Plant a row of beans every week or two to prolong bearing time. Photo from All-America Selections

By Ellen Barcel

Well, Mother’s Day has come and gone, a heads up that it’s time to start planting your more tender veggies. Plants that fall under this category include corn, tomatoes, certain herbs, beans, squash and melons.

Corn does well on Long Island, if you have enough room. You need enough plants so that they can pollinate the ears. For the home gardener, plant the corn in a square format. Ears grown on the edge of the square may not fully pollinate.


Just about every gardener puts in a few tomato plants. When selecting plants put in several that are very early bearers, like Early Girl and Early Cascade (at approximately 55 days or so, you should have tomatoes by July) some that come in at a later time and some that bear fruit in late summer. Better Boy and Big Girl produce fruit in about 70 days — by the end of July. Beefstake tomatoes come in even later but are definitely worth the wait.

How soon you get tomatoes depends on how big the plants are that you select. If you buy plants that already have tiny green tomatoes on them, you’ve got a head start.

Remember that tomatoes are tender plants. They will not set fruit unless the night temperature is above 50 degrees, which is why the gardener is told not to put out tomato plants until after Mother’s Day (or better yet, Memorial Day). Night temperature above 75 degrees and day temperature above 85 to 90 tend to keep fruit from setting as well since high temperatures render the pollen no longer viable. Tomatoes are self-fertile so you can even grow one of each variety and not worry about having a second plant to pollinate the first.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders so apply fertilizer. Photo from All-America Selections
Tomatoes are heavy feeders so apply fertilizer. Photo from All-America Selections

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so make sure you either use sufficient compost or compost tea or a chemical fertilizer. Always follow manufacturer’s directions when using a chemical fertilizer. If a little is good, a lot is not necessarily better. You could burn the plants doing that.

Also remember to provide enough water for your tomato plants as well — not soggy, but evenly moist and well-drained soil is ideal. Don’t let the plants dry out.


Squash should also be planted now. There are many varieties, so consider what you and your family enjoy eating. There are two main groupings of squash, summer squash and winter squash. Summer squash are squash that are harvested in summer, when the rind is immature, soft. Summer squash include zucchini, yellow summer squash, pattypan squash and crookneck squash among others. Squash are low in calories and are great served with a tomato sauce. I steam them (sliced) in the microwave.

Squash can be grown in large containers. Since they are vining plants, they can grow up trellises or fences. They’re easy to grow in a variety of soil types and climates. They have both male and female flowers on the plant, so don’t be surprised if all of the flowers you see don’t produce fruit — the male ones just provide the pollen.

Winter squash are basically squash that are more mature than summer squash and have a hard rind that is not edible. Winter squash include butternut squash, acorn squash, hubbard squash, spaghetti squash (great served as a low-carb spaghetti replacement) and, of course, pumpkins. As with the summer squash, they are low in calories. My favorite way of preparing butternut squash is to cube it, simmer in chicken or beef broth with onions, thyme, salt and pepper and add in cooked sausage.

Green beans

It’s also time to begin planting your green beans. Don’t start beans inside as they don’t transplant well. Don’t plant them all at once, but row upon row every week or two until midsummer. This last planting should provide you with beans well into the fall. Plant them one-inch deep in full sun. Keep them evenly moist but in a well-drained area. A soil pH of 6 to 6.8 is ideal. Since this is only slightly acidic, you may need to add lime to your soil. Test your soil first.

There are basically two types of Phaseolus vulgaris, bush beans and pole beans. Pole beans need some sort of support, such as a trellis, while bush beans don’t. There are many varieties of each. In general, bush beans mature in 50 to 60 days while pole beans take 60 to 80 days. Like corn and squash, they are native to the Americas — particularly Mesoamerica and the Andes region. P. vulgaris comes in a variety of colors besides green, including purple and yellow. The yellow ones are commonly called wax beans or butter beans.

Tender herbs, like basil and cilantro as well as melons should be planted now as well.

All of these are ideal plants if you are gardening with children or grandchildren. They can check day by day to see how their plants are coming along. You may also be able to get them to eat more veggies — fresh and right out of their garden.

It is my personal preference to grow veggies and fruits organically and definitely without pesticides. If, however, you must use chemicals, read the package directions and follow them carefully. They will indicate how long before harvest you can still apply the chemicals and be safe eating the produce.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to [email protected] To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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By L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D.

