Here’s the Dirt

Test your gardening knowledge with these fun facts.

1. The Bluebell flower was once used to make glue. T or F

2. Butterflies only taste and smell with their mouth and nose. T or F

3. Butterflies defecate and urinate five times a day. T or F

4. Broccoli is a flower. T or F

~Submitted by Donna Canino

Answers- 1. True; 2. False (Butterflies smell and taste with their feet); 3. False (Butterflies do not go to the bathroom. They sometimes release a mist if they have drunk too much fluid.); 4. True



The ultimate wisdom which deals with beginnings, remains locked in a seed. There it lies, the simplest fact of the universe and at the same time the one which calls faith rather than reason.

October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.

~ Hal Borland

Book Review: Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols

BOOK REVIEW by Kristine Glenn

In the depths of winter when the green and growing garden is covered by a blanket of snow, the heart of a gardener can wither away. This is the time to pick up a book like Beverley Nichol’s Merry Hall. The book chronicles the British author’s search for the perfect garden and the perfect house. More specifically, he wants a Georgian house and a garden of at least five acre: “a garden riddled with brambles, stung almost to death with nettles, and eaten to the bone with blight… I was in a rescuing mood.”

He finds the ideal place early in the book and Merry Hall describes his initial forays into rescuing and restoring the house, and especially the gardens. The book is written in the aftermath of World War II in a style reminiscent of Oscar Wilde, E.F. Benson, and Jane Austen. Deliciously witty, Nichols delves indiscriminately into horticulture, his talented and taciturn gardener (Oldfield), cats and more cats, nosy neighbors (Miss Emily and Our Rose), garden aesthetics, music, and more. But his first love is the garden and the book hones in on all things gardening. Nichols frequently rhapsodizes about the beauty of a blossom, warning the reader “when I begin to write about flowers, I lose all sense of restraint, and it is far, far too late to do anything about it.”

With every reading and re-reading, Merry Hall keeps me simultaneously laughing and in awe of Nichols’ turn of phrase and ability to cut to the heart of the matter, whether it is commentary on a passive-aggressive spinster or falling in love with a bank of Lilium regale. The story wends its way through the pages in an organic and enticing manner. Nichols cautions the readers that Merry Hall “is not really a book at all; it is only a long walk round a garden, in winter and summer, in rain and in sunshine; and if it bores you to walk round gardens you will have long ago chucked it aside.”

The book is meant for slow reading where each page is savored and the story visualized, absorbed, and chuckled over. It’s best read with a notepad close by so you can write down unfamiliar plant names and references for later research. It can take some work to adjust to the style as the setting is quintessentially British and the world it inhabits is from almost 70 years ago. But it is worth the effort. So I encourage you to settle down with the book – preferably in a comfortable chair, by a crackling fire, and with your favorite drink – and enter the entertaining, insightful, and somewhat cynical world of Beverley Nichols.

Note: Beverley Nichols was a prolific writer in a career spanning 60 years. Best remembered for his gardening books, his most popular is Down The Garden Path, which has been in nearly continuous print since 1932. Merry Hall is the first book of the Merry Hall trilogy. If you like it, the next book, Laughter On The Stairs, shifts the focus to restoring the 22-room mansion amidst life in the village. The final book, Sunlight on the Lawn, brings more stories of the house, garden, friends, and neighbors. All of the books are available on Amazon. Regrettably, they are not available at the Billings Public Library. I’ll remedy that if I find some spare funds.

A Haiku and Thank You

Dear Master Gardener Editors,

Thank you for all your hard work! I enjoyed the Jan/Feb/Mar issue. I have passed on your information about growing broccoli sprouts to several people.

Thank you, Julie Osslund

I am submitting a haiku for your consideration;

Black capped chickadee
Calls out a cheerful greeting
from a peaceful tree.

haiku bird

Rules from ‘In Defense of Food’ by Michael Pollan

Don‘t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn‘t recog-nize as food.

Don‘t eat anything incapable of rotting.

Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamil-iar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.

Avoid food products that make health claims.

Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

You are what you eat eats too.

If you have space, buy a freezer.

Eat like an omnivore.

Eat well-grown foods from healthy soils.

Eat wild foods when you can.

Be the kind of person who takes supplements (but don‘t).

Eat more like the French or the Italians or the Japanese or the Indians or the Greeks.

Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.

Don‘t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.

Have a glass of wine with dinner.

Pay more, eat less.

Eat meals.

Do all your eating at a table.

Don‘t get your fuel from the same place your car does.

Try not to eat alone.

Consult your gut.

Eat slowly.

Cook, and, if you can, plant a garden.

Rules from In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan