Advice for the Horticulturally Harassed

Dr. C. was a regular writer and hortipersonality at BHN for many years until his retirement in 2011. As a nod to the 1980’s, we are herein reprinting some articles from another era.

Summer School

The subject is a Texas A&M chemistry mid-term exam. One of the questions: “Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)? Support your answer with proof.”

Most of the students wrote using Boyle’s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats up when it is compressed) or some variant. One student wrote the following:

“First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

“As for how many souls are entering Hell, let’s look at the different religions.  Some state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there are more than one of these religions, and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.

“Now, we look at the rate of change in the volume of Hell, because Boyle’s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand as souls are added. This gives two possibilities: 1) If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose. 2) If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over. So which is it?

“If we accept the postulate given to me by Ms. Sheryl Atkinson during my freshman year, that ‘It would be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,’ and take into account the fact that I still have not succeeded in having sexual relations with her, then No. 2 cannot be true, and thus I am sure Hell is exothermic.”

This student received the only A.


Dear Dr. C: “Why are tree trunks painted white?”

Answer: Sometimes for the same reasons that abalone shells, planters made from old tires, and rocks lining driveways are painted white. More often because such a coating can help protect the trunks of young trees from sunburn and borers, especially those exposed to reflected heat from walls or paved areas. This coating should extend to ground level and should be kept clean for maximum reflective capacity. A water-soluble white latex paint works nicely for this purpose but any light pastel could be used. Dare to be different. Go mad with mauve. Excite with ecru. Tease with taupe. Make a statement! No doubt your neighbors will have statements to make, too.