At Stony Brook University Hospital, we’ve created a culture of excellence based on health care tailored to meet each individual’s needs and preferences. We want to ensure that our neighbors, friends and families on Long Island who come to us feel comforted, respected and confident about the care they receive from Stony Brook.

Our dedication to providing quality care has earned recognition from numerous organizations in the medical community. Many departments have been recognized by their specialty associations for meeting standards that directly benefit patients:

•Our Endoscopy Unit was recognized for endoscopic quality and safety by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

Our Stroke Program was awarded the highest recognition possible for quality care by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With the Guidelines program.

•Our Trauma Center has been ranked in the top decile in the nation for specific outcome measures.

•Stony Brook’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory was awarded a bronze-level Beacon Award for Excellence and our Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit earned a silver-level Beacon Award for Excellence, both from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

•Our Pediatric Nephrology Program has achieved a ranking within the Top 50 Best Children’s Hospitals from U.S. News and World Report.

Our dedication to providing quality care has earned recognition from numerous organizations in the medical community.

•The prestigious Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award was presented to our Ambulatory Surgery Center in recognition of its high level of patient satisfaction.

•We have been named a top performer in a New York State Department of Health project to improve nutrition for preterm babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The New York State Perinatal Quality Collaborative has recognized our performance in reducing elective early-term deliveries by 75 percent, to lower the risk of serious health problems and death for newborns.

And the New York State Department of Health has given us leadership positions in important health care initiatives:

•We received a planning grant to serve as the leader in building a regionalized health care system throughout Suffolk County through the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program.

•Stony Brook is spearheading a SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment) program, which will screen and provide early intervention and treatment for people with substance use disorders.

Quality of care and patient safety are and always will be our top priorities. We’re proud of the recognition Stony Brook University Hospital has won, but the real winners, of course, are our patients and the community.

L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D. is the CEO of  Stony Brook University Hospital and the vice president for Health Systems at Stony Brook Medicine.

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

On April 26 I presided at a funeral like no other in my 37 years within our community. The young man died too young — he was only 25. He came from a loving, tight-knit family. At the end of his funeral Mass, his father came to the pulpit and shared this powerful reflection:

“At my funeral these were my words spoken through my dad. I passed away on April 22, 2016, and I am looking to help those who struggle like I did. This is my story and my truth.

My name is Billy. I want to thank you all for coming and supporting my family. I shouldn’t be in this box but I am, and I’m doing great now. You know I am both a simple and complicated person. I am private, very private and proud. But even though I am so private my family and friends knew so much about me. For those who may not really know me, I’m going to share myself with you.

As a kid, I loved my sister J cause she taught me how to play baseball and everything else. I loved baseball — playing catch and doing pop-ups and grounders with J and my dad. I love my other sister — she was my second mother; she always made sure I was safe. I love my mom —she truly did everything for me. She is a rock — she was my rock. I love my dog Bullet. He was sick and we had to put him down just a few months ago. He always listened to me perfectly. He was my companion and his ashes are right next to me now.

I grew up in Miller Place and I loved baseball with my close friends. Did you know that I didn’t like school? (except of course if the teacher was pretty and of course going each day to see my friends.)

See, I had a problem with pills, actually for long time. This disease tortured and tormented me. My mom and dad took me to rehab many times. I did internal rehabs every minute of every day of my life. At times, I was so successful for long stretches . . . but, then I would give in and I don’t know why. I cannot explain it. It weighed heavy on me…

So, let me tell you what actually happened on Friday, April 22. It was a great day. I went outside. The sun was shining and actually it was a little warm, especially as I shot some basketball hoops in the driveway. I saw my mom, then texted her again later. I went to Stop and Shop for candy. I couldn’t wait for dad to get home — the weekend — cousin Dave’s house on Sunday — Game of Thrones Sunday night.

Then the devil took over. He tormented me like many times before. My heart hurt, my brain wasn’t working right. I went and sold a valuable of mine and I bought heroin. For the first time I thought I had a plan that would last but, of course, instead it killed me. I went softly as God said I had enough. The devil wasn’t going to torment me anymore. I was at home, where I loved to be, and now I’m in heaven smiling.

I’m sorry I have caused you so much pain. I always worried about everyone too.  I need everyone to go back to their routines and be safe. Please listen to me. Hug your loved ones like I hugged and kissed my mom and dad and sisters. Don’t let a minute ago by without saying ‘I love you.’ My pain is over. Enjoy. Be happy for me. Make me proud too. Be loyal to each other.

Lastly, I always struggled searching for what I was going to do with my life — my future. How can I be successful and live up to my own expectations? I now know and I’m smiling, because I actually got asked to be an angel, an angel to watch over my dad and mom and all the people I love and care for. I found my calling and I have a lot of work to do!

Please be smart and be careful. I love you all past the sky … My name is Billy. Don’t forget me!”

What you have just read are excerpts from a powerful letter written by a grieving dad in his loving son’s name. Since his son’s death, he, his wife and daughters have committed themselves to raising awareness to this national health epidemic that is claiming so many lives rich with potential and possibility.

The challenge before us is daunting. We must take the blinders off and realize that together we can eradicate this epidemic in our community if we care enough to stand up and be counted.

*Excerpts are reprinted with permission from the Reitzig family.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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Flowers of a peach tree that volunteered in the author’s garden. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Each spring we see trees covered with beautiful white and pink flowers. Many times we decide we want one or more in our own gardens. But, first we need to identify the specific tree. Recognizing which is which can be relatively easy. For example, the Kwanzan cherry tree has beautiful double pink flowers. The small to medium sized trees, at maturity, tend to be wider than tall and for all practical purposes are sterile. You won’t get a crop of cherries from these but they are stunning.

Another common flowering tree is the dogwood. There are a number of varieties but the flowers — single, white or pink — have four petals on each flower. The ends of the petals usually have a notch at the end. Technically, they’re not petals but bracts, a variety of leaf. The flower is the very central part and is followed later in the season by berries.

Sometimes you can identify a tree by ruling out what it isn’t. Pear tree flowers are white, so if you have pink flowers, it’s probably not a pear tree. Most apple trees have pink buds but the buds open to white flowers.

An unidentified tree, believed to be a plum leaf sandcherry (purple leaf sandcherry), frequently used as a landscaping plant due to not only its flowers but its leaf color, which remains deep burgundy throughout the growing season. Photo by Heidi Sutton
An unidentified tree, believed to be a plum leaf sandcherry (purple leaf sandcherry), frequently used as a landscaping plant due to not only its flowers but its leaf color, which remains deep burgundy throughout the growing season. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Frequently each spring we see a number of pink flowers that are not so easy to identify. If you’ve fallen in love with the tree, you need to identify it in order to acquire one or more of your own. Many years ago a pink-flowering tree seeded itself in my backyard. For many years it bore beautiful flowers but never any fruit. I never did identify it, assuming that it was some sort of fruit tree. It lived out its life there until one spring its flowers and leaves never sprouted. It went as quietly as it had come. I was really disappointed when I had to cut it down.

More recently two flowering trees sprung up in my front yard. Each spring they are covered in beautiful pink flowers. They bear fruit, so I know the answer — they are peach trees. Unfortunately, the peaches are small, green and bitter, but the trees are beautiful so I keep them for their flowers and shade.

But, what if you see a pink-flowering tree with no fruit — it could be harder to figure out what it is. There are a number of ways to attack this problem. Start by taking one or more pictures of the flowers, leaves and bark. The flowers disappear quickly and are frequently one of the easiest ways of identifying the plant. With pictures you have a reference. If the gardener is around, ask him or her or ask an arborist or an extension educator.

To identify the tree by yourself:

Look at the flowers — their general description, shape and how many petals they have.

Check out the leaves. Their color (green or burgundy) will be a clue as well as their shape and size. Many crab apples, for example, have burgundy leaves as do some plums.

The bark of various trees can be quite different so don’t forget to check it out.

If possible, go back to the tree after the flowers have fallen and the fruit appears.

When does the tree bloom? The garden variety of dogwood, Cornus florida, even the pink-flowering ones, tend to bloom a good month earlier than the Kousa dogwood.

How big is the overall mature height of the tree and what is its shape?

A Kwanzan cherry tree. Photo by Ellen Barcel
A Kwanzan cherry tree. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Now, with your photos in hand, check out the various characteristics against descriptions and pictures either online or in a guide to trees. I use the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees, Eastern Region.” It is a great source to identify trees in general, since it has full color photos of flowers, leaves, fruit/nuts, bark, etc. If going online, enter as much information you have into the search engine as possible.

