Hortense Hoelove Answers Readers' Questions

It’s Friday! Do you know what that means? It means it’s time for Hortense Hoelove to answer more readers’ questions about plant and garden relationship issues.

Ms. Hoelove,

Thank goodness I found you! I realize our time difference may mean that you're sleeping while I'm awake but I do wish you would help me out. Like Carol, I'm victim to the most frustrating problem. I would love my garden to be filled with gorgeous temperate-growing plants which I see in blogs like May Dreams Garden, but alas! I live a tropical zone. Hot, humid and filled with bugs of every size and colour. What, oh what can I do? Please help.

Sunita aka The Urban Gardener

Dear Sunita,

It sounds like you have a case of “zone envy” in reverse. This affliction is most often seen in gardeners who live in colder temperate zones, like where May Dreams Gardens is and further north, who want to grow plants that are just not hardy enough to survive our cold winters. I hadn’t really thought that someone who can garden outside year around would be envious of our temperate zone gardens and plants. But I can understand it, because the lilacs do smell divine in the spring, there aren’t too many bugs in the summer, though there are quite a few, and the changing of the seasons is magical as we move from spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, and winter back to spring. My advice is to bloom where you are planted, look around at the beauty of your garden, and enjoy it for what it offers and know that others are envious of you!

From my temperate zone,

Lilac blooms in the spring at May Dreams Gardens

Dear Hortense,

We had quite a storm move through my garden this past Tuesday, dumping more three inches of rain in a day. That’s generally the total rainfall we get around here for the entire month of August. The wind knocked down most of the Surprise Lilies, which I now call the Fallen Ladies, and many of the sunflowers that were at least eight feet tall. Fortunately, it didn’t knock down my tower of green beans, which I crudely tied to four stakes some time ago. My question is should I leave the Fallen Ladies lying on the ground like that? Should I try to stake up the sunflowers. All that staking in the garden isn’t very attractive, is it? Dang, before that big rain and all the wind, the garden was really looking nice!

No longer looking up at sunflowers,
Thorn Goblinfly

Dear Ms. Goblinfly,

It is a known fact that as soon as your garden looks really good with tall sunflowers, a storm will come along and knock down a plant or two, just to give you something to do and let you know that you aren’t always in charge like you think you are. If it were me, I’d leave the Surprise Lilies aka Fallen Ladies alone. They are about bloomed out anyway. But really, you should try to do something with those sunflowers because there is plenty more bloom in them this year. Perhaps you could just lean them back the other way so they rest on the fence? Aren’t they crushing the zinnias under them? Sure they are. I also noticed that the rain shifted around a lot of the mulch in the paths of your vegetable garden. You ought to rake some of that back in place. And then finish mulching the rest of your garden!

Mulch is key,
Hortense Hoelove

Fallen Sunflowers at May Dreams Gardens. Out of respect, I won't post pictures of the Fallen Ladies

Dear Hortense,

I must say that I am slightly shocked by your surname "Hoelove." It has an odd connotation for a gardener. I've read a lot of Charles Dickens, and he uses surnames as an indicator of character, as does J. K. Rowling in her Harry Potter books. Can you please explain the name and how it relates to your personality and profession?

Yours in the garden,

Mr. McGregor's Daughter

Dear Mr.McGregor’s Daughter,

I’m more than happy to explain my last name and its connotations. Though it sounds English in its origin, it is actually derived from the garden fairies’ language which is called “Gardlish”. Many of the words of Gardlish sound English but are combined in ways that we who speak English wouldn’t think to do because the meanings can be mis-understood. In Gardlish, “hoelove” simply means “one who loves to work the soil in a garden and grow vegetables and flowers and spend as much time in the garden as possible”.

I hope this helps to remove all questions about my personality and profession!

Have A Gard Day, (which is Gardlish for Have A Good Day),

'Elves Blend' Sunflowers from Botanical Interest Seeds, a favorite of the garden fairies at May Dreams Gardens. These are just one foot tall.

(If you have a question for Hortense Hoelove to answer next Friday, just leave it in a comment!)


  1. Hortense you are a wealth of information and obviously a wealth of speculation. I am glad you enjoy your garden and are out hoeing around so much. You are instructive as well as entertaining. Cheers.

  2. Dear Hortense,

    Your discussion of zone envy gave me an idea. Why don't we start a garden timeshare program?

    Gardeners, like me, complaining about two years of drought and 47 days of 100 degree heat, could swap gardens for a week or two with northern gardeners who are suffering under unusually cold and wet summer and all kinds of tomato blight.

    Southern gardeners could smell the lilacs and northern gardeners could smell the Texas mountain laurel. And maybe we'd all go down to the tropics and smell the frangipani.

  3. Thanks for clearing up the confusion about your name. I guess it is a case of false cognates (like the time my sister-in-law's father asked for burro, the Italian for butter, in South America and was shown a donkey).
    Although staking isn't as pretty as a garden au natural, it sure beats having Sunflowers smashing the Zinnias. I do hope little Thorn will be happy once the Sunflowers are upright again.
    I love MSS's idea. I'll be happy to trade with her for the months of December through March.

  4. I love MSS's idea about garden timeshares. Would be loverly. Glad Miss Hortense didn't show the fallen ladies. That would be too sad.~~Dee

  5. Sign me up for a timeshare, right about mid-January! And thank you for the Gardlish lesson, Hortense.

  6. I'm in for the timeshare too...oddly enough a week or two of snow and no garden work does have appeal to some of us who are deprived of that pleasure. Do you know of any Gardlish classes being offered this fall? I don't think they have it at our Adult School.

  7. I am so glad you answered the question about the Naked Ladies. I, too, have Fallen Ladies in my garden, and I'm glad to know it wasn't some kind of divine justice for their shocking ways.

    I do have a question for you, today, Hortense: After an unusually cool July, the weather is heating up again. It's supposed to be in the 90's here this weekend, and by 8 AM this morning it already felt like a steam bath outside. How can I get motivated to work in the garden when it's so danged hot outside?? Please don't tell me I need to be outside at the crack of dawn; you know I'm not an early morning person.

    Sincerely, Prairie Rose


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