Jason and Ciscoe Morris discuss gardening in retirement.

Ciscoe is well known in the media. His Friday night Q & A show, ‘Gardening with Ciscoe Live’ broadcast on Northwest Cable News. Every other Monday, morning, he appears on KING5’s New Day Northwest with Margaret Larson. His popular “Gardening with Ciscoe” show with Meeghan Black airs on KING/KONG TV. You can also catch his gardening advice mixed with a hearty dose of humor every Saturday morning on News Talk 97.3 KIRO FM. His book, ‘Ask Ciscoe’, was among the top selling garden books nationwide. In addition, he co ‐ authored books on roses and perennials, and he also writes a weekly garden column in the Thursday web version / Saturday print edition of the Seattle Times. Ciscoe is crazy about dogs and gardening, and he can often be found working with his pooches Fred and Ruby in his Seattle garden which has been featured in several publications. Ciscoe’s other passion is travel, and despite his busy schedule, he manages to find time to lead garden tours to countries all over the world.

To learn more please visit www.ciscoe.com

Below is the full transcript:


Announcer: Welcome back, America, to Sound Retirement Radio, where we bring you concepts, ideas, and strategies designed to help you achieve clarity, confidence, and freedom as you prepare for and transition through retirement. Now, here is your host, Jason Parker.

Jason: America, welcome back to another round of Sound Retirement Radio. I am so glad to have you with us this morning. We’re doing something a little bit different here, for the month of July, focusing on some of the things that people enjoy doing once they have retired, so we’re not going to be talking about money so much. I want to remind you all that we have the Sound Retirement Planning Blueprint that we created. This is a resource for you that you can find at soundretirementplanning.com. It’s a video series that we created to help you understand what a good retirement plan should look like. I encourage you to visit that to learn more about planning your own retirement. As you know, I like to get started in the morning with renewing our mind, and I think one of the great ways to do that is with a verse, so this comes from Ecclesiastes 11:7. It says, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”

Then, of course, I know how much you all enjoy having a joke to share with your grandkids, so I’ve got one of those for you here as well. What did the big flower say to the small flower? “What’s up, bud?” Okay, with that, I want to go ahead and bring on our guest, because we’ve got somebody really special. I’m excited to have him onto the program. Ciscoe Morris is well known in the media. His Friday night Q&A show, Gardening with Ciscoe Live, broadcast on Northwest Cable News every other Monday morning. He appears on KING 5’s New Day Northwest with Margaret Larson. His popular Gardening with Ciscoe show with Meghan Black airs on KING KONG TV. You can also catch his gardening advice mixed with a hearty dose of humor every Saturday morning on News Talk 97.3 KIRO-FM. His book, Ask Ciscoe, was among the top-selling garden books nationwide. In addition, he coauthored books on roses and perennials. He also writes a weekly garden column in the Thursday web version slash Saturday print edition of the Seattle Times. Ciscoe is crazy about dogs and gardening.

He can often be found working with his pooches Fred and Ruby in his Seattle garden, which has been featured in several publications. Ciscoe’s other passion is travel, and despite his busy schedule, he manages to find time to lead garden tours to countries all over the world. He has been called a friend of the soil, a master of gardening, the king of dragonflies, Mr. Ooh-la-la himself, Ciscoe Morris. Welcome to Sound Retirement Radio.

Ciscoe: Ooh la la, its great being here.

Jason: Ciscoe, I’m so excited to have you on the show with us. We’ve had the pleasure of having you come out and speak to our clients. Gardening is one of those things that a lot of people are passionate about, and when I ask people, Ciscoe, what they look forward to in retirement, many of them share this common interest: They like to get their hands in the soil. Before we get into some of your tips here, as we’re in the summertime, in gardening tips, I wanted to ask if you would share the story about how you got your TV show, and how that all came about, because I think that’s just a wonderful story.

Ciscoe: Sure. Yeah, you betcha. That’s a favorite story of mine. I think, I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I got a letter in the mail asking me to try out for a brand new TV show, a big gardening show that was going to be made right here in the Pacific Northwest, and the interesting thing, that my name was handwritten in. Everybody else was typed in this letter, so obviously, I was an afterthought someone had. By the way, the host of that show, will really surprise people, it was called the Northwest Home and Garden TV show, and the host of that show was Jeff Probst from Survivor, from the TV Survivor show. At that time, his dad had got him a good job at Boeing, and he was taking acting lessons at night, and so he got chosen to be the host of this new show, and his dad said, “There’s no way you’re quitting this great job I got you at Boeing to do this hokey gardening show. Look what I did for his career!”

