I am one of those people who has trouble expressing sympathy.

I have trouble finding comforting things to say at a funeral home except my old standard line of "You have my sympathy."

I was in that kind of a situation when a customer called and told me her mom had died. I replied "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," and waited for her to order a plant for the funeral home.

After she said she didn't give her mom enough water, I realized it was her mum, not her mom.

Fall mums don't last forever. When they do quit blooming, just leave them alone if they are planted in the ground. If you have them sitting around in pots, have a small visitation time, receive a few comforting words from your friends, then pitch them. They probably won't winter over in pots unless you place them in the garage for the winter. That's even a gamble.

The mums planted in the ground should be covered with pine branches in December.

The other plant you see blooming now is the aster. You will notice wild asters blooming along the highway. They will be a blue or a white bush.

"Aster" means "star" because the blooms resemble stars. If you see a plant resembling Barry Manilow, that's not the kind of star I'm talking about. It's the round star with rays.

Asters now have been bred for home use and can be purchased at garden centers. They can be mixed with garden mums and will come back better next year than the mums will.

The aster blooms after the golden rod is done blooming. This is nice because they serve as food for butterflies and bees that are hanging around. You don't want to see those poor little creatures starve to death, do you?

Asters do not care for wet soil, so don't plant them in front of your downspout or in a low wet area.

The main disease of the aster is powdery mildew. It is a white, chalky substance that covers the leaves. It doesn't cause much harm but it's sort of ugly. This can be controlled with an early spray of a fungicide.

The main insect pest is the lace bug. You will notice pale leaves and black spots on the underside if you have this pest. Bayer Insect Control will take care of these bugs.

I noticed this pest on the azaleas during my visit at the library. Because my computer wasn't working for a few days, I was told there were computers available at the library. Now I know where the library is, but I had never patronized it. I found out right away you had to be a member to use the computers.

Friends, I am proud to say I have my first library card. I was so proud of it, I passed it around at the supper table for everyone to see. I am even thinking about taking out a book and placing it on the coffee table to impress my wife and friends into thinking I am getting educated. I think I'll get something like "The Dynamics of Nuclear Physics." All I need then is a pipe and a sweater and I will look just like some college professor.

I am sure the library has a section on gardening that I will be using in the future. You can also take advantage of these books. If I can get a card, you should qualify very easily.

Maybe, if you are going to call and say your mum died, you should use the term "fall mums" or "chrysanthemum." That way I won't stammer around trying to find some sympathetic thing to say. I know a lot of you are better at expressing sympathy than I am, because I hear you telling my wife that all the time.

Make your space a green space.

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