You’ll notice that fruit trees (apple, crabapple, peach, etc.) tend to have flowers with five petals while dogwood has only four. Check the center of the flower. What color is it? The shape of the petal is helpful. Are they long and thin or more rounded? Cherry blossoms tend to have a small split at the end of each petal while plum petals do not. The leaves of cherry trees tend to be flat while those of plums are curled lengthwise. The bark is a great indicator also. Cherry trees tend to have bark that has horizontal markings while plum trees do not. Good luck in identifying your mystery plant!

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to [email protected] To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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When we hug our dog, we are removing their instinct to flee, which can lead to significant stress. Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I was somewhat taken aback when I saw plastered all over the internet that a hug is stressful to dogs. This hullabaloo came from an article published in Psychology Today. I didn’t have access to the entire article but the author, Stanley Coren, stated that in a review of over 250 images on the internet of dog owners hugging their dogs, he noted signs of stress in four out of five dogs. 

Coren is a psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, as well as an award-winning author. He has dedicated his career to researching dog behavior, so I truly believe he knows what he is talking about. 

Coren states that dogs are cursorial by nature. What does this mean? It means that dogs have limbs adapted for running and, as much as they will use their teeth to defend themselves if necessary, their first instinct is to flee. When we hug our dogs, what are we doing in their eyes? We are removing that first instinct to flee. This can lead to significant stress, even the potential for the dog’s perceived need to defend themselves. 

Now, I know that dogs are social beings and do like contact. However, I do agree that their idea of acceptable contact may not be the same as our own.  As much as we see dogs as part of the family, they see us as part of the pack. We may talk to a dog, but a dog will communicate with us as they would other dogs and this communication is mostly through body cues. If these cues are ignored by humans (particularly children who cannot understand the differences between human and canine behavior) or other dogs, the risk of aggression and bodily harm becomes very real. 

When we hug our dogs, we are removing their instinct to flee, which can lead to significant stress.

My own dog Jasmine loves to sleep in bed with my son Matthew. However, much to Matty’s chagrin, she will only sleep by his feet. Jasmine will tolerate Matty pulling her up to sleep next to him but always eventually moves back to his feet. If he tries too many times to change her position, she will jump off the bed and find another place to sleep. 

Jasmine’s reaction is nonconfrontational, but what if she were not of such a laid back temperament?  She would be face to face with my son where he is restraining her movement. Therefore, I think it is important to look for more subtle cues so we can intervene before disaster occurs. 

What are cues of stress in dogs?  In general terms a relaxed dog will have its ears forward, mouth open and a general look of happiness. A worried dog has its mouth closed, ears back or down, wrinkles around the eyes or forehead and is usually shrinking back.

Beyond these body cues are what are called “stress signals.”  Stress signals are signs that a dog is very worried and trying to communicate to others (another dog, a human) that, “I am not a threat.” However, if these stress signals are ignored (by other dogs or children), the dog may feel it has no option other than act aggressively to defend itself.

Stress signals include: a raised paw, yawning (when they are not tired), licking their nose, tail tucked, slouching or slinking, barking and retreating or hiding. If a dog is restrained (hugged) when showing these body signals or cues, things could get out of control quickly. 

I hope this article is helpful in not only explaining the differences between how dogs view certain behaviors compared to how we humans view them, as well as signs of stress to avoid conflict.  Now go give your dog a . . . scratch behind the ears!

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office.

White flowers from a catalpa tree put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Gardens reflect the personality of the gardener. Some gardeners like to grow specific colored flowers. In the past I’ve done columns on chocolate gardens, for example, and red, white and blue patriotic gardens and even gardens filled with red-leaved plants. Suppose you want a garden filled only with white flowers, which make a stunning contrast against the dark green of leaves. If you enjoy your garden in the evening, white flowers really stand out at night while the brightly colored flowers seem to fade into obscurity as the sun sets. Here are some suggestions for a garden filled with white blooms.


Flowers that bloom in the spring are generally shrubs and trees. If you have very acidic soil, like most of us do, consider white rhododendron and white azaleas. Both generally bloom in May.

Japanese lilac put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Japanese lilac put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Cornus florida is the native dogwood on Long Island. That means that not only will you have beautiful white flowers, but, since it is a native plant, you’ll have less work to do as it’s already adapted to our summer heat and winter cold. ‘Cloud 9’ flowering dogwood is an improved version of C. florida with larger white flowers.

