Coffee for Roses: Really?

Myths might be fun in a garden, but they have no place in the practice of gardening. Although the modern gardener might not be of the belief that mandrake root must be harvested under the cloak of darkness, there are plenty of misleading tidbits that have taken hold in today’s world. Author C.L. Fornari dispatches 71 of them in her book, Coffee for Roses. 

Whether you are new at gardening or have been dabbling for decades, you’ll find plenty of seemingly sensible suggestions explained and then ejected from your growing lexicon. You’re bound to recognize a few. 

There is one myth in particular I recognized from my grandma’s garage. Grandma Martha grew everything and grew it well, so there was no reason to doubt her in all matters related to gardening. “Are those geraniums,” I asked her when I saw them hanging in the dark near the garage door she didn’t use. 

A proud little smile played around her lips when she answered, “Yes. I’m saving them for next year. Do you want some?” 

I remember wondering why she felt it necessary to hang them like that, but didn’t want her to think me totally ignorant, so I never learned her reasoning. 

Fornari labels it number 12, explaining that experts who wrote in the early 1900s recommended shaking soil from the roots of geraniums and hanging the plants “upside down in a cool, dark, damp basement or cave.” My grandma learned to garden during that era and had a root cellar in her old house that we grandchildren were afraid to enter, which explains why I never saw them until she moved to the suburbs. 
Coffee for Roses is the type of book to leave out for when you have a minute or a few. Curious gardeners or students of life will find it a fun but valuable aid in their quest for the truth and the reason for the fabrications that have sometimes been cause for dispute. (Don’t get me started on ants on peonies!) 

A couple of closely-held fables debunked in Coffee for Roses involve ragweed vs goldenrod, the big burlap conundrum, and how woodchucks feel about chewing gum. You’ll have to read the book for the answers.


  1. I just got the book. There is one 'myth' that got me in trouble. When my Rose Walk was very young I read somewhere that it was good to plant tansy with roses. I don't remember the benefit it was supposed to provide, but tansy is supposed to keep bugs away. Now I have tansy everywhere! Never plant tansy anywhere. It spreads by fat roots AND seed. Beware of tansy.

    1. That's so funny how myths can get us into trouble. Gertrude Jekyll referred to tansy as one of the "nose twisters."