Perennial humor for the gardener

Once, while driving through the green countryside of Maine, I launched into abundant praise of a book on home building with the author of the book. While I valued the information it contained, I also delighted in his humorous style and told him so.

Later his wife, who was with us in the car at the time, commented,''He must have the same peculiar sense of humor you do. No one else seems to find the book funny.''

I recalled that comment recently, as I read through Henry Beard and Roy McKie's ''A Gardener's Dictionary'' (Workman Publishing, New York). I realize that what I assessed as (1) humorous, (2) funny, (3) hilarious may well be defined by others as (1) stupid, (2) asinine, or (3) just plain dumb. The point is that, having so thoroughly enjoyed the Beard-McKie book, I have since quoted it to my friends ''to the point of being tiresome,'' according to my wife. But I do recall that her comment was made the same day I didn't help her bread rolls any by opening the oven door at an inappropriate moment.

Someone once said of humor that it was little more than the truth exaggerated. When we laugh at a joke or humorous comment we are in effect saying: ''Isn't that the truth.''

Here's a sampling of the Beard-McKie absurdities or ''truths'' contained in their ''dictionary for weedpullers, slugcrushers, and backyard botanists'':

Autumn. Delightful season that runs from the disposal of the last zucchini to the arrival of the first catalog.

Broccoli. Member of the cabbage family grown chiefly as a receptacle for hollandaise sauce.

Catalogs. Forms of entertaining fiction published by nurseries, seedsmen, and tool manufacturers.

Garden. One of a vast number of free outdoor restaurants operated by charity-minded amateurs in an effort to provide healthful, balanced meals for insects, birds, and animals.

Nursery. The only known place where money grows on trees.

Perennial. Any plant that, had it lived, would have bloomed year after year.

How accurate this one is:

Hose. Crude but effective and totally safe type of scythe towed through gardens to flatten flower beds and level vegetable plantings.

You might also like this one:

Aphid. Insect pest which inphests gardens and makes gardeners phoam at the mouth, stamp their pheet, and utter phour-letter words.

If you enjoy gardening and laugh readily, this book is for you. You might also like to give a copy to a friend who tried gardening but couldn't quite cut it, as they say. It may remove the guilt, if not all of the disappointment associated with failure.

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