Cornus kousa is also a white flowering dogwood. It blooms later in spring than the C. florida and tends to be a bit more disease resistant.

Rhododendrons do extremely well on Long Island. They thrive in our acidic soil and there are a number of rhodies with white flowers. ‘Baroness H. Schroder’ is an old cultivar, white with burgundy splotches. ‘Blanka’ has pale pink buds that open up to reveal white flowers. Other varieties are white with yellow throats.

Azaleas also do extremely well on Long Island. ‘Bloom-A-Thon White,’ ‘Girard’s Pleasant White’ and ‘Delaware Valley White’ are just a few of the many white varieties available. Some primarily white varieties have flowers tinged in pink.

The advantage of both white rhodies and white azaleas is that the shrubs are evergreens, making them ideal as foundation plants or plants to create a living wall.

Other white spring flowering shrubs include bridal wreath, viburnum and some varieties of white lilacs.


Montauk daisies put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Montauk daisies put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Come summer there are a number of white flowering plants. Big showy shrubs with large white flowers include a number of hydrangeas. Snowball hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) produce large white blooms early in the season. They are the native hydrangea to North America. Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia) are also native to North America and produce enormous white flowers. Their enormous leaves resemble those of the oak tree. The leaves of many varieties turn a deep burgundy in the fall.

Japanese white lilacs are deciduous shrubs. They bloom later in early summer, later than spring lilacs and produce clusters of delicate and fragrant white flowers.

If you’re looking for climbing plants, consider climbing hydrangeas with their delicate white flowers or moonflowers. Moonflowers are annuals, related to morning glories but they open in the evening, rather than during the day as morning glories do.

Other white flowered plants include varieties of astilbe, white geraniums and the really unique Peruvian daffodils. Consider also the white scented Nicotiana (flowering tobacco), which will provide a beautiful scent.

White roses are stunning in the garden and some will rebloom later in the season. ‘Wedding Dress’ is a ground cover rose while ‘Moonlight Melody’ is a shrub rose with single blooms. The latter blooms freely all summer long.


Peruvian daisies put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Peruvian daisies put on quite a show in the evening. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Fall is known for its blazing colors, trees and shrubs filled with yellow, orange and red leaves, but, fall also has some really nice white flowers. For fall, the ideal white flowering plants include Montauk daisies and some white varieties of mums.

Remember the rule of 100 when pinching back Montauk daisies and mums to make nice busy plants. You begin pinching them back when you first see little green leaves appear. Stop 100 days before expected bloom date. For both of these, that means stop around July 4th to give the plants time to form blossoms.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to [email protected] To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Stock photo

By Ellen Barcel

Recently on the television I heard a newscaster announce that the 17-year cicadas are due to emerge. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? What effect will this have? Will they damage your plants? Well, not really.

Stock photo
Stock photo

First of all, there are 15 different broods of the 17-year periodic cicadas. They live in the ground for 17 years, each brood emerging during a different year. Brood V is due out this year, Brood VI in 2017, Brood VII in 2018, etc. That means that there is a brood emerging almost every year, but not in the same place. This year’s brood, Brood V, is emerging mainly in Ohio and West Virginia with a small pocket of them on eastern Long Island, around the Wildwood State Park area.

Interestingly, the only place that these 17-year locusts (as they are sometimes known) are found is in the eastern United Sates, nowhere else in the world.

Cicadas live most of their lives, 17 years generally, underground feeding on the roots of plants. Then come spring, usually May, they dig their way to the surface, shed their skin and look for a mate. The males have a high-pitched whine that attracts the females. About a week to 10 days later the females lay lots of eggs. About six to seven weeks later the eggs hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground where they burrow into the soil and feed on plant roots, waiting for 17 years before emerging briefly to mate.

In general, the emerged cicadas don’t do a lot of damage to plants, so there really isn’t a problem, just a lot of noise and a bunch of dead insects when they die off. Mature cicadas are about an inch and a half long, so between the noise and the size you really notice them, that and the strange life cycle. Most of Long Island is home to Brood 10 which is due to emerge in 2021.