The interesting thing was, it’d have a little thing on the letter saying, “You’re going to have to try out. There’s a number of people we’re looking at, and you’re going to have to be able to memorize lines and things.” Well, I can’t even memorize my own first name, so I [will do this 00:05:14] if I tried out for this. At that time, I was working at Seattle University directing the grounds care there, and I also was a certified arborist, so I had my own business there. That morning at Seattle U, the morning of the tryout, I was pretty nervous. I’d never been on TV in my life, so the morning of the tryout, we have a big problem at Seattle U that delays me to go into the tryout, but I still had plenty of time, but I had to stop at this development and look at a tree to determine if it could stay, or if it had been damaged and had to leave the site. Well, the developer wanted to keep the tree, but obviously it’d been damaged, and I demanded it get taken out.

It ended up a big battle, so now I’m running late, so I hop in my car, I still got time to make it. Big crash up on the freeway. Now I’m stuck in a gigantic traffic jam. I get to the tryout 45 minutes late, and I’m just like … I’m sweating, I’m stressed out. I hear these people say these really hard lines. I don’t even have time to try and memorize it. I get in line, and they get to me, and the producer looks at me and goes, “Hey, buddy, I’m sorry, but you were so late, we got to get out of here. I’m sorry, you don’t get to try out.” I was totally bummed, but I would have never been able to say the lines in a hundred years anyway. I drive home and I tell my wife, Mary, “I didn’t even get to try out!” The phone rings. I pick it up, and it’s this assistant producer I never met asking me to be on the first show.

I was just stunned, but I said, “Okay, I’ll be there,” and I hang up and Mary’s looking at me like, “I thought you said … ” I go, “I don’t know what’s going on.” I get there the next day, and I see the camera guys, and the sound guys, everybody’s walking around. Nobody’s paying any attention to me at all, so I wait about 15 minutes. Finally, I walk up to a producer, and I go, “Hey, I’m here to do the show.” The guy goes, “Who are you?” I said, “I’m Ciscoe.” He goes, “You’re not Ciscoe. That other guy’s Ciscoe!” I said, “Well, I’m Ciscoe,” and he turned to the camera crew and he goes, “We got to do it with this yahoo now.” I’ll never forget that. Well, evidently, I did it well, because the show got really good ratings, and I ended up on that, 7 years on that show, almost every week for 7 years, and that started my whole career. To this day, I don’t know who the other guy was that they …

Jason: Yeah. He’s probably working-

Ciscoe: … thought was me, but I don’t think he ever got on the show.

Jason: He’s probably selling chicken feed somewhere, Ciscoe, wondering why he didn’t get called back.

Ciscoe: I know. The poor guy, he probably would have memorized the lines way better than I did, but …

Jason: Well, I just think that’s a great story. Well, Ciscoe, I want to take you back. I want you to think back into your memory. Do you remember your first memory of gardening? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think way back into your childhood, your first memory of gardening?

Ciscoe: Well, if … I think about probably one of my first ones was working at this church that I got a job at, and we had a gigantic vegetable garden. I’d started to really like watching the vegetables grow, seeing how the seeds that we put in the ground came up. I remember some of my buddies from grade school, I was out with them, they wanted to steal some pumpkins and break them. I was like, it really upset me, because I knew what goes into growing these pumpkins, and they weren’t just something that it was fun to throw down a big hill and watch them smash. You know?

Jason: Yeah. Wow. Wow, that’s interesting.

Ciscoe: Yeah.

Jason: That’s really great. All right, so let’s get into your expertise, your specialty. We have a lot of people listening this morning that share your passion for gardening, Ciscoe. If there was just one thing that you could plant in the summertime, what’s your all-time favorite thing to plant in the summer?

Ciscoe: Oh, gee, that’s a really hard question! Well, I think if you go vegetables, then I’d say tomatoes, because tomatoes, you get so much. You get those wonderful … I always like to plant lots of cherry tomatoes, because they ripen in the [latter of the 00:10:21] year, they’re totally dependable in our climate, and the one that wins every blind taste test that I do, and I do quite a few of them, and always wins, is called Sun Gold. Sun Gold, I’ll never forget the first time I pulled one off, it was in the warm sunshine, and I pulled it off, I had never tasted one, and took a bite. I used to have straight hair. It’s been curly every since I took that bite of that tomato. Oh la la! That was the best thing I ever had.

I think tomatoes, if I only grew one thing, it would have to be tomatoes, but also I think if I had to grow one kind of plant, ornamental plant in my garden, it would probably … Oh, gosh, it’s such a hard one to think about, but I think it would probably be some of the salvias, like salvia Hot Lips. Salvia Hot Lips has red and white flowers, and it blooms so much. I actually counted how many flowers were on my salvia Hot Lip last August. 12,000,000,544, but the hummingbirds are so nuts for these things, they can’t leave them alone. They’re on them every minute, and I love hummingbirds so much. They’re so fun to watch. I just love planting things they love.

