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A drink makes the difference for budding flowers

By Jim Hendricks

I always felt that "The Andy Griffith Show" was way ahead of its time. County Clerk Howard Sprague, for instance, proved through his standup comedy routine for the Raleigh TV station that folks don't mind if you publicly ridicule them, just so long as they get some short-term fame out of it.

Now we have Jerry Springer and his ilk, and more court TV shows than you can shake a gavel at.

Not everything turned out that bad, though. Andy Taylor's first love interest, pharmacist Ellie Walker, proved that women could run for high government office and win. Another of Andy's flames, Karen Moore, showed him that womenfolk can, on occasion, outshoot even a sheriff on a skeet range.

There were other lessons as well. We learned that surveillance cameras don't always catch filling station crooks, that you can solve international relations a lot easier over cold fried chicken, that you should always nip it in the bud, that if you shoot a momma bird you ought to raise the orphan biddies, that ghosts make a great cover story for moonshining, that pickles ought not to have a kerosene flavor, that bank guards ought not to have green bullets, that it's not smart to rile a hillbilly who's holding a rock, that men gossip just as much as women do, and that a giraffe, on the whole, is a much less socially conscious critter than your average hunting dog.

All in all, valuable insights. In fact, when I heard the other day that a goat had wandered into one of Albany's banking establishments, the first thing I asked was: "Reckon it's loaded?"

But what really got me to thinking about lessons from Mayberry was an episode called "Alcohol and Old Lace."

In that episode, Carabelle and Gladys Morrison, two elderly sisters who were pillars of the Mayberry community with their popular flower shop and greenhouse, were squeezing out two things - corn and the competition.

The corn was being squeezed into high-quality moonshine, which was strictly sold for celebration purposes. The competition was other moonshiners who would sell their concoctions for much more crass purposes, such as getting gassed on a merely average day.

It seems the Morrison sisters were onto something. And they were more than four decades ahead of their time.

As it turns out, whiskey and flowers do go together quite nicely.

I read a report recently where William Miller, director of Cornell University's flower and bulb research program, found that giving potted plants such as daffodils and paperwhites a shot of alcohol actually keeps them from getting - well - tipsy.

What he found out was that a solution that's 4 to 6 percent alcohol stunts the growth of the stems, but not the blooms. It worked with tequila, vodka, gin and whiskey. Miller's research showed, however, that the plants aren't big fans of wine and beer, neither of which worked, and that a higher alcohol content is toxic to the plant.

Which explains, I suppose, my problems with horticulture in general. I'm too shortsighted. It never occurred to me that the best way to keep our daffodils from getting tall and flopping over like they were drunk was to give them a little buzz that didn't involve a bee.

Unfortunately, groundbreaking research like this can only lead to one thing: "Bud Nipping - Next on Jerry Springer!"

Jim Hendricks is editor of the Albany Herald, sister paper of the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at jim.hendricks@albanyherald.com.