JoAnne Skelly: The year in gardening

I write weekly articles and I rarely remember from week to week what I wrote. So, I reviewed this past year’s production for some of my favorites.

In “The Magic of Pollination” from February, I wrote about site fidelity — when pollinators stay loyal to the first species they visit each morning — and pollination syndromes — about plants and pollinators co-evolving to make plant reproduction success. Previously, I hadn’t heard of these terms.

The unfamiliar I explored in March was “HugelKultur,” which is layering large piles to mimic nutrient cycling found in nature. When heat is produced by decomposition of the pile, the growing season can be extended for plants established on the pile.

I talked about my trip to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens at Fort Bragg, California, in May. Visits to botanical gardens inspire my horticulture heart. In another article, I mentioned harvesting at my friend Laura’s spectacular vegetable garden in Oregon. She’s the best gardener I know.

When I finished Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior,” a heart-wrenching story about monarch butterflies, their migration and the destruction of their habitat in July, I was moved to share the story of their population decline. The thought of losing these amazing travelers due to preventable habitat destruction tears at my soul.

Getting kittens in July led me to research the toxicity of indoor plants to cats. It seems that most plants can sicken cats. I had thought my days of growing plants indoors were over. However, they are avoiding most plants, particularly the strong-smelling citronella geraniums.

By the time October rolled around, I shared an article about my favorite foodscaping horticulturist and author, Rosalind Creasy. I quoted her work in my graduate thesis in the late ’90s and find her teachings and plant suggestions still valid today.

Regularly I write practical advice articles on plant pests, proper maintenance and cultural practices. I have written about aphids, boxelder bugs, pine borers, powdery mildew, moles, voles and ground squirrels, weeds — whether merely annoying or actually against the law, pruning of just about anything, fertilizing and tool care. I want my readers to not only succeed at their horticulture adventures, but to enjoy the process, so I have tried to share my knowledge and experience as well as others’ research.

When asked why I continue to write after 21 years. I answer that I learn something new every time I write. I thank you all for the opportunity and wish you a Happy New Gardening Year!

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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