Jason: That’s awesome. Ciscoe, as I was coming in here to record, one of the women that I work with asked, her question was, “Ask Ciscoe, ‘How do you keep your dogs out of the garden?'” Any tips there?

Ciscoe: Well, it’s really funny, because we, our last dogs that we’ve got … I’ve always had dogs all my life. I love dogs so much. We got this, our dog Cokie died at 15, which just broke my heart. Mary and I went about a week without getting another dog. We looked at each other and said, “Hey, if we want to stay married, we need to get a dog quick!” We went to the puppy rescue, and we got Little Friend. Little Friend, the vets made like 42 guesses at what he is, but he’s really cute. He has this tail that curls around and around. He weighs 50 pounds, but if he’d have grown into that tail, he’d have been a 250-pound dog. I brought Little Friend home. We put him on the ground. He took off full speed right into the veggie patch, and the next thing, he started to dig. The next thing I knew, there wasn’t one pea left in my garden. He went out of sight underground digging.

I was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is a problem,” so I put up a plastic fence, because one of my gardens in the back is full of really rare and unusual ornamental plants that are really expensive and rare, and so I put up a plastic fence, and he was so great. He wouldn’t run into the garden. He was really good. Then a year later, I bring home Little Ruby, a little cattle dog. These things, they mate a dingo with a wild dog in the outback of Australia. They don’t even feed these things, and their job is to herd cows by biting them on the heels. Evidently, I look like a cow. Oh, my gosh, I’ve been hurting every minute, but so this little thing would sit 20 feet from the plastic fence, and she would be like a [Brahman bull 00:14:10], she would, “Ruff, ruff.” Then she’d take off like a rocket, shoot right through the plastic fence, there would be a perfect silhouette of a puppy with those Ross Perot ears of hers, and then she’d find the most expensive plant.

The biggest advice I can give people is, if you have a veggie garden, if you’ve got a garden that you really don’t want that dog to go into, then you got to put up a fence. I have a great carpenter who lives across the street, so I got with him, and the fence I put up has all … It has 5 horizontal rails that go the whole distance, and I was going to put verticals on it, but I didn’t, and what it does is, it gives the whole back garden a really elegant look. You could see right through it, you see all the plants, but it was enough, she could jump over it, but once I got to work with her and trained her, she never has jumped over that fence, even if she sees a squirrel in there, so it works 100%. Then my wife, Mary, because we divide our garden into “his” and “her” gardens. That’s the only way we can stay married, and [both great 00:15:31] gardeners.

She uses plants that are pretty resilient, things like herbs, and plants that aren’t knocked over very … A lot of shrubs, and ones that she knows aren’t poison or anything, because you can get lists from your vet. She allows the dogs to go in her garden, but the plants are resilient enough to take it, so, you can do either way, but personally, I think if you’re going to bring a puppy home, build the fence first. Save yourself a lot of headaches, I’ll tell you what.

Jason: That’s awesome. I’ll be sure to pass that note along to the gal that we work with here. Hey, I want to ask you …

Ciscoe: Oh, cool.

Jason: … the next one’s about pruning, because my wife, she gets carried away when it comes to pruning. I mean, we’ll start out with a 6-foot bush, and it ends up being about 6 inches by the time she’s done with the thing, so any tips for our gardeners out there that are looking to, maybe, prune?

Ciscoe: Well, the key thing is, you might want to look up the plant, because some plants, it’s really a good idea to cut them way back, like a spirea, which is one of the most indestructible, tough plant, shrubs, you can get. That plant will get way too big and take over a garden space if you don’t prune it way down, so I prune them down 2 thirds or more …

Jason: Okay.

Ciscoe: … in the spring, but the big thing to keep in mind, the general rule of gardening, is that you can keep a woody plant, especially like a tree, small, if you start when they’re small, and prune them every year, but you can’t take a big tree and make it little. Often, for instance, I used to do a lot of consulting, where I’d come to people’s homes and help them learn how to prune, how to, what their plants were, and how to take care of plants, and also did a lot of diagnostics work. I can’t tell you how many times I’d go to people’s homes and they had a beautiful, really valuable Japanese maple, maybe one of those lace leaf type, that’s what I saw it happen to the most, and some person will come to their door and say, “Hey, I’m an expert pruner. Your Japanese maple’s getting way too big for this spot. I’ll take it down by 2 thirds or half.”

Well, it destroyed the tree every time, because it opened it up to decay, they got sunburned. The general rule is that you can prune a tree or a shrub in summer, but you shouldn’t cut it down, cut off more than about a third of the wood. If you got to prune harder than that, let’s say on a pear tree that you’re trying to keep a little low, you could take a third of the wood off if you do it when they’re in dormant, in the summer, but … What I recommend to people is, there’s a lot of good pruning courses out there to just … One day at a nursery or something, they’ll bring in an expert to talk about pruning Japanese maples, or you can go to plantamnesty.com on your computer, there’s a link on ciscoe.com to that, and they have a lot of classes that you can take. Just so you have a general idea of how far you can prune and what to do, because you could totally destroy a tree by cutting it down too hard, and … You hate seeing that happen.

