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Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017
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Passion pays in this garden

It had been many years since I wrote about Betty McMillan and her garden, but I never forgot either one. I was near her garden, saw the avocado tree and decided to pull in and see if she had any extra fruit for sale. She didn't. The last two years the freezes hit just when the tree was in bloom, so she's only getting a few for the family. In good years, the tree bore about 1,000. There is some good news, though. The tree in her front yard, a Brogdon with delicious fruit usually from July to September, is larger than ever, beautiful and healthy. Her dooryard garden features a small above-ground pond. She told me a raccoon takes his bath there every night but never bothers the fish.
"He isn't hungry," she said. "He eats with the cat in the garage." Betty showed me around her garden. She has a corner lot with a chain-link fence around the back. The front is partly shaded. Two pitcher plants hang and thrive on her front porch. Almost everything thrives for her. Several rain barrels help with the watering. She does all the work herself, even the mowing. "I use Eliminator weed killer around the edges and wherever I can get it on the nut grass without killing anything else, but it takes two weeks to do the job," she said. She feeds her plants once a month or so with Schultz's Bloom Booster and Spray-n-Grow. But her real secret to success is a great deal of tender loving care. "I'm out here by about 6 in the morning and work until I get too hot," she said. When pressed she admitted that was usually about 11. "I do my inside work while the afternoon is so hot and then come out again about 5:30 until dusk. It keeps me young." That last part is a sure thing. She is 83, looks about 50 and does more work than I could ever do in my prime. "The freezes took many of my plants down," she said. "That's why I keep so many in pots so I can take them in. I'm still watering what looks like empty pots and seeing some things come back." I didn't see many empty pots. But there sure were plenty of unusual plants. She even had hostas in bloom. Few of us can even get them to survive here. Only crotons that were carried inside survived the last two winters. Many are coming back from the roots, but they are slow growers and it may take years for them to get large again. There are varieties that will take full sun, but most like partial shade. They are drought resistant but do better if watered once a week in the winter and more often in the dry spring months. For the summer, the rains should provide.

Monica Brandies can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com.
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