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Guest Rant by Geoff Lewis

I would like to speak to the curious sport of bedding plants. Bedding plants – you know, big pansies, dwarf marigolds and their ilk. One’s vision is of an orgiastic colour melee: Vast flocks of the vegetative equivalent of Pekinese and/or Schitzu-Poodle crosses (schit-poos) carpeting hallowed garden plots. Presently, our commercially available selection of plants for bedding consists of a short a la carte list of chubby little overfed seedlings. A verdant kindergarten of dwarf, goggle-eyed munchkins hiccoughing their first hideously over-bred rack of sterile genitalia at the proud height of 5cm.

“Aw, Honey look: their first flowers!”, the consuming couples gush at their new, extremely temporary, vegetative pets.

By itself, an unfair view I agree. What about those bold, startling splashes of colour? What about armies of bedding plants spread, icing-like, over otherwise dun-coloured slopes of bare soil? Why not turn your yard into a stationary but flower-festooned parade float? Your house could become the smiling queen of something-or-another, waving and searching the crowd for her friends. If you’re lucky enough to live in a mobile home, you can grow bedding plants on your roof, cooling your narrow abode in summer and drawing envious stares from passing Shriners, clowns and marching bands. If you grow them in the bed of your truck, you can obtain insurance under parade float’s more economical category.

As sarcasm is the lowest form of humour, so bedding plants are the lowest form of horticulture. And who doesn’t like a little sarcasm, now and then? Just not all the time; it’s wearying and tends to make one edgy after a while, as do bedding plants for me. Useful in the hands of well-funded parks staff and landscapers with a reasonable budget, they can shock, enchant, brag wealth, and soften the eyes of even the most fastidiously obsessive-compulsive dickhead. Big bedding displays epitomize the tyranny of order; The Beauty-through-Repetition axiom taken to absurd new worlds. We can dominate the subtle, confusing and possibly dangerous natural world. We can bring order. We control the horizontal. We control the vertical… oh no, sarcasm again.

I like the astoundingly perverse idea of bedding a plant. What do you bring on a first date? Not flowers! Compost, perhaps. And just how sporting is it to stalk something that is rooted to the ground? The parents of most F1 hybrid bedding plant seeds are vastly inbred wrecks bearing little resemblance to their bastard offspring except in name, though I guess one can skip the step of meeting the folks.

Although bedding plants are mostly sterile, and there are some other small physical and genetic barriers, what plant-human monstrosity would emerge from such an unholy union? One imagines a staggering, blind dwarf repeatedly producing grossly inflated testicles etc. in a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues until mercifully extinguished by disease, neglect or autumnal frosts. There aren’t even laws against this activity yet, unless you bypass the dating scene entirely and go straight to gene-splicing.

Bedding plants are so easy to poke fun at, defended only by cloth-hat wearing trowel-wielders. Such adherents are no match against a rake or long-handled shovel. All this aside, next time I shall only sing praises to the very lowly bedding plant. At least it’s gardening, sort of.