A really cool website, Cicada Mania ( has detailed information about not only the 17-year locusts but the 13-year ones as well. Penn State Extension ( also has detailed scientific information, noting that the 17-year cicadas can do damage to fruit trees, causing slits in the bark when the female lays eggs and taking nutrients away from the fruit trees when the nymphs feed on the roots. If you have weak trees, they could suffer some damage. But, cicadas do not chew on leaves the way other insects do.

Personally, I would be more concerned about aphids on roses and slugs attacking my hostas. Tent caterpillars are sometimes in the area, but, while unsightly, unless the same tree is attacked year after year, the tree usually survives quite nicely. Remember, keep your plants healthy and that keeping the balance in nature is very effective in controlling most pests. Birds in the garden, for example, eat a lot of insects. Praying mantises, while large and scary looking, eat lots of insects as well.

The rule of thumb is that unless more than 10 percent of a plant is affected, you can probably leave the pest alone. Don’t freak out if your hosta leaves have a few small holes in them, but do keep checking to make sure the situation doesn’t get out of control. If it does, use the least offensive way of controlling it. Only if the milder controls don’t work, then use the heavy-duty ones, chemicals. This is known as integrated pest management. For slugs, I find that just hand picking them off the plants at night works quite nicely.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to [email protected] To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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By Elof Axel Carlson

I learned from my daughter-in-law, Dawn Allen Carlson, that my son John died as he was recovering at home from pneumonia treated with antibiotics. John (1962-2016) could not be revived by the EMT or after being taken to the hospital in Swampscott, Massachusetts, where he lived.

John was a happy child and had many friends at Ward Melville High School. He went to Yale for his bachelor’s degree and loved volleyball, serving as captain of his team. He switched from engineering to mathematics and got his master’s in applied mathematics at Stony Brook University.

John loved history and read widely. He treasured the Civil War narrative histories that he inherited from my brother Roland. I had seen John last at the memorial service for my daughter Claudia. After I finished my presentation on the stage of the Hotel Roger Smith in Manhattan, my son John scooped me off the high platform and gently brought me down to the floor.

John used his skills as an actuary and as a designer of computer software for corporate health and retirement programs. When he was a child, I marveled at his gift for playing Monopoly, where instead of counting out each spot for landing a marker, he just lifted it from the board and placed it where it should be. He was invariably the banker for the game. John was gentle in his personality. During Claudia’s last month of life, he helped move in a hospital bed and rearrange her furniture so she could see people who came by.

I have learned that the hardest psychological impact of aging is being alive to see family members, students and friends younger than me die. It is so unfair that Claudia will not experience holding a grandchild and John will not experience the weddings for his two adult children. But this is characteristic of life. It does not abide by our wishes or logic.

While I know this from my immersion in the life sciences, the injustice of it is hard to rationalize by science or faith. I can hear John’s resonant baritone voice in my head and savor the rational, sympathetic way he handled crises. I shall miss his telephone calls and the delight of discussing history and current events with him filled with wit and insight.

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

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By L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D.

For many patients who come to the hospital, their medical team — physicians, nurses and other health care professionals — serves as a lifeline. Skilled and compassionate, these dedicated caregivers help to ensure patients receive the care they need both physically and emotionally.

So it is with great pleasure that we celebrate and salute our nurses, physicians and all our health care professionals during National Nurses Week (May 6 to 12) and National Hospital Week (May 8 to 14). While we are grateful all year long for the jobs they do, these special weeks remind us to let these dedicated individuals know how much they are respected and appreciated.

Because Stony Brook Medicine is an academic medical center and the region’s only tertiary care center, unique medical issues confront our caregivers on a regular basis. Each day a new patient or situation challenges us to take the best ideas in medicine and turn them into practical solutions for our patients. With our nurses frequently on the front line of care, it is often up to them to lead those efforts.

But a hospital runs on more than care. From those who work to keep our hospital clean, to those who prepare nourishing food, from the experts who maintain our technology, to the landscapers who maintain our grounds, from first-year nurses to the most seasoned medical specialists, every single person at Stony Brook makes a meaningful contribution.

We are proud of all of the individuals who contribute to Stony Brook — proud of the expertise they offer and the compassionate care they deliver. They are the people behind our mission to always strive for excellence as a world-class institution, recognized for outstanding patient care, research and health care education.

Please join me in extending thanks to all of those who contribute to the exceptional care to our community and beyond.

