44. KRULIK, GERALD, Ask Jerry: Conundrums Clarified for the Courteous
Chlorophyllophile (Gardener), PUP TALK (Saddleback Valley Bromeliad Society),
14(2--should be volume 15 )p.6-7, February , 2008.  


Dear Jerry

I have a very rich friend. Unfortunately, this friend (I refuse to identify the sex
and/or gender for fear of traceability) has a brown, nay, even a black thumb.
Worse, this friend loves bromeliads and other plants and is willing to pay almost
any amount for a rare, huge, and hard to grow show plant.

The problem is that my friend treats these beautiful specimens as the
equivalent of cut flowers. Every few weeks this friend calls all other friends to
show off the latest gorgeous expensive acquisitions. And on the next visit, I
see the formerly beautiful plants crammed into corners, wilting, burning, bug
covered, rotting, dying.

I have a moral issue with this. What do I do?
1. Do I bring my digital camera and just take as many shots as possible, for my
memory gallery?
2. Do I try to give my friend a paid-up class in practical gardening?
3. Or do I wait for the nearest moonless night and go raiding? I am sure that
most of these plants would not be missed.

Yours in growing health
Green Thumb Number One

Dear Green Thumb

You have raised a sensitive issue. I have covered related questions in other
missives. (Is it really stealing if I just took an excess cutting?; Don’t secretly
acquired plants grow better?; How long must I grow a plant on, before the or
outline of the plant or it’s specific memory is erased from the unknowing donor
so I can show it off myself?)

I doubt that your rich friend has any interest in actually gardening, just in
showing off. If your friend is really that rich, that person could easily hire a
minimum wage gardener to come in and take care of the collection. Why not
compromise? Offer, say as a birthday or Christmas present, to help take care of
the collection free. Then whenever the opportunity presents itself, just cram
your car trunk with the most likely to die plants. This works especially well when
your rich friend goes on frequent expensive vacations. Any missing plants can
be easily covered by the blanket term, “It died.” Chances are your black thumb
neighbor will never realize the difference, since they would have died anyway.
And it is easy to wrap the new plant in a plastic bag to take home, while stacking
up the empty pots as a visible receipt of their death.

Happiness is a growing plant

PS—I have enclosed my address for your possible use. Never keep the plants
too close to the donor, until the memory has well faded. I promise that I will
return them all, in time.


Dear Jerry

My husband says that I spend too much money and time on my plants. He is
even suggesting that I get a job, to help out! What can I do?

Downtrodden, but
Jobless and happy

Dear Jobless

I assume you have already tried the traditional wifely ways of changing his
mind? Such as pointing out that he spends an awful lot of time drinking beer,
playing poker and losing, and being in general a couch potato? And by pointing
out how much money you have saved by buying all your clothes on sale, so the
extra money you save is really a gift to you to use as you deserve? Have you
asked him to explain the intricacies of each sport to you, so you can be
together more and sit with him and ask inane questions over and over?

If he is really serious that you get a job, try the local nurseries and garden
centers, botanical garden store outlets, and the like. Once you hit your stride,
and start spending all of each paycheck, and a lot more, on the stuff you now
can’t live without because you see all the good new stuff each day, he may
come to his senses.

All plants are good, especially edible ones


Dear Jerry

I am a reasonably content executive. My major hobby is competitive gardening,
and going to shows to get ribbons and trophies for the best plants. I show them
off, plants and trophies, in my office. Lately I have been getting snide remarks
about my choice of hobbies. Some have even been directed at my masculinity,
as if gardening is a non-serious sport best left to women! Any suggestions?

Uneasy at work

Dear Uneasy

I assume that you are not in a position of authority, to just fire the callous
trouble-makers? Why some of my best gardening friends are men, women, and
others! Being a great grower has nothing to do with their sex—although great
sex can ease the way to get extra money, space, and time, for your collection.
While gardening may not be a contact sport, it does require a combination of
many skills. Beautiful show plants are not just found in commercial
greenhouses. (You are aware that you need to own them for 6 months prior to

I suggest that you read some books on medicinal botany. Many plants are
allergens, emetics, purgatives, laxatives, skin sensitizers, etc. Probably your
collection already has representatives of many types, which minimizes possible
traces of legal ownership trails. You know where the coffee cups are, and
hopefully the refrigerator lunch bags are labeled. If nothing else, consider
adding chopped selected greens to a business luncheon salad, poison ivy
extract on car door handles and, if you are really confident, on toilet paper.

An Atkins diet fan

46. KRULIK, GERALD, Ask Jerry (Part 2): Conundrums Clarified for the Courteous
Chlorophyllophile (Gardener), PUP TALK (Saddleback Valley Bromeliad Society),
15(4)p.5, April , 2008.

