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Stop the Madness! Crimes Against Horticulture

Guest Rant by Billy Goodnick

Come with me to the imaginary hearing called by the Senate Subcommittee on Crimes Against Horticulture. The hallowed chamber shudders as my gavel slams down, calling the room to order. I delight as the company reps and industry lobbyists squirm in dread anticipation of the searing questions to come. “Do you have an opening statement?” I ask.

“Thank you, sir,” he begins. “Our Stihl HL 100 K adjustable angle hedge trimmers with 42” extended reach shafts don’t commit crimes against horticulture. Plant janitors do.”

No, it won’t really come to this, but a guy can fantasize.

I take my work seriously

The term “plant janitor” is my invention. I use it to describe those pick-up truck-driving, mow-and-blow crews who wouldn’t know a Lagerstroemia from a Ligularia if it goosed them. It’s not hard to spot a plant janitor. They’re the guys displaying the classic symptoms of CRD (Compulsive Raking Disorder). They attach sophisticated motion detectors to their rakes, thereby assuring that not one gram of life-renewing organic material re-enters the soil. The tech geeks among them are working with programmers to develop a Random Form Generator app for their smart phones. It’ll take the guesswork out of the tough decisions regarding which shape to prune: Meatball? Hockey puck? Pancreas?

Mind you, it is not my intention to disparage real janitors. This venerated and respected profession keeps our schools, hospitals and offices safe, neat and orderly, often working graveyard shifts for meager pay.

But “neat and orderly” is not what my clients or me want from a garden. Do you? Gardens should be a way to bring a bit of nature to our yards. They should reinforce our primal connection to the ancient wildness that surrounded us when we came down from the trees, onto the savannah and into our SUVs.

The crap that passes for gardening that I see while driving through suburban neighborhoods and strip malls makes me cringe. We can agree to disagree on this point. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder and what one person sees as stunningly beautiful often triggers another’s gag reflex.

And it’s fair to say that not every garden has to look like a magazine cover. I guess what burns me up the most is that not only does the guy wielding the razor-sharp, fume-belching, ear-splitting implement of destruction have no clue about aesthetics, but someone is writing him a check every month. Talk about being an enabler.

Okay, I got that off my chest. Now I get to have some fun. If you’ve got examples like these where you live, please join me and 1405 other sickos at Facebook and post the best of your worst.

On with the show…

If France ever declares war on us, it might be because of this landscape. That’s French lavender (Lavandula dentata) mercilessly pruned into a reclining lounge chair (or bidet). Not easy to pull off, creating a near perfect oval, then precisely slicing the seat and backrest. And although it would by quite prickly to sit upon, the aromatherapy benefits might be worth the pain.

What happens behind the bedroom door between consenting adults is none of my business. But when a kinky gardener decides to carry his proclivity for bondage into the garden, that’s a little weird. It’s unfortunate that this bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) forgot the safe word.

I’ve long wondered where all of those misshapen spheres of shrubbery come from. I know it’s not the Oort Cloud. One theory posits that well-meaning garden owners install normal plants, only to have them fall prey to aesthetically challenged butchers who have their way with them. Turns out they just seem to pop out of the soil in the Santa Barbara foothills.

Which came first? The Plumber’s Butt or the Gardener’s Crack?

I’m not alone in my morbid fascination with Crimes Against Horticulture. In 2011, I dedicated a Facebook page to the topic. Since then, people from around the country and overseas have been scouting and posting their own atrocities. Jane Auerbach takes the cake, or should I say donut, for this recent contribution. No, not an enhanced photo. Just someone with way too much time on their hands.

Ever wondered where the inspiration for the QWERTY typewriter keyboard came from? Forensic horticultural archaeologist (I made that up) David Walther seems to have answered that question.

Although Crimes Against Horticulture is a year ‘round venture, some kindly folks seem to put extra effort into their yards around the holidays. Thanks to Rhett Richardson for adding this nightmarish delight, replacing the traditional visions of sugar plums.

Flagrantly flaunting their flailing, flaming hedge trimmers, a crew of commercial gardeners in Camarillo, California, regularly take it upon themselves to create what might be the largest collection of phalluses, lollipops and eggs I’ve yet to see. An office park just off the 101 freeway is where you’ll find this gallery of glop. Multiply this vignette times 50 and you’ll comprehend the magnitude of this injustice – the parking lot is over an acre. Then try to figure out the monthly pruning bill and disposal fees.

Okay, I’ve had my say. If you’re sympathetic to my cause, please join the gang at Facebook. In the meantime, keep your eye tuned to C-SPAN. If my representative would just take me off her watch list, those hearings might materialize.

Billy Goodnick’s new book, “Yards: Turn Any Outdoor Space into the Garden of Your Dreams” debuts March 2013. It’s filled with great design advice and he’s sneaking a few Crimes into the last few pages! For more about Billy, Yards and where he’ll be speaking, go to billygoodnick.com

Posted by on January 24, 2013 at 8:03 am.   This post has 56 responses.
Everybody's a Critic

Welcome to Garden Rant 2.0—and a word about garden blogging


Finally. We’ve moved over to a platform that gives us more flexibility, more options, and goes a bit beyond our former traditional blog set-up. We’ve got pages that focus on science, growing food, drinks, reviews, videos, and more. We think we’ve got a more dynamic look, and we’ve got a rotating array of feeds from other garden-related sites, in case you get bored with us.

But none of this means anything unless the following question can be answered in the affirmative: Is garden blogging still viable?  It came up during the Asheville garden bloggers gathering. I did not attend the post-dinner discussion during which this question was asked (I was cocktailing with a few like-minded souls, if you must know), but I heard about it later on. It seemed like some bloggers were still raring to go and a few others were suffering from battle fatigue.

Many of us have been thinking about this, well before Asheville. With the increasing use of other social media platforms—and we all know what those are—who has time for comparatively long-form online media like blogs? When you can just look at a snappy image with a clever tagline and click “like,” why take the time to read and comment on a blog post? Our time is precious. Most of us would rather be out in the garden if at all possible, so time spent looking at a screen in off-work daytime hours must be kept to a minimum.

And yet. You can’t really express what it’s like to save your chickens from a predator attack, confess how you totally failed to grow potatoes in bags, or explain how to maintain a David Austin rose in 140 characters. If a blog post of 200-300 words is too long for people to absorb these days, then I regret that. I also refuse to believe it.

With this new format, we the writers of Garden Rant reaffirm our commitment to garden blogging. How about you?

PS–I am told the site is still importing (techies call it propagating)–so if you encounter some bugginess and broken links today and maybe even tomorrow, that’s what is happening.

Posted by on June 4, 2012 at 3:59 pm.   This post has 45 responses.