Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

The season of spring–God bless it–wears many faces. It has inspired poets to greatness, encouraged the downhearted, confounded meteorologists and induced weeping by throngs of spouses who don’t care for yard work. I am one of those, ashamed that I’m far south of my wife’s expectations, rarely carrying “my part of the mulch.”


Dr. Don Newbury

Spring can enter quietly, like Carl Sandburg’s description of fog tippy-toeing on “little cat feet,” or comparable to Mother Nature’s “ruffled rage” upon discovery that “it’s not real butter.”

Whenever it shows up–in whatever manner–most of us aren’t ready….

Some applaud upon hearing the voice of Dr. Neil Sperry, the guru who knows more about the world of plants than the law allows. He has a terminal degree in the field, has written best-selling books and regularly expounds verbally on popular radio broadcasts.

Actually, he’s beyond “guru status.” If plants could talk, he’d be the first human being to immediately begin meaningful dialogue with ‘em.

On top of all this, he speaks with ease about plants, his voice oozing with confidence.  Multi-syllabic words roll off his tongue. They are words I can’t pronounce, and must hazard guesses about spelling or checking out on the Internet. (Oh, to have such “street smarts, row smarts or trail smarts” concerning flora.) Nay, my thumb is  as brown as Sperry’s is green.


Neil Sperry

My wife of nearly fifty-four years, however, sports thumbs with distinctively “greenish” tint, and it’s about this time of year she starts asking, “Why can’t you be more like Neil Sperry?” So far, I have restrained myself, choosing not to counter with, “Why don’t you cook more like Martha Stewart?”

Heaven knows I’ve tried. However, I’m a miserable failure when compared to Sperry. I can handle routine mowing and edging, but zilch beyond that.

“Beyond that” includes horticultural decisions involving trees, shrubs, plants and more. Yikes! I am no help. Dr. Sperry is horticulture’s patron saint; I ain’t. Now in my second childhood, I recall the end-of-year notation on my first-grade report card–”may be late to blossom.”

As shadows lengthen, my wife is becoming less decisive. When perennials such as jonquils and daffodils show up, she wonders if we should add annuals like pansies and tulips to “really light up the yard.”  At Lowe’s, I steer her past the flowering plants, reminding her of back pains that now are part-and-parcel with her flower-gardening. This reminder usually works.

Otherwise, yard maintenance will slip down our scale from improbable to impossible…

We’re counting on our 15-year-old grandson to provide relief duty in yard work this summer.

My wife thinks he may already be a Neil Sperry fan, since he always has those ear buds in his ears.

I keep telling her that he likely isn’t listening to Dr. Sperry, or to any other horticulturalist, for that matter. Further, I’m leaving the newspaper open to those ads for retirement living where they maintain immaculate yards, and even change light bulbs.

I should have seen the inevitable long before now. As a child, my dad always referred to me as the “flower of the family.”

I asked him, of course, what his remark meant. “You are the flower of the family—a blooming idiot,” he joyfully answered.

Another story comes to mind. A guy buys an overgrown city block, spending months cleaning out the briars, weeds and junk. Finally, he had a fine garden that caught the approving eye of passers-by. One observed, “You and the Lord have created a wonderful garden.”

“Let’s don’t give the Lord too much credit,” the gardener replies, “You should have seen it when He had the garden by himself.” Enough of this. I’d better go outside to scalp the lawn. I’ve been given this direction from Dr. Sperry second-hand, but if I don’t do it, I’ll be scalped by my wife, first-hand.

Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments or inquiries to: Ph.: 817-447-3872. Web: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury. 


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