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DUCHESS OF DIRT: Christmas wishes from the Cox home to yours

Leslie Cox
Leslie Cox has been discovering many varieties of fungi during her walks this year. Photo by Leslie Cox

Leslie Cox

Special to The Record

All I want for Christmas is…

A robotic weeder. Wait! What? Is this a “thing”?

Yes. Apparently, it really is a thing. And, according to the manufacturer’s literature, it professes to deal with those unsightly weeds efficiently for the gardener so he or she does not ever need to dirty their hands again.

What? A gardener with clean hands? Now, who has ever heard of such a phenomenon? I thought the whole point of being a gardener was to get your hands dirty on purpose.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand if weeding is not your “thing.” And that is okay. Gardening is one of those occupations where you have total license to do as you like… as long as you do not plant invasive species and never, ever place hot pink flowers right next to blazing orange ones. Not without handing out sunglasses to your visitors, at least.

But I cannot see putting a robot weeder on my wish list. Mainly because my landscape design does not adhere to straight lines and I would be too afraid of the automatic weeder taking out a prize plant or two. And heaven forbid if it should accidentally run over my ‘Panda Face’ ginger which is finally coming into its own after about five or six years.

What I did put on my wish list is a book on fungi. I have been noticing some really fascinating ones on our daily walks with Sadie. Round ones, stick ones, flat ones, white ones, brown ones, yellow ones. Even saw a large patch of what looked like a perfectly flat orange growth running up one side of a tree trunk.

I have also been paying more attention to lichens. Did you know lichens - which are not a fungus - are responsible for breaking down rocks into small particles? It takes a long time but imagine. Something that lies incongruously on a large rock is secretly releasing an acid strong enough to erode a rock-solid object. (Pun intended.) Totally amazing.

Nature is truly incredible, but also scary. It has produced this coronavirus which is wreaking havoc worldwide. Christmas is supposed to be the season for goodwill and good cheer. A time to be kind to one another and celebrate family, friends. But COVID-19 is preventing us from enjoying some of our usual traditions.

And yet, in spite of all the hardships and restrictions, there has been kindness, thoughtfulness, a willingness to keep extended family, friends and strangers alike safe. For the most part.

I think this year is one for trying out new traditions. Some people, I have heard, will be sharing Christmas dinner with family via Zoom or FaceTime. This is at least one instance when technology will prove to be a godsend. We plan to use FaceTime so we can watch the grandkids open their gifts.

In the words of Alexander Graham Bell, “When one door closes, another opens.” So true.

I think this year is teaching us new ways of doing all manner of things. It has been a tough year with much heartache, pain and suffering. But many people are stepping up and accepting these new challenges. We have to. If it is one thing gardening has taught me, Mother Nature is much bigger than us. We will just have to wait this pandemic out.

John, Sadie and I extend warm wishes to everyone for a very Merry Christmas and pray you will heed Dr. Henry’s advice to “be kind, be calm and be safe.” There is much hope for life to be a little better in 2021.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at

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