. Big trees that are hollow inside will probably fall on something precious, like your Big Green Egg or Garden Yeti.
27. Southern Living spells “crepe myrtle” with an “e” because it makes sense and we like to. If this keeps you up at night, spell it with an “a.” We don’t give a flip.
28. Shaking a hornet nest always ends badly.
29. Enjoy hydrangeas in your garden all winter by spray-painting the old, brown flowers blue or pink. But not orange. That’s offensive.
30. To keep birds from pecking holes in your ripe tomatoes, hang red Christmas tree balls on the vines. This drives them nuts.
31. Do not put up “Deer Crossing” or “Chipmunk Crossing” signs. Deer and chipmunks cannot read.
32. Whenever a person asks what you think of their hideous yard, just say, “That’s something!” “I’ve never seen anything like this before!” “Who would have thought of that!”