Dear Jerry

My wife just cannot remember plant names. She will point and say, I like /dislike
/ stumbled over/ got punctured by, THAT plant. After such an ugly pantomime, I
calmly point out that there are at least ten plants per square yard of yard in our
yard. Unless she can identify the offender by at least genus and species name,
if not variety, how can I be expected to punish the poor plant? I can’t be
expected to spray weedkiller on all of them, can I?

Perplexed by botanical mind freezes

Dear Perplexed

Botanically dyslexic spouses (BDS) are a common problem. It often carries over
into less important phases of your life too. Some BDS wives just cannot
remember significant items like baseball player life records, mother-in-law
wishes for Christmas presents, and where they parked the car last. (Once I
moved my wife’s car 3 rows over in the Walmart lot, as a joke, and she didn’t
notice. She just took a little longer getting home.) BDS husbands can forget the
little things too, like the wife’s color preferences and sizes in clothes, her
birthday, and why he should not give her sports tickets for the anniversary.
Maybe Jerry Springer, my distant cousin, can devote a few episodes to this
sensitive and important topic of BDS.

Consider yourself lucky. You can honestly tell her, but OF COURSE we don’t
have that specific variety, remember? You can get all those extra minute
variations of any given plant, using all the different name combinations
botanists have come up with. For example, no dear, Vriesia imperialis is NOT
the same plant as Tillandsia imperialis or Alcanteria imperialis, just look at the
tag if you don’t believe me.

If she really dislikes, and has identified, a plant, have you tried just moving it to
a new place? It sounds like changing the name tag, maybe writing the name
backwards, would be overkill with your wife.

BDS mind games can be entertaining fun


Dear Jerry

What is better, decomposed fish soup or chemical mineral fertilizers? I want to
be environmentally friendly but I also want my plants to grow and flower well.

A green/red/pink/yellow bromeliad grower

Dear GRPY Bromeliad Grower

Better for whom? Have you communicated with the fish? You hopefully aren’t
killing anything with the use of chemical fertilizers unless you add too much to
your plants. What do you have against fish anyway? Fish can be as colorful as
bromeliads, and almost as friendly. Are you saying that bromeliads have more
right to live, than some pretty fish?

You need to think about this in the right way. Why sacrifice innocent fish so that
bromeliads can live better? You really should consider alternatives. Try placing
a small fish in the water in every tank bromeliad. The fish droppings will be the
equivalent of fish soup, without the moral issues. Just remember to keep the
bromeliad tanks filled with water, or you will be making decomposed fish soup
again. Oh, and remember conjugal visits. Most tank bromeliads are small so
only can continuously support one adult. It is your duty to prevent fish
boredom, as shown by the appearance of caviar in the bromeliad tanks, so swap
those fish around.

Not exclusively a plant lover
Uncle Jerry


47. KRULIK, GERALD, Ask Jerry: Conundrums Clarified for the Courteous
Chlorophyllophile (Gardener) Part 3, PUP TALK (Saddleback Valley Bromeliad
Society), 15(5)p.5,  May, 2008.

Dear Jerry

I have a serious question for you. How do you pronounce scientific names? I
know that they are supposed to be Latinized versions of words. But try
pronouncing Abromeitiella fast (A-brom-eitiella or Abro-mei-tiella?) Not to
mention names like Quezalcoatlus (Aztec roots) or Rzedowskii (Polish roots), or
even Tillandsia (Swedish roots). No-one seems to agree???

(signed) Linguistically tongue-tied

Dear Dyslexic Person

This is an excellent question. I remember well my first year Latin class in high
school. My teacher, Mr. Bronco Yurka (I am not making this up) was a huge
mustachioed Croatian with a strong eastern European accent. How did we learn
to pronounce our Latin? Exactly the way he did, or else!
Mr. Yurka is long gone now, and lacking his guiding hand, I have to admit that
Latin standards of pronunciation have become very loose. No-one pronounces
words the way I was taught. So just pronounce them the way you feel most
comfortable. Coty-ledon or Cotyl-edon? Latin is a dead language. Nobody will
come out of the grave to chastise you. If you encounter glassy looks, try
different pronunciations until one fits. If all else fails, try writing it down and see
if they recognize it, then experiment with mouthing their odd pronunciation.
Ah, but you may say, the priesthood has kept the language alive and THEY
should know how to pronounce it. In response, I respectfully implore you to
visit an Asian Indian neighborhood. Listen to their methods of speaking English,
learned through an unbroken chain of Indian-English teachers for just a few
generations. And then remember that it has been over a thousand years since
Rome fell.
You say po-tae-to, I say po-ta-toe…..

Thanks Mr. Yurka