No Way to Cultivate Contented Red Sox Fans

Though I usually write about gardening, the closest this post comes to gardening is the word Cultivate in the title. Nor do my words delve into the monumental melt-down Red Sox fans witnessed in the April 21, 2012 game at Fenway Park. This is an open letter to the Red Sox organization on one way to keep fans happy – don’t misrepresent season ticket seat purchases.

Non-baseball fans may not understand, but baseball fans will know just how thrilling it was, after four years on the waitlist, to get the “Dear Red Sox Waitlist Member” email announcing our chance to purchase a season ticket package. I gladly gave up the better part of an hour, most of it on hold, on a busy day to offer up my credit card for the Y-Plan – ten predetermined Monday, Wednesday, Saturday games. A check off the bucket list … we were Red Sox season ticket holders.

I shared the news with the family, my husband and I scheduled the games we would attend, and our adult children chose theirs.

Baseball has been part of my memory since I could talk and walk, with favored baseball memories revolving around my Gram. She knew baseball, infield and out, right field and left. Her favorite team, the Pittsburgh Pirates; her favorite player, Roberto Clemente, but she would listen to any team on the radio. She loved the game that much, and she passed this love on to her grandchildren. One of my dearest recollections is when my oldest son, then a young teen, and my nearly 90-year-old Gram lost themselves in baseball talk while the rest of the family went on with our reunion.

Now, with Gram gone for nearly 13 years, baseball is one way for me to hold her close. I carried her memory with me to a Red Sox game a few years back when our kids gave me and my husband tickets to the last game of the season. It happened to be the day the oldest living Rooter was part of pre-game ceremonies. An age-worn woman walked onto the infield holding the supporting arm of a much younger escort. To my eyes, she was Gram and for that moment Gram was there, enjoying Fenway with me, though she never had the chance to visit the park before she died. I doubt my seat-neighbors understood the tears streaming down my face … Gram would have loved Fenway Park.

Sharing the love of baseball with my kids continues our family tradition. I came to Connecticut a Pirates fan, just like Gram. My kids, being native New Englanders, turned me into a Red Sox fan long before we all, as adults, cheered the Sox to their 2004 and 2007 World Series wins.

This history walked with me on April 21 as we strolled down Yawkey Way and entered Fenway. The Red Sox were playing the Yankees. Another check off our bucket list.

We carried our beers up the stairs to Section 7, Row 9, Seats 17 and 18, greeted our seat-neighbors, and sat down to look across the field. To our chagrin, in place of home plate all we saw was one of the vertical roof-support beams.

This was the ‘unrestricted view’ we waited four years to obtain?

I may be a purist, but I think the ability to see home plate is a rather important aspect of watching a baseball game.

While purchasing our tickets I used the feature on the Red Sox website that allows you to click on a seating area to get a view of the field from that section. Go ahead, click on Section 7 (in pale blue), you’ll see the view I expected.

This is the view we had …

view from Section 7, Row 9, Seats 17 & 18 at Fenway Park

During the ticket purchase I had asked, multiple times, if our seats had a restricted view. I was specifically told they do not. “We don’t sell restricted view seats to season ticket holders,” I was assured.

Apparently, it all depends on your definition of restricted. What I’ve learned since, is the Red Sox organization actually considers these seats to have an unrestricted view. Therefore, they don’t note these seats as restricted in their computer, nor do they find it necessary to inform ticket buyers that they won’t be able to see home plate or some other part of the infield from these seats.

The customer service people I dealt with were extremely understanding as I expressed my displeasure and disillusionment. We received a refund for our season ticket package as well as comp seats in a section behind home plate for the April 21 game. I appreciate both gestures. I also appreciate that an extremely helpful woman in the season ticket office is working to find us at least some single game tickets to replace those in our original package.

What I don’t understand is the continued ruse, particularly from an organization that has gone to exemplary lengths to update Fenway Park without losing a century’s worth of history and charm, that certain seats do not have a restricted view, when they clearly do. Fenway fans get it, many seats have restricted views. So be honest about these restrictions, Red Sox organization, be honest about field views, or lack of views, from the start.

To do any less only makes fans feel like they’ve been sold a bucket of crap.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Frost Nipped White Lilacs in the Bud

It’s official. There will be no white lilac blooms in joene’s garden this spring. I waited and watched and hoped for the best, but it’s clear now that the March weather nipped my white lilacs in the bud. This is my first weather-related gardening casualty for 2012.

You remember March. Early month record warmth caused unusually early leaf-break. Then late month frosts and hard freezes stopped by for a few nights. Apparently my white lilacs just weren’t up to the cold. This is what the larger of the two looks like now. The uppermost leaves are browned and curled while lower leaves are completely normal.



This is what it looked like last spring.



Seasoned gardeners know there can be many reasons for lack of lilac bloom.

  • Young or transplanted lilacs may take six or seven years to produce flowers. My white lilacs are not young; they’ve bloomed consistently for the last 12 years.
  • Poor pruning will prevent blooms. I prune lilacs as they should be pruned, immediately after they cease blooming. I cut all spent flowers off at the same time so the shrubs put energy into setting new flower buds for the following spring. I’ve been following this procedure, with much success, for decades.
  • Over fertilizing with nitrogen will encourage leaf, rather than flower, growth. I only fertilize with compost and worm castings, and infrequently at that. There was no fertilization around the lilacs in the past year
  • Insect- or disease-stressed shrubs may not bloom. My shrubs have no known disease or insect stress.

