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cone flowersGardeners, I’m going to start this post with alarming news.

Ants don’t help your peonies open. They’re just there for the sugar rush.

You can’t murder the moles in your yard with chewing gum—whether it’s used, unused or in a wrapper. They’re just as likely to push it aside and go on with their day.

And coffee grounds don’t do a thing for your roses that banana peels or any other organic matter wouldn’t do.

You can learn all this and more from C.L. Fornari, author of Coffee for Roses: …and 70 Other Misleading Myths About Backyard Gardening . Fornari was interviewed on NPR about her new book, which explores how these gardening myths originated, and investigates the science behind them.

For research, she mined small town newspapers going back to the early 1900s, and gardening books from the 1800s. (I’m enough of a research nerd that this actually sounds fun to me.)

I wish someone knew how to persuade ants to leave peonies. They are the world’s most luscious flowers, but I don’t dare bring them inside because of the ants.

collage 1 garden copyMy garden is just a simple affair of a few edible herbs, plus two arugula plants that are so cute I don’t have the nerve to harvest them.


Its limited size and scope may be the only proof that I still have a firm grip on reality. There simply isn’t time.

And why should I fuss with a real garden when my neighbors are so generous with theirs?

Jill, who lives 10 paces to the right of our back porch, brought us the first red tomato from her garden on Saturday afternoon. My husband politely refused it, and said he’d be glad to have the second one.

Five paces to the left of us are Sandy and Gordon, a couple my parents’ age, who moved in two winters ago, completing the culinary circle on our little cul-de-sac. On the 4th of July, Gordon carried half of a watermelon filled with melon balls to our back door. While I was gone last week, Sandy sent a dish of strawberry shortcake to my husband. He saved half for me.

Andre and Crystal introduced us to Jerk Chicken. They’re the young couple that brought the average age of the neighborhood down by at least 15 years when they moved here. When Andre fires up his grill, it smells so good I have to go inside.

Wally and Ann retrieve our newspapers and mail when we’re on vacation. Wally grows roses and consults with anyone who wants to know how to grow grass or roses. Ann puts up with Wally’s pipe.

Dale helps my husband get things in and out of the attic over the garage. His wife Marilyn makes brownies and I buy them for 50 cents a piece from Celia, their little six-year-old granddaughter.

Antoine is the first to notice when the trash truck has come and gone on Monday mornings. He usually carries our cans from the curb to our driveway before we can get to them. Antoine also has the greenest grass in the neighborhood, but he hires that done.

Yesterday, I carried my dandelion digger from the garage to the backyard to pluck a single thistle from a flower bed. When I got there, it was gone. I was almost disappointed. We still don’t know who did that.

That’s the way things work in our little vinyl-clad cul-de-sac, and we’re grateful for it. I wasn’t sure about the neighborhood when we first moved here 16 years ago, but this modest choice freed us from a giant mortgage and provided something we both value more than an impressive house: a degree of independence.

This is mighty fertile ground for loving thy neighbor—and that’s no myth.

basilI’m growing dill, parsley, arugula, three kinds of basil, tarragon, sage, lovage, thyme, mint, cilantro, plus some lavender. Rosemary is one of my favorites, but there were shortages this year due to the harsh winter, and I couldn’t find it anywhere!

Abstract karinaHow about these petunias as contrast to this abstract print Karina dress, paired with one of my favorite vintage hats from the 1950s?

hostasHow does your garden grow? Large or small? Flowers or edibles? What’s your idea of being a good neighbor?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.