Native Son: December 19, 2019

Mere days before Christmas and I haven’t bought a thing.
No jewelry for my wife, not a necklace, not a ring.
Yesterday, I got a phone call from the fabulous Gretchen Drew,
Sperry’s office manager, who announced, “Your article’s overdue!”
(Chamblee blows another deadline; that’s certainly nothing new.)

So now I sit here at 3am, looking at a blank computer screen,
Hoping some kind of inspiration comes down my chimneen.
If Neil knew about my lack of progress, I bet he’d up and faint,
Most times I can write an article easily; other times, I cain’t.

My mind opens, the thoughts spill out, like marbles from a jar,
Two hours later, I must admit, I hadn’t got too far.
But, like life itself, it doesn’t matter if my words are garbled
Cause all that really matters at all is that I still got my marbles.
(Though that’s debatable…)

Finally, a theme arises; it’s Gardener’s Wish List for the win,
I can just imagine Gretchen’s voice, “Whatever…just send it in.”
So, I offer you, dear Readers, this wish in black & white,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”

Gardener’s Wish List

Hollyhocks that don’t get rust as soon as you brag that to your friends that your Hollyhocks don’t get rust.

One…for cryin’ out loud, just one…fully-fragrant, heat-loving, drought-adapted, alkaline-soil-craving Lilac…and I don’t care if it costs $5000.

A state-wide ban on calling Vitex trees, “Texas Lilac”…with mandatory jail time.

An oak-wilt-proof Live Oak that defoliates in early February (instead of late March, when the rest of the garden looks pristine), and has little magnets on the leaves so they would go right to the metal pole in my compost pile.

Fireflies that voraciously devour every mosquito in the county right before my garden party and are then eaten by bats, which instantly become glow-in-the-dark night lights for the party!

Continued Below

Felco pruners with little feet, so they can come and find me when I’ve mislaid them somewhere in the garden.

A remote-controlled cloud mover, so I can steal a cloud from that guy across town who’s always complaining about getting too much rain, when everyone else is in a drought. I will steal his thunder, too.

A Ginkgo tree that keeps its fall color more than 15 minutes.

At least one variety of Pecan that just drops all its stuff at once, so we just get it over with…ya know?

Ten thousand super cute flying squirrels that eat nothing but Kudzu.

A drone that flies around collecting Cottonwood fluff and packs it into pretty little cotton bags, then delivers those tiny pillows to Master Gardeners.

A Mini-Me version of Greg Grant that I can take with me as I garden, for a quick reference guide and some belly laughs.

One magical mediator who will negotiate a deal with the deer to stop eating my garden in exchange for some corn feed and not getting shot.

A hefty fine for people who mindlessly top crape myrtles, which is then tripled if they use the phrase, “Well, that’s just the way we do things around here.”

A shovel that beeps when it approaches PVC pipe.

A remote-control irrigation killer that works from my car, so I can turn off that yahoo’s sprinklers when it’s 20F outside.

A bean that is good for your heart but doesn’t make…well, you know.

An official proclamation from Austin that makes Henbit the second Official Wildflower of the Great State of Texas. (Why fight the inevitable?)

Kale that tastes good without requiring a pound of butter and a Master Chef.

One actual visit to the garden of that guy who occasionally pops up at my talks and announces, “I’ve been growing beautiful Hostas in Texas for forty years — in full sun and without no irrigation — and I ain’t seen a single slug yet.”

A huge herd of genetically-engineered anteaters that literally vacuum up fire ants, rapidly reproduce, and then make excellent barbeque.

To sit at a big table, share a meal, and shoot the bull for an evening with my horticultural heroes: Carl Linnaeus, John Bartram, Ferdinand Lindheimer, Luther Burbank, David Fairchild, Ralph Pinkus, Benny Simpson, JC Raulston, Pat Nutt, Dave Creech, Neil Sperry, Greg Grant, Jimmy Turner, Buddy Lee, Tucker Reed, Kenneth Cranfill, George Hull, Scott Brooks, John Langevin, Mark Schusler, Janet Rademacher, Mark Chamblee, Rosa Finsley, David Hopman, Bill Thomas, Dan Benarcik, Bob O’Kennon, Ed Maddox, Jennifer Buckner, Larry Schaapveld, Mark Carter, Peter Loos, Dennis Jones, Greg Smith, Richard Hartman, Kenneth Steigman…and the list seems to go on forever, reminding me how lucky and blessed I am to be in such a great profession.


Need a great Christmas gift that is sure to please and will really last? Give a customized brick at the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center! (I got this one for Neil & Lynn.) And for fun all year, add a Family Membership that admits six people for a year. We’ll even give you a certificate to put under your tree.


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.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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