Stories Heard on the Garden Path

By Kerry Ann Mendez

Gardeners are interesting and amusing people. One of my great joys has been meeting thousands of gardeners every year through Estabrook's. As fellow hobbyists, we love to share special garden tricks or stories. Here are just a few of the thigh-slappers I've been privy to. I thought these would be a fun way to end my column for this year's growing season.

Think Bigger!

At one of my garden talks a question was raised as to which manure was best on perennial gardens. There were many suggestions given by the audience including horse, cow, chicken, pig, sheep, rabbit and assorted other manufacturers. But one woman silenced everyone when she said they were all thinking too small. Elephant dung was her prized poop. She would travel to county fairs, armed with a shovel and hefty bags, and search out the elephant tent. She would then drag back the goodies to her station wagon and waiting gardens.

Tipsy Squirrels

One of my patrons experienced an unusual "side effect" of using stale beer to eliminate slugs in her garden. She said it reduced the slug population but now squirrels were a problem. It turned out squirrels were knocking back the beer and stumbling around drunk in her yard. I suggested non-alcoholic beer.

Margaritas Anyone?

One new gardener was confused about applying lime to her garden. She called her local cooperative extension office and asked how many limes to add per 100 square feet.

She'll Never Suspect a Thing

At a home garden consultation, my client told me she and her neighbor were having a friendly competition to see who could get beautiful blue flowers on their hydrangeas first. They both had the challenging bigleaf variety that only blooms on old wood ('Nikko Blue'). One day she looked over and saw mounds of large blue flowers covering her neighbor's bush. Green with envy, she snuck over to take a closer peek. To her surprise, she saw the most realistic silk flowers wired to the stems.

Take That!

A gentleman in one of my lectures responded to a woman's question on how to get her dwarf crabapple to bloom. He had great success getting his fruit trees to bloom by taking a padded mallot and walloping the lower trunk several times. It seemed to "scare" the %@$&*! out of the tree, causing it to cough up flowers.

Garden Defenders

One mother was desperate to find her young children something fun to do in the yard. Then she came up with an idea. She loaded plastic squirt guns with salt water and had them go on a safari hunt for slugs. Once they found these prehistoric looking creatures, they would spray the slugs and delight in how they "magically" shriveled and disappeared (slug bodies have a high percentage of water and the salt extracts it quickly).

Whatever Works!

I was giving a lecture at a very formal garden club meeting and I told the story of my friend's method for keeping deer out of her gardens. When her husband, Ted, got home from work, he would enjoy a soda or beer and then head outdoors with a full bladder to "mark" their rural property. It worked like a charm. I also mentioned how another gardener said she did essentially the same thing by collecting her urine in a spray bottle and misting her plants. After my talk, an older woman dressed to the nines marched over to speak to me. I realized I'd probably made a big mistake telling the Ted story to this audience. To my absolute surprise she said "You know, you don't have to use straight urine. I dilute mine by half with water and it works great. I just didn't want to mention this in front of the others." And then she slipped off.

Infestation Incoming

As a college prank, one of my friends put several Japanese Beetle Bags inside her friend's car and rolled down all of the windows.

Doggone It

In an effort to keep male dogs from peeing on my perennials and shrubs, I shook hot cayenne pepper on and around their "targets". It worked great and also gave me a chuckle. When a dog approached a treated area, he would sniff around as usual before adding "his two cents". But upon sniffing, the pepper would get into his nose and cause him to snort and shake his head, much to the wonderment of his owner. Mission accomplished and no real harm done.