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May 7, 2019 6:36 PM CST
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner 2020 Garden Photography Roses Bulbs Peonies
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: New York
For some reason, ever since I was a teenager (and I'm in my mid-50s now) I've had people walk up to me in stores and ask, "Do you work here?" I've never known why, except in the case of nurseries and garden centers. I can see why they think I must be an employee when I'm there wearing gloves and dirt-stained clothes while loading bags of peat moss, soil, compost and plants onto wagons. I've always responded to the question with, "No, I'm afraid I don't work here. But I might still be able to help you. What's your question?" Usually this leads to a nice conversation about their vision for a few plants, or a garden border, or a bed of flowers, and I offer some advice.

Today I got the same question from a well-dressed older gentleman, while I was loading bales of peat moss onto my trolley at Home Depot. I had already planted two roses earlier this morning, and my shorts and shirt were dirty, I was wearing my "Gorilla" gloves, and my pruner holster was still on my belt. I must have looked the part. But I told him, no, I didn't work there, but would be glad to help him if I could.

He told me he was trying to figure out what soil to buy in order to plant a couple of pear trees he had bought. I explained there were certain commercially available soils that were pre-mixed for planting trees and shrubs, and that they were a good starting point, but that he would probably need to mix it with native soil and other amendments. So we found the bags of pre-mixed soil specifically formulated for trees, and I checked the N-P-K content, but there was none.

"OK," I said, "you'll want to mix this with some composted manure when planting your trees, to help condition the soil and put some organic nutrients around the roots."

He stared at me with a blank expression and just blinked. "Manure?" he asked. "You mean like, cow dung?"

"Yes," I said, "you can get it over there," and I pointed to where bags of it lay in stacks. I saw a look of disgust on his face and realized what he must be thinking. "Oh, don't worry," I said. "It's sterile. They couldn't sell it if it weren't."

"I think I'll just buy some Miracle Grow," he replied.

I smiled and said, "Well, it has to do with more than just fertilizer. It has to do with the condition of the soil, so that rain water can permeate the surface, so that it's aerated, so that the roots can spread. But if you're not comfortable with manure, you can go to a local garden center and get ocean-based compost or blueberry bog compost. That would be good for fruit trees."

"Thanks," he said. "I just need them to flower, not produce any fruit."

I thought about that and smiled. "Good luck," I said, knowing there was nothing else I could impart upon him. Fifteen minutes later I saw him standing in line with bags of "tree soil" and a box of fertilizer, but no manure or peat moss.

It reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with a neighbor who I always wished didn't live so close by. He walked over one Saturday morning while I was pruning the hybrid teas and said, "Hey Mike, my wife loves your Butterfly Bush. We've never seen one so big. It must be, what, about 8 feet wide and 8 feet high?"

"That's about right," I said, wondering when he was ever going to return my chain saw, which he had borrowed a month earlier.

"Where did you get yours," he asked? "We want to get one just like it."

"Well," I said, "you can get it at the nursery on Rt. 202. But it's more involved than that. It's all about the size of the hole you dig, and the soil you put back into it. You'll need to blend a lot of peat moss and compost with the soil."

"Mmmm hmmm. Sure," he said, half-listening to me.

"No really," I said. "We live right off the shores of the Hudson River. When a glacier came through here during the last Ice Age, it not only created the river but it also wreaked havoc on the typology. We're still dealing with that today. Too many rocks. Lots of compaction. There's a mixture of clay and compressed sediment to deal with in our neighborhood."

"Mmm hmmm. Great. So the nursery on Rt. 202?" he asked.

"Yep," I said, turning back to my roses.

Two weeks later he planted his Butterfly Bush on an ivy-covered hillside in a little hole, and there it sat all spring and summer. Later that fall he approached me in my yard while I was raking up the leaves from his elm tree. "Hey Mike," he said, "that Butterfly Bush I got from the nursery you recommended must be a lemon."

"Oh?" I asked. "What's wrong with it?"

"It hardly bloomed all summer, and it's no bigger now than when I planted it."

"Huh," I said. "Tell me, did you dig a large hole and blend peat moss and compost with the soil before you refilled the hole?"

"Nah," he said. "I just planted it on the hillside where I thought it would look good with the ivy."

"That would explain it," I said.

"By the way," I asked, "will you be returning my chain saw soon? I'll need it next spring to cut back the Butterfly Bush. The canes on mine are too thick and tough for loppers. Must have something to do with the soil."

And with that I resumed raking the leaves from his elm tree.
Last edited by Mike May 7, 2019 7:43 PM Icon for preview
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May 7, 2019 8:24 PM CST
Coastal Southern California (Zone 13a)
I think I love you!
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May 7, 2019 8:35 PM CST
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Garden Photography Region: Michigan Roses
Lol, Mike, your are a master story teller! Those made my day!
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May 8, 2019 12:36 AM CST
Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
I always have the same thing happen to me too! Always! Happened today when I had a cart piled high with manure, perlite, compost, etc. I could barely move the cart. They always think I work wherever I am. Whistling Hilarious!

