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The new (and improved) Dickie Awards

The Union StaffAmethyst was "tulip of the year" in 1992.
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A number of years ago, in addition to writing about gardening for the big paper in the valley, I also wrote a weekly radio column.

And one week I was writing about a particularly dirty trick one radio station was playing on its on-air talent (by not legitimizing their contracts with a signature). But they got wind of it and corrected the… uh… oversight before the column was to appear.

So what else could I write about just a few hours before deadline?



The brainstorm was to salute the best on-air talent in town by giving a mythical award (The “Dickie,” named immodestly after its creator) for categories like best country-Western DJ, best overnight DJ; best rock music personality, best talk show host and numerous other categories.

The best talk show host award, incidentally, went to a newcomer in town, a fellow by the name of Rush Limbaugh, and it enabled him to bill himself from then on as, “Award Winning Talk Show Host, Rush Limbaugh.”




After he left Sacramento for The Big Apple, I received a telephone call from a reporter at The New York Times asking if I had, indeed, given this guy an award. And he sounded dejected when I said I had.

Although he’s garnered numerous awards since then, I like to delude myself that it was the Dickie award that catapulted Rush to national fame and substantial fortune.

Which brings us to the subject of today’s column, brought on by an abundance of good food and merriment over the holiday season: The Gardening Dickie Awards for 2002.

Sound the trumpets, please.

First, do you remember the scene in the movie, “The Graduate,” in which Benjamin returns home to Los Angeles after a stellar scholastic career and is feted at a party? And one gentleman pulls him aside and whispers one word (“Plastics!”) in his ear?

Allow me to do that for all the would-be gardeners out there who are uncertain what should be their best move. But the word I want to whisper is, “Bulbs.”

If you want your friends to really appreciate your horticultural skills, plant bulbs. Do it now. You can’t miss, see, because the little plants are already curled up inside, just waiting for some sunshine to pop through the soil and produce knockout flowers.

Planting is easy. Find a piece of ground, work it up a little with a sprinkling of bulb food, and toss the bulbs on the ground. For a natural look, plant them where they fall. (Militarists can plant them in rank and file if they prefer.)

If you want some more technical backup, so you’ll know what to expect as they bloom, consult Sunset’s softcover book on bulbs.

Shazam. You’re a gardener.

And if you want to capitalize on your notoriety as bulbmeister, growing bulbs for spring and summer you normally won’t find at local nurseries, you should get a catalog from Brent And Becky’s Bulbs, 7463 Heath Trail, Gloucester VA 23601. Or go to http://www.brentandbecksbulbs.com on the Internet. Brent and Becky Heath are friends of mine. Their prices are fair and selection outstanding, which is why they’re getting The Dickie Award.

Speaking of the Internet, which offers more information on gardening than the mind can comprehend, I have a favorite site operated by Barry Glick that focuses in on an individual plant or two with each weekly edition. Check it out at http://www.sunfarm.com and you’ll get to observe the work of a true plant fanatic. What makes his monthly offering of “Click’s Picks” from West Virginia so appealing is that he writes in a fashion anyone can understand, then supplies the nitty-gritty for the most informed botanist.

This week, for example, he touches on “pinks” and where they got their name. From their color? He thought so, and so did I, but it’s actually “that the ragged edge of many of the flowers looked ‘pinked,’ you know, cut with pinking shears?”

Interested? Go to his Web site and subscribe. It’s fun, and now an award-winning site.

Closer to home, every foothill gardener should be subscribing to “The Curious Gardener.” It’s a wonderful newsletter, compiled by UC Master Gardeners and Master Composters from Placer and Nevada counties, and is richly deserving of a Dickie Award.

To get a copy you can either call the UC Cooperative Extension, or find it on line. The exact URL is so long it would fill several lines of type (the University of California loves long titles) but you can go on line and find it by inserting “The Curious Gardener” in your search engine. (I prefer Google.)

What makes it so special is that it deals with our specific soils and growing conditions and is extremely well written and edited.

Finally, like me, many people who aren’t genetic, fanatical gardeners still enjoy horticulture and deeply appreciate the efforts of people who, if asked, “Would you rather lose an arm or stop gardening?” would answer, “Which arm?”

For those people, GreenPrints (a.k.a.. “The Weeder’s Digest”) is required reading. The subscription price of $22.97 for five issues a year may seem a little steep, but it will seem less so after you read an issue.

It’s all the about the heart and soul of gardening, written by those whose blood must contain at least a little chlorophyll and whose love of the art stands out on every page. GreenPrints editor Pat Stone, another old friend, is one of those people. Read it and you’ll see why The Dickie Award is long overdue for GreenPrints.

Dick Tracy is an award-winning garden writer and photographer, Master Gardener and former president of the Foothills Horticulture Society. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.


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