Guest Rant by Jim Freeman of Dean Street Orchids
From tree pits, window boxes, front yards, back yards, pots on stoops;
little eyes of pink and white stare at me as I pass, like mini floral video
cameras recording my every move. I feel
hemmed in, oppressed by their sheer number and uniformity, their horrible
I used to think it was
just garden variety paranoia. Then,
suddenly, it hit me like a truckload of
uncomposted manure: there are impatiens
everywhere! It's a full-on epidemic —
nobody wants to talk about it, but it's true!
Now, I really have no
essential prejudice against the genus impatiens itself, or even individual
plants, which I've heard can be quite nice.
Imp. niamiamiensis is an excellent plant, except for the fact that you
almost never, ever see it, or most of the other unusual African species
either. What you see is plant, after
plant, after identical plant, stuck in the ground like cheap hair plugs, always
in flower, never changing, and you begin to wonder what went so wrong.
I have come to believe
that the rise of the impatiens — temporary, I hope! — is the garden
equivalent of the supermarket beefsteak tomato, of iceberg lettuce, of the
almighty 99cent hamburger. Somebody took
a perfectly good plant, one that was pretty, everblooming, and easy to grow,
and said to themselves, "I will make so many of these, and sell them so
cheaply, that soon every house in every town across the land will have to have
them." And so it came to pass. Now anyone can plunk a flat down on a patch
of bare earth and have instant color, without having to think about it at
all. It's one of the many instances of
the modern triumph of convenience and conformity over imagination and commitment.
Must we settle for
this? Does anyone other than the
decorators of bank lobbies and corporate atriums put rows and rows of
pointsettias in all their windows?
What's wrong with a little variety, people — not just in flower color,
lord knows that's easy enough — but of leaf texture and shape, of growth
habit, instead of a salad bar of the same little green things? Better yet, how about planting perennials;
you know, the kind of plants that come back year after year, that grow and
change with the seasons, instead of handing your cash to the Man at the big box
store for a fast, one-summer hit of plastic-looking, water-sucking
Wonderplants? Can I get a native species
or two here? Somebody hit me with a
little xeriscaping, a little tenderness for the local watershed!
We can fight back. We can stomp out mass plantings in our
neighborhoods. But only if we act
together. Join now. And next time you see your neighbors with
trays of impatiens in their hands, please, please,
tell them, before it's too late: put
them down now, while you still can!
Jim gardens in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by The Brit 2.