I love your story! It's like baking a cake...you have to have the right ingredients...without flour..it's a liquid...without butter...it's a rock. Your neighbor could keep buying the same type of bush every summer...but lo and behold...every time it would be a lemon.
Avatar for Calsurf73
May 8, 2019 7:25 AM CST
Name: Mike
Long Beach, Ca.
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member Roses Hummingbirder Farmer Daylilies
Birds Cat Lover Region: California Bulbs Butterflies Garden Ideas: Level 1
But.....did he ever bring back your chain saw ? lol
People are constantly thinking I'm an employee at HD, Lowes, nurseries, etc. for the same reasons. I'm always dirty, pushing carts of amendment, plants, etc. and I drive a truck.
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May 8, 2019 7:45 AM CST
Name: Anne Peck
Indiana (Zone 5b)
Anne wants more plants
Irises
I get asked questions at nurseries when they see me with something they never even knew about, usually mushroom compost. And my hat, I always forget to take off my gardening hat Hilarious! Its got that big brim and has dirt all over it.
Avatar for Meandmyroses
May 8, 2019 8:28 AM CST

Hi
I remember one time, pottering in the the garden when a gardening friend
Of mine turned up with an old timer.
He complimented me on the garden. I thanked him for that, and ventured to add if there is any advice, or help you need, you know where to come, anytime at all, no problem etc etc.......
He smiled, thanked me for the offer.
Then my gardening friend ses oh by the way John, Harry (the old timer)
has retired now, however he was once the head gardener at Blenheim
Palace!!,.... I thought it would be nice for you to meet,.you could have blown me down with a feather Whistling we did become friends after all. And I was the one that was taking all the advice that's for sure.
Kind regards
John
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May 8, 2019 9:37 AM CST
Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
Wow!! That's pretty cool, John!
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May 8, 2019 11:24 AM CST
SW Ohio River Valley (Zone 6b)
These are very funny stories. The same thing happens to me even outside of the Garden Center. Who knows why? John, that is an hysterical story! Life has a way of keeping us humble. *Blush* I'd love to hear some of the pearls of gardening wisdom or stories you learned from that friendship. I'm all ears!
Last edited by vaporvac May 8, 2019 11:24 AM Icon for preview
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May 8, 2019 6:10 PM CST
PNW (Zone 8b)
These are interesting stories and make me smile.
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May 10, 2019 11:28 AM CST
Name: aud/odd
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
Great story. It made me smile.

We think we have progressed past primal but we have not. Since the beginning humans are wired to sense..........Hey he/she knows what to do. It is like being attracted to your mate you just feel they are the one.
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May 10, 2019 6:24 PM CST
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner 2020 Garden Photography Roses Bulbs Peonies
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: New York
That's funny you should say so. I asked my husband tonight, after a "fake" argument over some silly topic, whether he would marry me all over again after 23 years together.

"What, are you serious?" he cried. "No way!"

"Well, we're stuck together like glue," I replied. "So you might as well get me another glass of wine, some cheese and olives, and stop complaining about your lot in life!"

We laughed our way through dinner, and wouldn't have it any other way.
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May 10, 2019 6:24 PM CST
Name: Amanda
KC metro area, Missouri (Zone 6a)
Bookworm Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: Missouri Native Plants and Wildflowers Roses
Region: United States of America Zinnias Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
I used to work retail before my current job and no matter where I went people always asked if I worked there. If I could help them I did. Home Depot was my last one and on my days off customers would be needing help and those who were working that day were busy elsewhere so I always ended up helping customers while shopping. I've had customers argue with me about roses and trees and I've had others tell me I'm the best person they know for advice. Hilarious! I would always tell them about here or before, DG.
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May 10, 2019 8:32 PM CST
Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
Mike - Lovey dubby that's so sweet!

Amanda - Maybe, we all seem calm and capable??? Smiling
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May 11, 2019 4:12 PM CST
Name: Mike Stewart
Lower Hudson Valley, New York (Zone 6b)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Photo Contest Winner 2020 Garden Photography Roses Bulbs Peonies
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: New York
I spent seven hours in the garden planting more roses today. I was so tired afterwards that I came inside and plopped down in my favorite chair with a glass of wine to check out the Roses Forum, before cleaning up. My husband John just passed through the den, took one look at me and said, "You're filthy! Go take a bath!"

"Would you marry me all over again?" I asked, just like I did last night.

"Not while you're filthy dirty looking like that!" he said, and waved me off as he walked out of the room.

Ain't love grand?
Last edited by Mike May 11, 2019 4:43 PM Icon for preview
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May 11, 2019 4:53 PM CST
Name: Amanda
KC metro area, Missouri (Zone 6a)
Bookworm Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: Missouri Native Plants and Wildflowers Roses
Region: United States of America Zinnias Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
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May 11, 2019 7:05 PM CST
Name: aud/odd
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
Mike said:That's funny you should say so. I asked my husband tonight, after a "fake" argument over some silly topic, whether he would marry me all over again after 23 years together.

"What, are you serious?" he cried. "No way!"

"Well, we're stuck together like glue," I replied. "So you might as well get me another glass of wine, some cheese and olives, and stop complaining about your lot in life!"

We laughed our way through dinner, and wouldn't have it any other way.


There is a science that confirm the theory. It does not work always especially when it comes to a mate because of life experience, but gut feeling of gravitating especially when humans need help the science says 99% of the time gravitation happens toward the need.
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May 11, 2019 10:12 PM CST
Name: Carol
Alberta, Canada (Zone 3b)
Mike - yes, love is grand! He sounds like a catch, and you're made for each other. I'm quite fond of my husband too. Lovey dubby
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May 12, 2019 7:35 AM CST
Name: Anne Peck
Indiana (Zone 5b)
Anne wants more plants
Irises
Sounds like my husband and myself. When you can do that, it shows that you are really in sync with each other. You two sound like a great couple.
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