Northwest NEWS

September 17, 2001

Features

Welcome to Ciscoe's World

Many people would grimace if offered a plate of steaming Brussels sprouts. But not Ciscoe Morris, host of the radio show "Gardening with Ciscoe" (KIRO-AM, 710, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays). The green vegetable is a delight to his taste buds.
   "I love Brussels sprouts," he says with a hint of glee. He adds that there are 10 million recipes on his Web site explaining delicious ways to prepare the small cabbage heads. His love of the vegetable, though, has caused one small dilemma on the home front.
   "My wife hates Brussels sprouts," he confesses. Still, he can't help but sneak a few sprouts here and there into the pots as dinner cooks on the stove. "When she's not looking I drop them in like depth charges," he chuckles.
   It's not a mystery that Morris, Director of Grounds and Landscaping at Seattle University, would have a fondness for Brussels sprouts. He loves just about everything green that grows in the ground.
   There are a few exceptions. Morris does not like weeds and confirms without hesitation, "I do hate weeds."
   He reveals a gardener's secret to eradicate the unwanted nuisance. "I never use poisons. My best weapon is vinegar." On a hot day, he says, he sprays it straight on the unsuspecting weeds. "My real trick is that I just plain don't give any space for weeds. I cram my plants in. The weeds can't compete with the plants."
   If this weren't enough to contend with, Morris has a wisteria that won't give him a moment's peace. "I have a love-hate relationship with my wisteria," he says. The climbing plant has gnarly branches with masses of fragrant blooms in springs. Says Morris, "It gets over a 1,000 blooms." But the wisteria creates headache-inducing work for Morris, which he doesn't appreciate.
   "The rest of the summer I have to prune it till I fall over."
   Wisteria and weeds aside, Morris loves plants. How long has he loved them? He answers, "Oh man, I've loved them since I was a little kid."
   At age 10, Ciscoe was hired as a lawn boy at a church near his home. Also, he had lots of Venus flytraps, plus he grew his own garden. He even grew that cruciferous plant that causes most children to squint their eyes and scrunch their nose upon the sight of it. Admits Morris, "I grew Brussels sprouts."
   Morris grew up in a family of storytellers. "My parents were vaudeville dancers and they've always been storytellers," he says. It was probably inevitable that Morris would embark on a career, which combined his love of plants with his background in storytelling. Says Morris, a WSU Master Gardener, "When giving garden talks that natural humor started to come out." For the past eight years, KIRO radio listeners have enjoyed tuning in to hear his wit and wisdom on his weekly gardening show. KING 5 viewers can catch his informational humor in his gardening segment with television reporter Meeghan Black at noon every Tuesday and Thursday and on weekend mornings.
   In addition to his radio and TV stints, Morris leads garden tours, speaks at gardening seminars and teaches horticultural programs at colleges, including the University of Washington.
   His next garden talk in Woodinville will be at the Harvest Home Festival at the Red Barn Country Inn (date and time to be announced). "I'll give a talk probably on new ways to garden, how to keep real incredible flowers like delphiniums healthy and beautiful, and how to "do in" those pesky bugs in a way that's not going to harm the environment." A discussion on pruning roses, a question and answer session, and stories only Morris can tell are in the plans as well.
   At his home in Seattle, Morris enjoys life with his wife Mary and their cute pooch, Kokie. Morris recalls the time he included Kokie's name as part of his crew for a faculty phone book listing. He wrote the name in for fun. Since then, Kokie's name has appeared in the book. "She's actually gotten phone calls," says Morris. "An ecology teacher called and a salesman wanting to sell traps."
   When not taking Kokie's phone messages, Morris and Mary spend time in their garden, which Morris describes as quite nice. "My wife is an outstanding gardener," says Morris. But just as the couple differs on the joys of Brussels sprouts, they also differ on ways to garden. "We each have our own style and way we like our garden," he says. He and his wife negotiated a plan and Morris says it works very well. "We divided the garden up. We each have our own section."
   Although they tend their garden on different sides of the yard, Morris and Mary relax together on their patio.
   "We live on our patio," says Morris. They listen to the soothing splash of a waterfall in their water garden and watch hummingbirds zip in and out of their blooming flowers.
   "Our gardens are really hummingbird gardens," he says, naming hyssop, lobelia tupa and canna lilies as a few of his flowers that attract the birds.
   Morris seems to have a special liking for a fragrant lily that soars 12-feet in the air. Though he didn't mention if he gave his tall lily a name, he does say, "I have named some of my plants." As an example, he named his Hinoki cypress Fred. "I just love Fred," he adds.
   He attributes a human persona to many of his plants, in part, to add entertainment to his garden presentations. But he also believes that plants have individual qualities. "Each plant has its own personality," he explains. "My wisteria is like wicked."
   He still has one dream yet to achieve. "I want to have every neat plant on earth in my garden before I die," he states. "Plants totally fascinate me. I love foliage, color, form, texture." He says that a garden should look good enough for the four seasons and have color and interest. "I like stone...big rocks. A stone gives you a feeling of security and the constancy of nature." A three-foot Euphorbia martinii with chartreuse leaves and red eyes adds a nice counterpoint to the rock feature in his garden.
   Garden clubs often call Morris and say 'Hey, we'd like to do a tour,' and he'll invite them to his home to view his garden, which sits on a little corner lot.
   "The tour can take two to two and a half hours," he says, pointing out that the verbal portion of the tour accounts for the tour's length. In addition, to help a cause, such as one for breast cancer and another for the Miller Horticultural Library, he'll sometimes auction off a tour of his garden.
   In June 2002, Morris will lead a tour group overseas to explore French gardens and chateaus. Details of the adventure will be announced in October on his radio show.
   To learn more about Ciscoe's world or how to whip up a scrumptious dish of caramelized onions and pecan Brussels sprouts, check out www.ciscoe.com.
   The Harvest Home Festival opens 10 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 28 and 29, and Oct. 5 and 6 at 16708 - 140th Place NE, Woodinville.
   For the date and time Ciscoe Morris will present his garden talk or for more information, call Lila at (425) 806-4646.