sealPurdue News

November 1994

New book keeps gardeners in gear year round

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Hey gardeners, did your phlox fizzle this year? Did your cucumbers quit? If your lawn has languished while your gardening skills have gone to seed, a new gardening guide tailored to Midwest growing conditions will come to your rescue.

"Possum in the Pawpaw Tree: A Seasonal Guide to Midwestern Gardening" was written by B. Rosie Lerner and Beverly S. Netzhammer, who are co-authors of "Growing Concerns," a statewide gardening column. Lerner is consumer horticulture specialist in Purdue University's Cooperative Extension Service and state coordinator of the Indiana Master Gardener Program; Netzhammer is co-owner of ScapeArt Landscape Design and Installation in West Lafayette.

"We've put together this book using real questions asked by real gardeners," Netzhammer says. "We deal with down-to-earth subjects such as when to start seeds, why plants might fail to bloom, pruning techniques and controlling common pests, to name just a few things."

The book, published by the Purdue University Press, uses a calendar format to take both beginning and experienced gardeners through the year, month-by-month, with helpful hints for indoor and outdoor gardening.

The book is in bookstores now. A clothbound edition costs $24.95. A paper edition costs $14.95. Copies can be ordered by calling the Purdue University Press at (800) 933-9637.

Lerner and Netzhammer say the book is a natural holiday gift for anyone in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska or Kansas.

"There is an abundance of books for coastal gardeners and for people who live in warm climates," says David Sanders, director of the Purdue Press. "But we live in the heartland where normal can mean bitter winters, torrential spring rains and summer drought. We have to be prepared for the unexpected."

With gardening suggestions geared to every season, "Possum in the Pawpaw Tree" doesn't give Midwestern gardeners time to twiddle their green thumbs. For each month, there is a checklist of things to do both inside and outside the house, essays offering helpful ideas on planting and gift-giving, and a question-and-answer section to help solve gardening problems.

Those who get the book in winter, for example, can plan ahead for a house full of spring blooms in February. The January chapter tells gardeners how to force landscape branches, such as forsythia, pussy willow and honeysuckle, to bloom indoors. There also are instructions for turning pineapple tops, carrot tops and avocado pits into houseplants.

January also is the time to look at gardening catalogs and make your choices for spring planting, according to the book, which offers hints on how to know which mail--order advertisements can be believed. The question-and-answer section deals with building dish gardens and saving brown ferns.

It was a gardening question that inspired the name of the book, Lerner says: "A gardener wrote to ask us how to cure poor fruit set in the pawpaw. We suggested several possible solutions in our monthly gardening column, but another reader wrote to us claiming that the insects responsible for pollination in pawpaws are attracted to rotting flesh, so one should hang a dead animal, such as a possum, in the tree."

While a possum in the pawpaw tree might work for some gardeners, Lerner says, it also illustrates the point that there are several solutions for most gardening questions.

"This isn't meant to be a textbook or a complete reference guide to gardening," she says. "But it offers more than a list of tips for the beginning gardener or a few reminders for the experienced gardener."

Sources: B. Rosie Lerner, (765) 494-1311
Beverly Netzhammer, (765) 583-0717
Writer: Julie Rosa, (765) 494-2079; Internet,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: For a review copy of "Possum in the Pawpaw Tree," contact Carolyn A. McGrew at Purdue University Press, (765) 494-2035. A black-and-white photo of the book jacket is available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096.

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