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The Fairy Gardener
by Jim Edminster

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Didja go to the Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier? Or Macy's Flower Show?

If you went to the first, you could have heard our club's own Steve Meyer lecturing on "Palms for Tropical Flair for Home & Patio." Steve recommended, among others, pygmy date palms and majesty palms. Get them if you like from a big-box store like Home Depot because: 1 ) they're inexpensive and 2 ) they've generally been raised under shade cloth making them more suitable for your home. Palms, he said, don't like too much phosphorus but can use potassium and magnesium. Ponytail palms aren't really palms but can also be used in homes. Ahem, you may have a large plant on your hands if you keep them alive and, yes, they do have to come inside in the winter.

I, the high school English teacher, talked with students from Chicago's High School for Agricultural Science at the Navy Pier show. They grow some of their own food. The Racine Zoo had a wonderful yellow boa on display—and it was not in a cage. Bernie's Book Bank, an organization that collects gently used books to give to inner-city kids, partnered with a garden center at the show. I was able to give the exhibitors several ideas for not-so-gently used books ( which they get a lot of ): you can make them into book versions of famous statues which they can varnish and sell and, book banks ( hollowed out books which are used to invisibly store valuables ).

I, of course, bought a bunch of spring planted bulbs for this year: three red and pink tree lilies, some purple poppies, three naked ladies, 10 purple anemones and three hardy pink anemones.

Trotting off to Macy's Flower Show the next week with my friend, Steve, was a natural for the Fairy Gardener—the theme was a fairy tale with princesses and dragons illustrated by flowers. The most enchanting exhibit to me was the tale's dragon exiting thru a dungeon door. The dragon's entire body was made of the succulent echeveria Perle Von Nurnberg, a purplish relative of mother hen and chicks.

Another adventure this week was going off to the Far North Side to see the film Black Panther. Oh, the sets! The fictional Wakanda's capital has organic-looking high rises with tropical trees and plants planted in and on them, tumbling over the sides. ( Today sitting in a restaurant in the Loop I thought, "God, what an improvement it'd be if these sterile skyscrapers had some plants in and on them!" Plus this so-called comic book adventure story had some very subtle political messages embedded in it. ) Across from the theater was a very strange book ( and other stuff ) store, Armadillo's Pillow, where I picked up two classic gardening books: The City and Town Gardener, by Linda Yang, and Christopher Lloyd's The Well-Tempered Garden.

If you want a weird but interesting plant for your yard, buy some sea holly ( Eryngium ), of which the most intriguing cultivar ( plant variety ) of which is the six-foot-ttall silvery blue "Miss Wilmott's Ghost." ( The story behind the name: Miss Wilmott, a Victorian-era gardener, liked this plant so much she scattered its seeds wherever she went, including the neighbors' yards. They eventually caught on but didn't care because it was so wonderful. )

Here's your recipe for this month in honor of two simultaneous surprise parties I went to. My friend Steve threw one party for his best friend as a housewarming, and the other party was a birthday party for that friend's very cute Shiba Inu doggie, Shelby, whose birthday made her a teenager. At the party I was drafted to make deviled eggs but here's an even better version: Angry Deviled Eggs. 1 ) Ingredients - 12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half length-wise, 1/4 cup mayo, 2 or 3 tbsps. of prepared horseradish, 2 tsps. yellow mustard, 2 tsps. sugar, 1 tsp vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp dry mustard, 1/4 tsp pepper, paprika for top. 2 ) To do - mash yolks in bowl; add other ingredients and mash against side of bowl. Fill egg halves and sprinkle paprika on.

I've named the Native American statue by the Illinois Masonic Hospital "Wee-wah" in memory of the famous berdache ( a holy man living as a woman ) who fooled the entire U.S. government in the 1920s. ( She was part of a Hopi delegation to meet Congress and the president. No one noticed that the traditionally dressed woman, who was a foot taller than the other women, was a man. ) Wee-wah seems to have made the forsythia bloom around her already. Well, she is a fertility symbol.

I'm writing these little moral observations about things in general. I call them "karmadoodles." Here are a few: 1 ) You should never be more than a very short walk away from a place where you can see a living plant; 2 ) Even if you only have two plants in your high-rise apartment, you still have a garden; 3 ) All living things have rights, and that includes plants.

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