Dick Tracy: Are there gardens in Heaven? | TheUnion.com

Dick Tracy: Are there gardens in Heaven?

Dick Tracy


A Celebration of Life for Carolyn Singer will be hosted 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at Pioneer Park in Nevada City.

Family and friends of Singer encourage those attending to bring water, a chair and any tokens or flowers to be placed on an altar. Donations will be accepted toward the planting of a grove of shade trees with a plaque in memory of Carolyn, “The Seasoned Gardner.”

Easy to overlook in the many accomplishments and roles of my dear departed friend Carolyn Singer is the fact that she lived and breathed gardening, every day. And in my opinion, gardeners are the world’s finest people.

I don’t remember when I first trudged up to Foothill Cottage Gardens on assignment as garden writer for the Sacramento Bee, but it opened the door for access to a walking, talking horticultural encyclopedia. And began a strong friendship.

Humble when faced with the whims of nature, mothering as she guided her garden through the seasons and triumphant at harvest, she loved the earth. And, shared what she learned with everyone.

Especially me. I’d stumbled, ill-equipped, into the role of the Bee’s first full-time garden writer and was smart enough to cultivate friendships with an all-star league of horticulturists. Carolyn was in the front rank.

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… she had a common-sense way of getting to the heart of the matter.

Following retirement after 30 years with The Bee, I agreed to write a twice-monthly freelance column for The Union. Sometimes, as writer’s do, I got “writer’s block” and was unable to put words on paper. So, I’d go visit Carolyn, turn on my tape recorder and say: “Speak!”

I can still see her smiling face: “About what?”

“Anything you’d like,” I’d say, and the words came spilling out like she’d been rehearsing them all day, leaving me the simple task of punctuation and spelling. Piece of cake!

When it came to the subject of, “What plants will deer avoid?” she ultimately wrote two volumes (“Deer in my garden”) on the subject, but could boil them down to a few words:

“Like us,” she’d sigh, shaking her head, “deer will eat anything if they’re hungry enough. But there are things my grandson calls ‘yuckky plants” that they’ll normally keep off the menu.”

Every spring I’d get the same question from novice vegetable gardeners: “When’s the earliest time I can plant tomatoes?”

Nurseries offer them far too early because customers demand them far too early.

Carolyn had an easy-to-understand answer: “Go sit on the soil. If it’s warm enough to be comfortable on your butt, it’s time to plant!”

As all those — including my wife — who took her gardening classes will testify, she had a common-sense way of getting to the heart of the matter. It’s why, for example, we have a compost bin for vegetable scraps instead of putting them through the garbage disposal.

When I realized I no longer enjoyed the prospect of meeting journalistic deadlines to write a garden column, I wheedled and cajoled my very busy friend to pick up the reins where I’d left off. And she quickly eclipsed everything I’d written on the subject, to the benefit of The Union’s readers.

If, indeed, there is a “hereafter” and I’m eventually admitted, I expect to find a tidy cottage surrounded by a beautiful garden with the aroma of an herbal tea drifting from a kitchen window.

And when Carolyn opens the door, I’ll smile and say, “Speak!”

Dick Tracy, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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