Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Interrupt This Blog . . .

While normally I pride myself on the fact that this blog rarely provides useful information except in the form of "Don't do what I did," I have actual useful information this week!

Last Saturday my friend, neighbor, and fellow gardener Tom called to ask me about a problem with his Kieffer pear tree. God love him, Tom thinks that because I am a certified master gardener I know stuff about plants.

Of course, I had no idea what his problem was. But I did know how to find the answer.
While I sent him to Central Texas Horticulture, I went to the source I knew would help me even more quickly: Twitter. Within minutes of posting this question--"Friend in Austin with Kieffer pear tree has flowers and new growth turning black. Larger leaves have black spots. Ideas? Remedies?"--I had an answer from no less a gardening luminary than @grumpy_gardener: "It's a bacterial disease called fire blight. You can spray to prevent it, but once the tree has it, not much you can do. "
Grumpy (aka Steve Bender of Southern Living magazine) and I then exchanged a few other pear-related tweets, in particular whether my friend's other pear tree, an Orient, would catch the disease.

"@Vertie 'Orient' should be OK. I will pray for it."

Holy crap! Steve Bender is praying for my friend's tree! I just have to tell you as an aside why this particular Twitter conversation makes me excessively use exclamation points. Southern Living was for many, many years my mother's gardening/cooking/decorating bible. She would keep the issues for years and then periodically pull out certain pages and file them under the appropriate category. Pre-Internet days, she also loved to mail me pages with sticky notes saying, "Go eat here," "I like this for your windows," "Have you cooked this?"

My favorite Southern Living mailing from my mother was an article on cast-iron plants. In those days I killed every plant I touched. The article said something to the effect that no one could kill this plant. My mother's sticky note read, "YOU NEED THIS!!!"

So many times when I am out in my garden I can almost hear her chuckling ("My daughter's gardening! and the plants are still alive!"). Last weekend I absolutely heard her laughing hysterically ("Other people are asking for her gardening advice! That guy from Southern Living is talking to her!")

So thanks,
@grumpy_gardener, for the information but more importantly for making me smile, remembering my Southern Living-loving mother.

(Oh, wait, I did promise you some actual information. Fire blight is horrible. It most often appears in young trees. Tom planted his last spring. Kieffer and Orient are both supposedly fire blight resistant but well, you can see how that turned out. The leaves, which look burnt--hence the name--are surprisingly smooth and slippery, not at all crispy as I assumed they would be.

My friend pruned his tree back six inches from where the blight appears. There's a small chance it might survive, but he definitely won't have any fruit on it this year. He told me last night that new growth had appeared where he pruned but that he also saw new evidence of blight. At this point only time will tell. His other pear tree, knock wood, seems to be blight free.)


  1. Vertie...You always make me smile!...Apparently your mother, too!

    I wish you were going to Chicago for Spring Fling! gail

  2. Master Gardeners...the next generation. Armed with twitter!

  3. My husband has often thought I should have named my blog the grumpy gardener but I knew someone else had the name. I just didn't realize it was Steve Bender until just now. Wow! I love Steve Bender. "Passalong Plants" was one of the first garden books I ever bought. How cool is that that you guys are Twitter buddies.

  4. I know just what you mean, Vertie. Steve was a gardening luminary for my family for many years of loyal Southern Living reading. I now realize he must be about my age. Egad, what was I doing all that time while he was making a name for himself at a national magazine? ;-)

  5. Knowing how to find the answer is as useful as knowing it yourself, Vertie - and bet your mom would like that part.

    Fireblight sounds dreadful and what fun to have Steve Bender on twitter.
    (note to Pam/Digging - in the biography on Steve Bender's blog, it says he's been with Southern Living since 1983.

    You make us smile in person too, Vert- yesterday's garden blogger meet-up was fun!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  6. Thanks for bio info, Annie. I would have thought longer, but in 1983 I was two years away from graduating from high school, and geek that I was, I faithfully read SL then and through my early thirties, until life got too busy and I let most of my magazine subs lapse.

  7. Looks like it's the commenters who are interrupting Vertie's blog now!

    Pam, your post on 6 essential plants led me to Steve's site and you know I like to click around. It was a comfort to find out I'm not old enough to be Steve's mother.


  8. Dude, thanks to this post, I just spent the last 4 hours reading every single Steve Bender blog post ever, with a short detour over to Felder Rushing's page. God, Steve Bender's hilarious. How have I never heard of him before? Heck, I'm never going to think of squirrel the same way ever again thanks to his adage that if it ain't tender, use the blender!