L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D., is  CEO, Stony Brook University Hospital and Vice President for Health Systems, Stony Brook Medicine

Passionflower vines are a nice addition to a garden. File photo

By Ellen Barcel

Last week, we took a look at climbing plants in general and specifically annual vines. This week we’ll examine perennial vines, productive vines and vines to avoid.

Perennial vines
I love perennial plants since they’re a plant once and enjoy for many years thereafter plant. Perennial climbing or vining plants include:

Trumpet vines add some color to a garden. File photo
Trumpet vines add some color to a garden. File photo

Trumpet vines produce lots of orange colored, trumpet-shaped flowers. It needs little care but can get out of control, so be careful. It’s a vine that does well in some shade. The trumpet shape is a tip-off that it can attract hummingbirds.

Clematis is another vine that does well with some shade. There are several basic varieties, those that bloom in the spring and those that bloom later in the season. Know which one you have since this determines when you are able to prune it back if needed. The rule of thumb to control a plant’s size is to cut it back immediately after a flowering plant blooms, so as not to interfere with next year’s blooming cycle. Clematis are known for their beautiful flowers, making them ideal as decorative plants on a trellis.

Climbing hydrangeas are beautiful plants but can get very large since they grow up as well as sideways. Be prepared to prune it to the desired size and shape. It can take some shade, but the flowers appear where the sun reaches the plant. As a result, you will see lots of greenery closer to the ground and lovely white flowers up near the top. This is an ideal plant for a chimney, for example.

Native wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) is native to the eastern part of the United States. It is much less aggressive and therefore easier to control than Asian wisterias. It’s a perennial, woody plant in the pea family. Like the Asian variety, it has clusters of purple flowers and grows in hardiness zones 5 to 9. In addition to being less aggressive, its flower clusters are smaller and the overall size of the plant is smaller.

Productive vines:
If you have limited space and want your vines to do double duty, consider vines that are productive.

Cucumbers are easy to grow and generally very productive. Plant them where their tendrils can grasp onto something, like a chain-link fence, a trellis or wire support of some sort. They do need plenty of water, so don’t let the plants dry out during times of summer drought. Cucumbers are annuals, so you need to replant them each year.

Clematis can be a good addition to the garden. File photo
Clematis can be a good addition to the garden. File photo

Another productive, and perennial, vine is the grape vine. See my column of March 10 for more detailed information on growing grapes. Make sure you know how you plan to use the grape so you can select the appropriate type (table grapes, jellies, wine, etc.)

Indeterminate tomato vines keep growing throughout the growing season. They keep setting fruit as long as the weather is mild enough and can get to be very large plants. Tomatoes need plenty of sun and are heavy feeders, so make sure you fertilize periodically.

Honeyberry is a vine that produces edible fruit as does the passionflower. I particularly like the unusual purple flowers of the passionflower and would grow the plant for its flowers alone.

Vines to avoid
There are a number of climbers that are not the best to include in your garden. English ivy is one. It takes over. Many years ago I planted a few tiny plants. I’m still pulling out this terribly invasive plant. It seems to have a mind of its own. While a “vine-covered cottage” may seem charming, you will probably regret planting this one. As a result of its nature, English ivy is on the Management List.

Another is the Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). It volunteered in my garden and, before I realized it, had grown through my stockade fence, breaking it. Once I thought I had removed it, for years later, I found tiny plants springing up where the seeds had dropped. While very pretty, with its red berries that break open to reveal yellow seed pods, it’s a real pain to control. It climbs by wrapping itself around things, like your good trees, strangling them. As a result of its extreme invasive nature it’s on Suffolk County’s Do Not Sell list.

Avoid the Oriental varieties of wisteria that, although beautiful, can become invasive. File photo
Avoid the Oriental varieties of wisteria that, although beautiful, can become invasive. File photo

A third vine that is difficult to control is the Oriental (Chinese and Japanese) varieties of wisteria. This one is filled with beautiful purple racimes of flowers, so is very impressive, but, it too, takes over the garden. If you insist on planting it, make sure you are ready with the pruning shears, so you can keep it under control. It’s a quick grower, which needs little care and seems to have no natural enemies (insects or disease wise). It sends out runners along the ground so can go out as well as up. I’ve seen abandoned houses with gardens gone to weed, but the wisteria is still growing beautifully, even attaching itself to power lines. As a result, it too is on Suffolk County’s Management List — technically legal but do you really want to plant it?

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.