The late March freeze is the only cause I can think of for the lack of bloom in these two white lilacs.

I feared this freeze might kill the white lilac buds so I covered the larger of the two shrubs with a sheet – it’s the one I see most often from the house. But this was a gardening oops, it did nothing but turn the uppermost leaves – those in contact with the sheet – brown. The next morning the shrub left uncovered looked better than the covered one. Not being one to let a good comparison go to waste, I figured I would watch for any bloom differences between the two shrubs.

But the blooms never materialized on either shrub. Both show similar freeze damage though the one I covered has more brown-tipped leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Yet … my purple lilacs are blooming as they have for years. They will be fully open within the next few days.

So why didn’t frost thwart the purple lilacs? I cannot say for sure, but my years of gardening experience leads me to think the difference is due to breeding. The purple lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is the plain old common lilac so prevalent in the northeast. The purple lilac pictured above came from divisions of a shrub at my previous home, and that common lilac was decades old.

My white lilac (unfortunately, I misplaced the plant tag and cannot recall the exact cultivar) was bred to remain more compact than the, usually taller, common white lilacs. Often, cultivars are not as tolerant of harsh conditions as the original species. In other words, breeding for smaller size somehow bred out some hardiness.

Any plant aficionados out there have any other ideas that might have led to the lack of white lilac blooms?

Any other Connecticut or Northeastern gardener making similar observations?

Please, please share.


Garden thoughtfully … and did you happen to notice the difference from 2011 to 2012 in the bloom dates on the photo labels? In 2011, lilacs in my south-central Connecticut gardens bloomed in mid-May. This year purple lilacs will be in full bloom within the next few days, about 3 weeks earlier than last year.

Read more on lilacs for Connecticut gardens from UConn Plant Database.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

We Are Killing Bees

Do you know that the grub-killing pesticide you put on your lawn and the flea control you put on your pet likely contains imidacloprid, a pesticide implicated in honeybee-killing Colony Collapse Disorder? And, if you purchase non-organic coffee, citrus, grapes and other fruits, potatoes and other vegetables, rice or use any sugarcane products you are probably buying an imidacloprid-treated crop?

Imidacloprid, by Bayer, is an ingredient in over 400 products in the U.S., according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Bayer reports it is used on sucking and biting insects such as aphids as well as fruit flies, grubs, termites, white flies and many beetles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABees are exposed to imidacloprid through the pollen and nectar they collect from treated crops. Honeybees are also exposed to imidacloprid through the high-fructose corn syrup they are fed by beekeepers, notes Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health.  Most U.S.-grown corn is treated with imidacloprid so the insecticide is in corn syrup, Lu explains in this Science Daily report.

Lu and colleagues studied the role imidacloprid might play Colony Collapse Disorder. They monitored four different bee yards, each with four hives – three exposed to different levels of imidacloprid plus one no-exposure control. After 23 weeks of observation, 94 percent of the hives exposed to imidacloprid had died. Those exposed to the highest imidacloprid levels died first.

Strikingly, said Lu, it took only low levels of imidacloprid to cause hive collapse — less than what is typically used in crops or in areas where bees forage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Related studies, conducted in the United Kingdom and France, also implicated imidacloprid exposure in the decline of honeybee and bumblebee populations. Both suggest that levels of the nerve-effecting neonicotinoid type of pesticide imidacloprid, similar to those reached with common crop applications, impair bees ability to gain weight, their sense of direction, and ability to produce queens.

“Bumblebees pollinate many of our crops and wild flowers … The use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops clearly poses a threat to their health, and urgently needs to be re-evaluated.”

There are many neonicotinoid pesticides – too many to address in one post – so let’s focus on imidacloprid, the active ingredient in Bayer’s Merit and Season Long Grub Control products.

Imidacloprid  may remain in the soil for more than a year. It easily moves through soil via water, causing a run-off problem. The pesticide will not remain where you put it, it ends up where ever water takes it. It is taken up by blooming plants … exactly where bees head for pollen and nectar. It is toxic to bees, earthworms, fish, and other aquatic life.

Just look at the label for one imidacloprid product, Merit, approved for use on turf grass, landscape ornamentals, fruit and nut trees, and interior plants. The caution statement for humans is scary enough. The Environmental Hazards statement then lists Merit as highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates and highly toxic to bees exposed directly or from residues on blooming plants. It also cautions that Merit – in essence imidacloprid – is not to be used in areas where soil is permeable to water.

Think about this …  All lawns and gardens are in soils permeable to water.  To me, this little fact negates the use of imidacloprid on any lawn or garden.

Lawn and garden owners must take the initiative to be informed. Question all lawn and garden care sales pitches in television, newspaper and magazine ads, and through direct mail. READ ALL LABELS. Know what is in a product before using it. Most importantly, acknowledge that each action you take in your lawn and garden is important. What you add to your soil affects insects and birds and toads and small mammals and continues to affect all creatures along the food chain – all the way to humans.

This TED talk, provides an entertaining and informative explanation of the importance of bees. It’s worth the time to watch. You may begin to look at bees with a bit more respect, and understand that bees do not exist to annoy us … they actually help feed us.

Garden thoughtfully …

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry