March 15, 2023

Cincinnati, OH

Dear Marianne,

Just got back from Denver. Spoke at the Denver Botanic Garden’s Tree Diversity Symposium. What a great group of people out there and an excellent public garden. My first time there and even at the back end of a bad winter the place was so impressive! 

The Crevice Garden at Denver Botanic Garden was very cool.

A wonderful dinner with friends, from right to left, Phil Douglas, Murphy Westwood, Sonia Johns, a guy I can’t remember, Panayoti Kelaidis, and his wife Jan.

As great as DBG is, DIA was awful. Nearly killed me. Already dragging myself over a bridge in search of Security, I looked below me at a giant mass of people being herded through miles and miles of  stanchions and rope. There was the busy roar that a horde of people make as they maze their way through a cavernous building. A sound I’ve mostly heard in movies. Movies with Hitler in them. I thought at first they were the poor bastards who had booked flights on Frontier but in just a few minutes I was aghast to find myself trying to find the end of that line and then winding, winding, and winding towards Security. People barking orders, dogs smelling my roller board, I swear there was someone in the distance hollering through a bullhorn. When I finally got there, I looked so pitifully broken and frail they pulled me aside for further screening. First time ever. They opened some packages and took my 1″ keychain knife. At least they were polite about it. 

Looking down from the bridge at DIA. The other side was the view of all the tired and huddled masses. I should have taken one of that.

Since January, I have been to symposiums or conferences to either speak or attend in Baltimore, Chicago, Greenville, Louisville twice, Greenville, SC, and Denver. Coming up are Columbus, Madison, WI, and Kansas City. I’ve probably forgotten a few but I haven’t forgotten that in two weeks we’re going to the Spring Trials in California. Yep, California, here we come, and Lord knows we’re going to take it by storm. Not that they need anymore storms but I am so looking forward to touring the nurseries and gathering places strung between San Jose and LA and meeting the breeders and growers and seeing all the new plants. 

One of the Louisville trips was a convening of all these folks. Before anyone abuses me because it is all men except for one woman, please know that it was the one woman who invited all the men. In her place, I would have chosen like she had chosen. Why not?

Between all this travel, I have also been trying to clean up my massive garden, finish projects in my very old home, and, oh, yeah, my full-time job. Jeez! Marianne, five out of six of the old gang I grew up with are retired. Retired with a capital R retired. I mean RVs and second houses in Florida retired. One of them lives in Maui! I’m the only one still working, and working I am, like a crazy person. Technically, I suppose I too could retire. It would be tight but possible but I truly think I would be miserable with too much time on my hands. Besides, as a second career guy, I’m desperately trying to squeeze what I might have accomplished in a 30 or 40 year career in horticulture into the few years I’ve got left. This is why I’ve been rattling around the region like a BB in a can of spray paint ever since the holidays. January, February, March are basically being harvest time for horticultural speakers and my chance to go places, meet people, and see things. 

Speaking of Louisville, here is a photo of my Horticulture Magazine interview of Garden Rant’s own Allen Bush. Allen is someone I have admired for a very long time and I love how the interview came out.

In this I think you are a lot like me, just a decade younger and a slightly different course. I read your Defense of Careers in Horticulture column in American Gardener. It was good. I’m glad you interviewed my co-worker Jack. He’s a good guy. But the letters to the editor in the newest issue were even better. People inspired to say thanks for the nudge to change tracks or folks who already did so wanting to share their joy. You must feel good that one of your columns, unlike so many of the others, stirred up some good. I would advise them to pace themselves, but ain’t that ironic? You and I both know that if they’re passionate about it that such advise just falls on deaf ears. Sure, crazed passion and energy looks better on younger people, but they so seldom wear it. For them, time is so much more abstract. 

A few weeks ago, a bad storm came to visit. We had no power for 24 hours and no internet for 48. Compressed four days I had planned to write and do other work into two, by which time I was in no kind of mood. Argh. First world problems I guess. Kind of. 

Despite chipping out nooks and crannies of time to work in the garden, it’s pretty much a wreck. What month is it? Oh, yeah, March. And I’ve got speakers coming to dinner tonight. Andrew Bunting, Meredith Simpson, possibly Joseph Tychonievich. But, I’ve bet they’ve been busy too and maybe their gardens are also muddy and stitched randomly with sticks and stems amidst a few hellebores and daffodils trying desperately to herald a new gardening year. 

One of my better hellebores about a week ago.

A patch this morning. After a long spate of unusually warm weather, we hit a low of 22F last night. Even the hellebores took it personally.

As for that, I am, as ever, optimistic. I’m going to start some seeds this weekend after we get back from Columbus and maybe divide and move some things around. If it’s not too muddy, I’ll till the vegetable garden and sow some of the early stuff. Spring is just around the corner and will snap into its manic business faster than a mouse trap. There’s never enough time to observe it. As always, I will just try to buckle up and enjoy the bumpy ride. I’ll see what I can as my own trajectory wobbles through it like a bottle rocket.  

Short letter, I know, but I’ll make it up to you by babbling continuously as we make our way down the great state of California.



One more of Denver Botanic. It was a great but very short visit to a city I’ve never really visited before. I want to go back. Maybe my talk was good enough they’ll invite me again soon?