Just as many in America – as evidenced by this year’s election results – are hoping that people are drawing back from the politics of extremism, I’d love to see the same happen in gardening culture. Unfortunately, however, I think gardening polarization is of more recent vintage and will take longer to disappear.

I drew some of it upon myself in a recent Facebook post, in which I included images of my leaf-covered front garden, sidewalk and easeway, explaining why I do not “leave” this unsightly, water-and-air blocking mass to sit all winter, emerging from the snow cover – in slightly wetter and browner form –  just in time to impede species tulips and other ephemerals struggling toward the early spring sun.

No. I do not “leave” this, nor can I mow it without grinding up the perennials in my grass-free garden in the process. It has to go. 

Others’ mileage can totally vary. Many people can avoid leaf pick-up altogether. Many cannot. Many follow a half-and-half strategy. That’s my point regarding this and other one-size-fits-all gardening directives that now infest social media. Some of the memes are kind of witty (the leaves aren’t going to invade your house, drink your booze, etc.), so much so that even non gardeners – people who have no idea what they’re talking about – like to share them, thinking they are making jokes and doing good.

And the same with the “no mow” directives, the “leave garden debris until well into June,” “planting buddleia hurts pollinators,” and others. 

Whatever measure of validity these sayings might contain is obscured by their totalitarian disregard for the fact that different situations call for different solutions. And this is why I deliberately draw down the wrath of the leaf leavers every year. I never would have before all this – I mean, who really cares what I do with my leaves? But now that I am confronted with these bossy edicts every single day as I scroll through my feed, I feel as though I have to offer alternatives.

Like, it’s fine for me to send my 25 bags of heavy maple leaves to the city’s composting facility. Like, the burrowing  insects have plenty with which to make do in the form of shrubs and perennial litter. (I’m not worried about the rodents; they’ve already demonstrated their supremacy.)

I realize this is almost certainly a futile effort. Why explain the complex nature of a situation when you can sum it up in 12 words or less that may or may not be applicable?

At least, as the leaf season draws to a close, I have 4 quiet months before the next season of evangelism begins. I can tend my houseplants and bulbs in peace -though I’m probably not toeing the party lines there either.

At top are the leaves I am happy to “leave:” well-behaved Japanese maples.