Janet Hommel Mangas: The secret garden language

I would never have the audacity to consider myself a linguistic anthropologist, BUT I have recently uncovered a secret language. The hubby and I have spoken our own personal dialect for years, but I didn’t realize it may actually be a universal world-wide communication phenomenon.

I overheard my “Dr. Steve” tell a fellow husband, “Yea, I shudder and know I’ve got a huge, new garden project when Janet utters four simple words: ‘Soooo, I was thinking…’”

He was right. I do usually utter those four words when I’m standing in the middle of our gardens or staring out of the bay window in the middle of winter. Sometimes, I try and time it right by waiting until I provide him with his favorite snacks and have him captive in a long jeep ride.

You may even have your own “secret garden language.” I was curious, so I started doing some in-depth investigative journalism.

This is my findings:

Friday — April 12, 2024 (approximately 12:23 p.m. Central European Time Zone)

Steve and I were having lunch on the ship Avalon Tranquility II before heading out on a guided excursion of the Arboretum Kalmthout botanical gardens. Earlier at 10:30 a.m., before docking in Antwerpen, Belgium, as we traveled the Meuse River, I sat enraptured and taking dubious notes from garden expert and award-winning writer and speaker, Sue Fisher. Author of 10 books, Sue is also a garden designer.

Anyway, Sue and her husband just happened to sit next to Steve and I at lunch. An introvert at heart, I chose not to fan-girl and let them talk to us first if they chose to. After small talk about how tasty the mango chicken quinoa salad with nuts and barley vegetable soup with pearl croutons were — I finally dove in.

“Mr. Fisher, are there some code words Sue uses when she wants you to help her in the garden?” I asked.

They both laughed, nodding at one another and he answered, “Sue usually just says the six words: ‘While you have your tools out…’”

Saturday – May 12, 2024 (approximately 10:48 a.m. Eastern daylight time)

After meeting avid Greenwood gardeners and Daily Journal readers Dean and Kathy Whitlow at our garden tour last weekend, I boldly asked Dean if Kathy has some secret gardening words when she wants his help.

They both looked at each other and laughed. Dean answered, “She usually just says the six words: ‘Does this look good over here?’”

I took notes from Kathy’s advice-seeking approach. (Nicely played Kathy!)

I will continue conducting more interviews to unlock this secret garden language.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to [email protected].