All in the Family

By Jim Sollecito

The author, Jim Sollecito, with one of his sisters, Kathy.
The author, Jim Sollecito, with one of his sisters, Kathy.

There came a moment as children when we went outside to play for the very last time. And nobody recognized it. The clock struck “all done” and that was that. Ah, if we could only go back and savor those moments again.

The photo accompanying this article is me and my kid sister Kathy. Oh, how I enjoyed doing just about anything to playfully make her and my other two sisters laugh, scream and, yes, sometimes cry. My father reasoned it was always my fault. Always.

And out came the board of education — to help educate my rear end. The result was that I continued the behavior but would contrive to do things without being caught.

So we grew up.

Life did what life does: wear off the rough edges and give us perspective.

Probably about now I should be asking forgiveness from everyone in my family, in fact everyone in my entire life, for things I could have done differently. But forgiveness does not change the past. It does, however, enlarge the future.

As for plants however, the past is very influential and conclusive. Plants need to be situated and planted correctly. Without a proper start, a plant will let you know later. Because the past does catch up. Actions do have consequences.

I field a lot of questions regarding what to do with plants with issues. If I wasn’t there when it was planted, I need to determine afterward if it is worth putting effort and resources into a stressed plant. Or to start with a fresh new one. Generally, if a plant problem happens gradually, it is an insect or disease. To remedy these situations, the first step is correctly identifying the problem. Then determine if an organic or conventional spray will clear it up. Remember, foliage that looks bad will not magically turn better. For the plant to improve, damaged leaves need to fall off and new ones must form. I have found that along with pesticides, horticultural support will do a world of good. This includes checking with a moisture meter, correct watering and regular use of a plant tonic such as Neptune’s Harvest organic fish and seaweed solution.

If the plant turned bad all at once, then likely the issue is at the root, not something a spray can help. Some problems have no treatment. That leads us on the path to upgraded redemption by removing the failing plant. Replace it with an improved selection that better matches the site. New plant introductions offer more vibrant flower colors, longer periods of bloom, hotter fall colors and generally lower maintenance.

You might not be able to do much about past transgressions and missteps. But your landscape can gain value from renewed perspective.

Maybe this is the year for you to plant a fresh family tree, serenity garden, devotional corner, backyard haven or inspiring vista.

This is a gift to be enjoyed for generations.

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in NYS. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at 468-1142 or