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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Column: When I’m in the garden I’m not just talking to myself

Okay, I talk a lot in the garden — even when there are no people around. I don’t know if other gardeners do that, but when I do, I’m not always talking to myself.

I talk to the plants and tell them how much I appreciate their growth and how beautiful they are. Tests have shown that plants respond in growth.

Or I tell them how I want them to improve. Sometimes they have to be threatened to get busy and bloom and/or produce food. It often works. I had a plum tree that bloomed abundantly every spring but had no fruit. So the year came when I gave it an ultimatum: “Fruit or out you go.” That was also the year we went to California, and I learned how important it is for a plant to have plenty of water, especially from bud to harvest. Whatever the reason, that tree bore many wonderful fruits every year after that.

I also talk to the critters. I have to warn the tadpoles and goldfish to go to the bottom of the rain barrel when I’m about to dip out the water at the top. And believe it or not they go down when they’re told.

I tell the butterflies how gorgeous they are and ask the caterpillars to please come to where I can see them and take them into the safety of my cage until they’re ready to fly. They often ignore me and stay hidden. Monarchs will climb on my finger when I put it in front of them and tell them to climb up so I can take them outside to fly away and lay more eggs. But the other kinds seem less inclined to take the ride.

I also talk to the mosquitoes. That got a little embarrassing as I was walking toward the street recently saying firmly as I waved my hand at the attacker, “Get away from me. Get out of here.”

I looked up and saw a young man walking along the street and looking at me as if I were crazy.

I quickly said hello and told him I wasn’t talking to him but to the mosquito that was singing in my ear. He walked a little faster.

Often I am talking to God and thanking Him for all He has given me, telling Him how much I appreciate all the flowers and fruit. Sometimes I ask Him why he created skunk vine and air potatoes.

Sometimes I talk to His friends. I lose things and often walk around the garden saying, “Please, St. Anthony, help me find where I dropped those scissors” or “where I planted that little cutting of the special passionflower.” Indoors and out, I’ve pestered St. Tony all my life. Often he helps me. Sometimes he makes me wait a long time. And some things I never find.

The cats who follow me around the garden expect a bit of audible admiration.

Okay, sometimes I talk to myself. But thanks to garden therapy I’m only a little bit crazy. And most of my family takes that in stride. Just be careful what you say out loud when you get near the street or your neighbors.

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Today’s pick is the blue butterfly pea vine, Clitoria ternatea, a well-behaved vine that grows easily here in sun to partial shade and has perhaps the most beautiful of all flowers. They come in light blue, dark blue, violet/blue, purple and white. I’ve only seen the dark blue with some white and/or yellow in the center. I’ve had these for years and they’ve required little care. I will have some starter plants at my next Plant and Book Sale on Oct. 26 and Nov. 9.

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Now’s the time to tell you I’ve noticed lately my milkweed plants are getting some leaves again. All spring and summer the caterpillars were eating as fast as the leaves could grow. I figured the monarch migration had begun, and sure enough, the Web says it started this year Aug. 22. I assume that was farther north. I had at least six monarchs emerge in my butterfly cage after that. Two great things: some monarchs stay all winter long and keep laying eggs. And with fewer, my many milkweed plants can revive, grow, and multiply.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 11 gardening books who can be reached at [email protected] Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.

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