Jason: Yeah, we’ve experienced that at our house, Ciscoe. We like to plant new stuff.

Ciscoe: Uh-oh. I would …

Jason: Don’t let my wife hear this show.

Ciscoe: … cut her off from Brussels sprout casseroles right now for that.

Jason: Hey, we only have a couple minutes, and I want to ask you about an issue I’ve been having. This last year, I’ve put in these raised garden beds, and I made them about 4 feet high, because I didn’t want to break my back when picking my lettuce …

Ciscoe: Yeah.

Jason: … and, but I’m amazed at the amount of slugs, even 4 feet up off the ground, that I get in this thing. Any tips for dealing with slugs in my lettuce?

Ciscoe: Yeah, slugs love lettuce. I love growing lettuce, because I love salads, and it’s so easy to grow. Yeah, there’s a really great tip I can give you that works 100%, but it’s expensive. It used to be cheap. If you can put copper foil, so you can buy this online, and you buy copper foil, it has to be 3 inches wide, and you put it right on the top of your raised bed. No slug or snail will cross 3 inches of copper, and the reason for that is, a slug is a mollusk, mollusk means stomach foot, so when they move, the muscles in their stomach oscillate an unbelievable amount of times as they work their way across the ground, and they also produce that slime. Well, that combination of the muscles moving and the slime, when they go across copper, produces an unbelievable amount of static electricity, and it gives them a shock. Oh, it’s so fun to see the looks on their beady little eyes when they get it. It doesn’t kill them, but it hurts, and they fall right off, and they will not cross that for anything.

Jason: Boy that is good to know. All this time, I thought they’d been flying into my garden. I was wondering how they get up this 4-foot wall.

Ciscoe: Yeah. Boy, I’ll tell you, they’re little acrobats. They can really go a long way.

Jason: That’s awesome. What about some environmentally friendly tips, knowing the good bugs from the bad? How do we do that?

Ciscoe: Well, one … A couple ones, and one is that almost all beneficial insects, there are exceptions, but almost all harmful insects are slow bugs. Beneficial insects usually are fast bugs, because when you think about it, Mama Nature made the fast bugs fast so they can catch the bad guys and gobble them up, and a famous one is the “Eek, squish” bug. You know how you’re working out in the garden, you pick up a log or a rock, and that great big, iridescent, black beetle comes running out, and what do people do? “Eek! Squish.” That’s why we call it the “Eek, squish” bug. Don’t put the “Eek, squish” on that beetle. It’s really fast, it’s like a lion in the jungle. It comes out at night, and it’s hunting for prey, and that beetle has bad breath. The reason for that, it eats slugs. It eats slugs and snails.

Jason: Oh, I need some of those guys.

Ciscoe: They’re really beneficial, and if you watch a ladybug, when they want to move fast, they can really move fast. Usually, if you see a bug move fast, it’s usually going to be a good one. The other thing is, if you see something that looks like a caterpillar, caterpillars always have chewing mouthparts. If there’s no holes in the leaf that you see that caterpillar on, then it’s probably eating something else, and it might be aphids and other things, so watch that bug, you may get to watch something really exciting as it pounces on an aphid and gobbles it up right before your eyes. It’s more exciting than anything you’ll ever see on Nature, oh la la.

Jason: Ciscoe, we’re out of time, but I just want to say thank you again. You do great work in the community, you’re so passionate about what you do, and I want to thank you for being a light here, and sharing some of your knowledge and wisdom with our listeners all over the country with gardening tips. I want to remind our listeners, you can learn more about Ciscoe at ciscoe.com, and Ciscoe, thank you for being a guest.

Ciscoe: Oh, just too fun today. It was really great.

Jason: All right. Keep up the good work, Ciscoe. Take care.

Ciscoe: Okay, bye bye.

Announcer: Information and opinions expressed here are believed to be accurate and complete for general information only, and should not construed as specific tax, legal, or financial advice for any individual, and does not constitute a solicitation for any securities or insurance products. Please consult with your financial professional before taking action on anything discussed in this program. Parker Financial, its representatives, or its affiliates have no liability for investment decisions or other actions taken or made by you based on the information provided in this program. All insurance-related discussions are subject to the claims-paying ability of the company. Investing involves risk. Jason Parker is the President of Parker Financial, an independent fee-based wealth management firm located at 9057 Washington Avenue Northwest, Silverdale, Washington. For additional information, call 1-800-514-5046, or visit us online at soundretirementplanning.com.