A Composted Collection of Garden Hilarity

By George Graine, Fairfax Master Gardener
“While trees are excellent for apes, owls, and arboreal fauna in general, they are annoying in a small garden where one hopes to grow something besides a compost pile and a continental championship collection of slugs and sow bugs.”
— Henry Mitchell (1923-1993)

book coverTo begin, gardening is not a serious endeavor nor must you be a serious gardener, says garden writer-horticulturist Luke Ruggenberg. Want proof? His quirky third self-published book called “(L)eavesdropping” (2021) makes this point in 22 essays. Luke likes to put you in a totally humorous frame of mind and coincidently provides some well-thought-out gardening advice. Within each essay you may wonder what’s coming next. In the last one called Caught, Luke writes, “Our gardens are speaking, shouting even. From behind whatever ramparts of fence and hedge their jealous keepers clad them, they are crying out to be seen, to be heard by all. For the scenes that play across their verdant stage are the very acts of life itself. Those who would shroud this beautiful, tragic comedy behind curtains of property and privacy serve only to ——.“ (You, the reader, need to fill in the missing words.) His quote ends there only to be followed with a very short point that notes a garden is private property.

All the quotes below come directly from essay headings. Culling out several interesting essays, for space reasons, let’s commence with Strange Soil – “May your gardening endeavors be faithful, and your soil bask in the warm glow of science.” In Priorities – “While one thing may lead to another, all things eventually lead to the garden. And once there, very few things lead back to the real world.” And in The Sunflower – “A child’s imagination: one of the most beautiful, powerful, and deeply unsettling forces in the universe. Thanks a lot kid; now I’m going to have nightmares.” Something many gardeners would love to have is Sandy Loam – “The world is a scary place. It is my unfortunate obligation to inform you that the garden is still technically part of the world. No matter how deep you dig.”

Moving on, Luke notes Deciduous – “A gardener’s sanity can come into question at the best of times. The autumn leaf cleanup, for a gardener, is not the best of times.” We’ve all been there! This essay is about a conversation between Pat and Marie. Pat has the rake and Marie is making a video of what Pat is doing and where, after so many days, to put the piles of leaves. Perhaps you can imagine the conversation between the worker and the observer. Does Pat smile or grimace? We are now into day twelve. Good grief! Is Pat doing the entire neighborhood? Eventually out comes the infernal leaf blower; however, Pat did not keep the leaves from clogging the storm drain and gutters. OMG! Was this going to be jail time for poor Pat, and will she miss a couple of days of raking while locked up? And now poor Pat is walking around like a zombie because leaves do not stop dropping just because she was off to the pokey. Marie, being a good pal, offers to help. Isn’t that what good friends are for? Now they will be done in no time, i.e., hopefully before the snow flies.

Where would we be these days without bickering about red and blue? This time it is about Red Gardener/Blue Gardener – “Whose side are you on? That’s easy: the one with the corkscrew.” Luke makes the case because “People at each other’s throats, taking sides over the littlest, most inconsequential things.” What’s red? Of course, there are poppies, dahlias, roses and salvias. But hold on — salvias are also blue and so are globe thistles and eryngiums (sea holly), and let’s not forget the delphiniums. So the question is: can a red gardener be better than a blue one? The real answer is that all gardens are unique in a variety of ways. Whether red or blue, can these gardens truly define us — of course not. Let’s set the red — blue thing aside. What really connects gardeners is not flower color or all of the labor to make a perfect garden or whatever. The real connection is about a good bottle of wine in a beautiful garden.