Native Son: The Horticultural Grinch

Feeling a little “Grinchy” right now,
For no particular reason.
Thought I’d comment on the crazy comments
That I hear from folks this season…

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”
Have you ever actually had fire-roasted chestnuts? Possibly the most over-rated food anywhere…unless you count Ginkgo fruits. Roasted chestnuts smell okay, but taste like a bland sweet potato unless they’re swimming in butter/olive oil and spices…which would make anything delicious, even a boot. Absolute murder to get out of the shell…and that papery covering…aaaah! I know my words will upset some folks who are sentimental about chestnuts, so I challenge you—eat a pecan, then take a bite of a chestnut. No contest.

“Mulch your trees’ fallen leaves into your lawn…”
Are you insane? Turning two feet of fallen pecan or oak leaves into mulch with a mower results in a three-inch deep layer of diced brown leaves atop your lawn…which looks like dry brown frosting on a sheet cake and will suffocate your grass. First, get 95% of the leaves off your turf and into the compost, then mulch what’s left into the lawn.

“I’ll just go harvest one of those Ashe Junipers out in the countryside for my Christmas tree…”
Anyone who has ever done this has only done it once…and I am one of those people. Picked out a perfect tree growing along a fence line. Cut, hauled, and installed it in the house. It was beautiful. Went out to have lunch with a friend. Came back, opened the door, and was greeted with the delightful fragrance of fifteen tomcats and a ringtail all trying to claim dominance of the same territory. Took a week and nine cans of air freshener to return to normal. Trust me on this one.

Continued Below


“My Noble Fir Christmas tree was locally grown, right here in Central Texas…”
Oh, please. Texas has some nice Christmas tree farms, but none of them can grow Noble Fir.

“Poinsettias are deadly poisonous…”
(My eyes roll…) This myth is harder to kill than a Hungarian Horntail dragon. Poinsettias are members of the Euphorbia family, all but one of which have a milky, sticky sap. Some of the family members are indeed deadly…just like a few of your own kin. And realistically, both those kinfolk and Poinsettia sap are better described as “irritating” rather than “deadly poisonous.” Bottom line: Just don’t eat it…and why would you anyway? If you get a little sap on you, promptly wash it off with soapy water. You probably do the same thing with that crazy uncle as well.

“It’s almost time to top my crape myrtles…”
Lordamercy, people! Just because you own a chain saw doesn’t mean you have to abuse things that can’t run away. They call it “Crape Murder” for a reason. I mean, honestly, would you put a bone in your nose and set your hair on fire because the guy down the block did it? Would you dump used motor oil behind the fence because your grandfather once did it? Smarten up!

It’s amazing poor ol’ Neil Sperry is still alive after spending forty years telling people to stop performing this ridiculous act of maiming their crape myrtles…but I suppose some folks are still putting butter on burns and smoking cigarettes to cure lung ailments.

“My favorite part of the bird is the neck, so please save me that…”
My Grandmommie used to say that to my teenage brothers and me as we were busy devouring her home cooking, and we felt quite good about ourselves for leaving her the neck. Time passed, and so did Grandmommie, leaving us all missing her love and her cooking. I was in my fifties before it suddenly occurred to me one day that she really didn’t favor the neck…she humbly put her needs last so her grandsons could feast like wild dogs on her fried chicken. Her love for us was greater than her hunger.

I know this last one has nothing to do with horticulture or grinchiness, but it does have to do with being grateful and remembering loved ones. And with the holiday season upon us, I hope each of us takes a moment to share a little story of love with others.

Even those irritating kinfolk…


I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Come out and see me at Chandor Gardens! Located in the heart of Weatherford’s Historic District, Chandor Gardens is the perfect place to get away and enjoy the simple pleasures of life that can only be found in gardens. Call 817-613-1700 or visit for details.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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